Since its implementation in the United States in 1965, affirmative action has been a heated topic of debate. Designed to address the issue of inequality in American society, affirmative action is a number of programs and policies designed to give women and racial minorities more opportunities in education and the job market. As a result, affirmative action has received opposition, mainly from blue collar white males who feel that it compromises their best interests. In this paper, we will attempt to evaluate the impact of affirmative action on all Americans and its effectiveness in addressing the issue of inequality.
Affirmative action was first mentioned in executive order 10925 on March 6, 1961. On July 2, 1964 the Civil Rights act was signed by President Johnson to guarantee equal rights to all Americans. President Johnson introduced affirmative action on June 4, 1965. He gave a speech defining the concept of affirmative action as a way of countering the discrimination that had continued despite the passing of civil rights laws and constitutional guarantees. On September 24, 1965 executive order 11246 enforced affirmative action for the first time (Brunner).
Affirmative action was met with both support and opposition. Conservatives saw it as opening doors of opportunity for minorities while shutting them for whites, calling it reverse racism. Because many conservative Americans prided themselves on hard work and making a fortune out of nothing, they resented what they thought of as blacks getting a free ride. They argued that Jews and Asians also underwent harsh forms of racism and discrimination but are largely successful now without the use of Government aid (Brunner).
Supporters of affirmative action countered this argument saying that Jews and Asians did not come to this country in chains but mostly on their own free will. As historian Roger Wilkins said, “blacks have a 375 year history on this continent: 245 involving slavery, 100 involving legalized discrimination, and only 30 involving anything else.” In response to taking opportunity away from whites, liberals pointed out that whites were still far superior in terms of salary and high-level job positions (Brunner).
The first landmark ruling of affirmative action occurred on June 28, 1978 in the Supreme Court case Regents of the University of California v. Bakke. The case involved the UC Davis medical school that had two admissions pools. One was for standard applications and the other was specifically for minorities and economically disadvantaged students. Alan Bakke was a white applicant that was rejected twice despite having significantly better test scores than several minorities who were accepted into the program. He claimed that judging him by his race was a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th amendment. The court ruled that race was a legitimate factor for admissions but inflexible quotas were not. The court...