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Affirmative Action Essay

3995 words - 16 pages

Though Affirmative Action is a current controversial issue, it is far from new; its decree has been long in the making. Perhaps it originates from amendments 13-15, the series of amendments that outlawed slavery, guaranteed equal protection under the law, and forbid racial discrimination when voting, respectively (Sykes 1). The Supreme Court’s decision in 1896, in the case of Plessy V. Ferguson, mandated separate but equal treatment for African Americans (Sykes 1). However, in 1954, the Supreme Court’s decision from Brown v. Board of Education replaced that of the Plessy v. Ferguson trial. President Lyndon Johnson was the first to use the term “Affirmative Action” in the Executive Order 11246 of 1965 (Sykes 1). This order required federal contractors to use affirmative action to make sure people were treated equally, “without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin” (Cahn 1). Two years later, Johnson amended it to include women (Cahn 1). By 1971, President Nixon issued a Revised Order No. 4 that required contractors to adopt an “acceptable affirmative action program” (Cahn 1). Over the past three decades, many debates continue as to whether or not affirmative action still belongs in America.

Affirmative action is an issue that evokes strong emotions for both supporters and non-supporters alike. Those against affirmative action argue that affirmative action does not help minorities but rather degrades them. They argue that affirmative action sends minorities the message that they can only succeed if they are given extra benefits; thus, resulting in damaged credibility. Often cited as example of affirmative action victims are that of Clarence Thomas and Colin Powell. Critics of affirmative action say that when Clarence Thomas was nominated by former President George Bush Sr., to replace Justice Thurgood Marshall he was unfairly dubbed the “affirmative action nominee” leaving little regard to Thomas’s credentials (Jeffrey 228). Furthermore, anti-affirmative action proponents said that Thomas was unfairly called a hypocrite because although he did not support affirmative action, he benefited from it (Jeffrey 229). Affirmative action opponents also cite that in a “Dear Colleague” letter from Congressman Barry Frank, Frank implied that Powell benefited from affirmative action and did not achieve his position purely through merit (Jeffrey 229).

It is argued that actions similar to these result in a loss of self-esteem in minorities. Jeffrey gives an example of a Native American high school student who was offered a minority college scholarship, but turned it down because it was not based on merit. Those who oppose affirmative action say stories similar to this one hurt minority’s self-esteem because to tell minorities that the bar must be lowered for them in order to succeed is to tell them that they are not capable of making it on their own (Jacoby A21). Affirmative action opponents state...

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