Race and Affirmative Action
Race is an issue that is embedded in the nation’s history and continues to spur discussions on how the different minorities and ethnic groups must be treated fairly. Affirmative action is a recent attempt to solve the discriminations produced by racial inequality. However, affirmative action is also being scrutinized as scholars and the public debate the benefits and harms of affirmative action.
A Historical View
Throughout the past 30 years, affirmative action has been the answer to racial inequality. The policy began in 1965 under President Johnson. It was used to redress issues of discrimination, following the civil rights laws and constitutional guarantees on education and jobs. From the outset, affirmative action was envisioned as a temporary remedy that would create a "level playing field" for all Americans.
Affirmative action policies required that active measures be taken to ensure that blacks and other minorities receive the same opportunities for career advancements, school admissions, scholarships, and financial aid that had been nearly exclusive provisions for whites. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the landmark legislation that prohibited employment discrimination by large employers (over 15 employees), whether or not they had government contracts. As a result, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) was established. Lyndon B. Johnson issued the E.O. 11246 regulation. It required government contractors and subcontractors to implement affirmative action policies to expand job opportunities for minorities. The Office of Federal Contract Compliance (OFCC) was designated to administer the regulation. In 1973 the Nixon administration issued "Memorandum-Permissible Goals and Timetables in State and Local Government Employment Practices," distinguishing between proper goals and timetables.
However, by the late 1970s flaws surfaced in the affirmative action policy. Reverse discrimination became an issue, epitomized by the Bakke case of 1978. A medical school that had accepted less qualified minority applicants had rejected Allan Bakke, a white male, two consecutive years. The school had a separate admissions policy for minorities. It reserved 16 out of 100 places for minority students. The Supreme Court voted that it was unconstitutional to set inflexible quota systems in affirmative action programs. The medical school had discriminated against a white applicant. In the same ruling, however, the Court upheld the legality of affirmative action in forms other than quota systems. In 1979 the Supreme Court reflected the Bakke decision. The Supreme Court ruled in AFO-CIO v. Weber, 444 U.S. 889 that race-conscious affirmative action efforts designed to eliminate a conspicuous racial imbalance in an employer's workforce resulting from past discrimination was permissible, as long as the actions were temporary and did not...