History of Affirmative Action


In the 1960’s, President John F. Kennedy first introduced the term Affirmative Action, which he described it as, “the first step at taking extra measures to ensure integration in federally funded jobs.” Affirmative action policies are used to increase opportunities for minorities by favoring them in hiring and promotions, college admissions, and government contract awards. Minorities include any underrepresented group, especially one depending on race, gender or ethnicity. Those deprecating affirmative action believe that it is unfair to discriminate against members of one group today to compensate for discrimination against other groups in the past. Today, affirmative action has become a very controversial issue among Americans, especially when it comes to college admissions. Universities are now making it harder for the majority (white males) to attend because of their emphasis on diversity. In Jim Huber’s cartoon Politically Correct, he appeals to pathos by using satire to tackle this highly controversial issue. It can most easily be inferred that Jim Huber believes that it is unfair that minorities receive favoritism in college admissions over whites.

Huber’s primary intention of the cartoon is located on the surface. By casually reading the cartoon, it appears to be funny, but after analyzing and dissecting it, a deeper meaning can be found Policymakers fervently believe that more than three centuries of enslavement, oppression, and discrimination had so economically deprived African Americans that some mechanism had to be put in place that would at least allow them a fighting chance. Blacks were locked out of the highest paid positions and made considerably fewer dollars than their white counterparts in the same job. Moreover, the number of African Americans enrolling in the nation’s undergraduate and graduate school schools was extremely low. Affirmative Action is a vehicle to correct injustice. The original intent of Affirmative Action was not to provide jobs and other advantages to blacks solely because of the color of their skin, but to provide economic opportunities for those who are competent and qualified. Due to a history of discrimination, even those with outstanding credentials were often locked out. As the years wore on, it was deemed necessary to add other minorities-such as Native Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Americans-as well as women to the list of those requiring affirmative action in order to achieve a measure of economic justice.

Not knowing that his statement on equality would once apply to white males as well, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once preached, “one should not be judged by the color of their skin, but the content of their character.” Because those in the minority are showing steps towards advancement, many believe that affirmative action is no longer necessary. “The cry for affirmative action makes no sense if the goal is simply equal treatment before the law.” This reverse discrimination is not needed because of the increase of minority enrollment in top colleges and universities and also the advancement of them in the workplace. Those opposing affirmative action feel that it is unnecessary to screen students based on race, ethnicity or gender; and many college admissions boards are selecting students in the underrepresented groups over those who are more qualified. Many feel that selection criteria should be race neutral and colleges and universities should try to attract minority students by holding recruitment fairs in locations that are under-served. In addition, some believe that affirmative action deteriorates the self-esteem of minorities in our society because everyone believes that they only got where they are because of the law. Statistics indicate, 57% of African Americans oppose affirmative action, and 65% approve affirmative action based on income. Those in this category feel that preferences should go to the impecunious many with low income.

In the world of competition: “fairness is in the eye of the beholder.” Many believe that affirmative action is a form of reverse discrimination; however, because of the small percentage of minorities attending four-year colleges compared with that of white males, those individuals in the majority still have a great chance of attending the school they wish to enroll in. In addition, contrary to what some may believe, “emphasizing diversity has not meant admitting unqualified students.” Colleges look for students who will create rich academic and social communities and have the best odds of success in college and their future careers. Colleges also look at different “academic, geographic, international, socioeconomic, athletic, public, and racial and ethnic,” backgrounds when selecting their students. Affirmative action helps qualified candidates overcome racism and sexism and it is estimated that “by the time today's college students are at the height of their careers, one-third of the population will be comprised of African Americans and Latinos/Latinas.” By leveling the playing field- affirmative action gives people of color and women the chance to compete in education and business. . . “White men hold 95% to 97% of the high-level corporate jobs” and without the institution of affirmative action, those in the minority would still face discrimination. The fact remains that, “if half of the people of color who are admitted to schools under affirmative action programs were cut, the acceptance rate of white males would only increase by 2%.” Almost all business leaders understand that affirmative action is necessary to develop a strong workforce. Not only do women and people of color have a lot to offer their communities, but they also ensure diversity, something highly important to the backbone of society.

By viewing the two arguments of affirmative action from a logical standpoint, it is easy to concur that affirmative action is highly beneficial to our society. Affirmative action is in no way reverse discrimination or preference, it is merely a program to ensure equal opportunities and diversity in our communities. It is necessary to ensure “women and people of color of every economic class have the opportunity to enter all fields.” Until women and people of color get equal pay and education, affirmative action is critical policy in our nation. Because our society is not yet completely colorblind, and because fairness is in the eye of the beholder, affirmative action will be necessary until complete reformation is accumulated. Affirmative Action only opens doors; it is the job and responsibility of women and people of color to walk through those doors by themselves.

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