Affirmative action is an issue closely related to cultural diversity. It affects the entire employed and unemployed population of the United States. Affirmative action continues to demonstrate that it causes more harm than good. Affirmative action was created to eliminate discrimination in the workplace. Instead, it has created reverse discrimination and caused more problems than it has resolved. It has also caused a great deal more qualified personnel to be replaced by less qualified minority workers. This creates internal strife, lower efficiency in the workplace, and increased racial hostility. It is the intent of this paper to show the effects of reverse discrimination, legal issues and regulations related to reform, and alternatives to Affirmative action.
Reverse Discrimination: A Result of Affirmative action
Reverse discrimination is one of the problems that affirmative action creates. By creating an unequal opportunity playing field it has brought hiring on the basis of merit to its knees. Substituting one race for another just so that companies can have the appearance of political correctness is no answer for this situation. In order for racial equality to exist it must be equal not reversed. A case in point, a white male applied for a government position at a National Guard equipment maintenance site in Louisiana. He did not receive the position. He was told that the reason he was not hired was due to the fact that a black man had applied to the same position and that, in order to hire him instead of the black applicant, they would have to write a nine page essay to relate why they did not hire the minority applicant. That is a perfect example of reverse discrimination.
Affirmative action perpetuates biased practices instead of ending them. Most employers that have to hire minorities to fill some sort of quota are not concerned with the qualifications of applicants, but are merely filling a requirement in order to keep their own jobs. This, in turn, creates even more problems when the person doing the hiring is not the one to which the applicant will directly report. Take for example, gender equality, where a woman is expected to perform the same as a man. There are certain positions in which masculinity is expected, such as a fireman. It is difficult to imagine a woman rushing into a burning building to save an infant. It is also difficult to imagine a woman stabbing a bayonet into an enemy soldier’s throat, in order to survive. There should be boundaries for these types of solutions. Instead of taking a good idea to the extreme, there needs to be a practical analysis done prior to any implementation efforts.
If there were not enough racial tension in the air, the general public’s idea of affirmative action brings about additional tension and/or hostility. There are several racist groups in the United States of America that are simply looking for an excuse to start another civil war. While everyone is concerned with terrorists overseas, these groups are plotting and devising their own revolutions. Affirmative action not only feeds the fires, but also adds to the height of racism. Victims of reverse discrimination will often become racist in defense of their own needs. Unfortunately this much too frequent occurrence creates the very thing that affirmative action was designed to eliminate. The answer to these racial tensions is in unification – not segregation. The goal must be to become one society with equal people regardless of color, sex, or religious preference.
Once again, to reiterate, employers need to hire due to quality – not minority. When employers seek only to hire for minority, they lose a lot of things. First, they lose their own personal integrity by succumbing to the controlling body and denying themselves any control in the hiring process. Secondly, they lose the quality of work that they would have received if they had hired on the basis of merit. Finally, they generally lose because they are procreating the very problem that they are trying to eliminate – “discrimination.”
Affirmative action Legislation and Regulation
To delve into the legislation and jurisprudence of the past few decades is, in itself, an insight into the need for clear, concise communication. The first major race-conscious legislation was the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This act prohibited discrimination in employment, public accommodations, education, and by programs which receive financial assistance from the federal government. Title VII was the section of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 governed race-conscious employment efforts. In 1965, Congress enacted the Voting Rights Act, which prohibited discrimination against minority voters and required areas with a racially discriminatory history in voting to gain approval prior to changing their voting systems. In 1968, Congress enacted the Fair Housing Act to prohibit discrimination with respect to housing. Congress passed the (a) Equal Opportunity Act of 1972 and (b) Title IX in 1972, which (a) required federal agencies to publish affirmative action plans and (b) prohibited gender discrimination in any educational programs that received financial assistance from the federal government. In 1980, Congress enacted the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, which prohibited discrimination based on prior institutionalization. Congress enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, which prohibited discrimination based on disability with regards to employment, public programs, transportation, public accommodations, and communication facilities. Congress enacted the Civil Rights Act of 1991, which overturned previous Supreme Court decisions that had collapsed basic civil rights protections. (1)
As originally written, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 left too much room for interpretation and had vast ambiguities as related to future situations which would call on it. There have been considerable amendments to Title VII, with the latest being the Civil Rights Act of 1991. The first official use of the term “affirmative action” came in Executive Order 11246, in September of 1965, by President Lyndon Johnson regarding the employment practices of federal contractors. The first action towards race-conscious employment practices came in the announcement of the “Phildelphia Plan” by Assistance Secretary of Labor, Arthur Fletcher, in 1969. This plan called for the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance to measure the employment conditions and insure appropriate minority employment for several federal contracts in the Philadelphia area. Bidding federal contractors would be required to submit detailed plans for an increase in their employment of blacks to satisfy the strict requirements of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance. This instance led to the widespread adoption of this policy throughout federal agencies and contractors. Each were required to develop and submit plans for affirmative action to exhibit their resolve to create more employment opportunities for minorities.
In 1970, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued new guidelines which made pre-employment testing harder to defend as a nondiscriminatory hiring practice. This guideline was upheld by the Supreme Court decision in Griggs v. Duke Power. Chief Justice Burger stated that “tests neutral on their face, and even neutral in terms of intent, cannot be maintained if they operate to “freeze” the status quo of prior discriminatory employment practices.” Essentially, Justice Burger had declared that any testing that might have an unequal effect on any race, sex, or ethic group was in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.(2) In 1972, Congress passed the Equal Opportunity Act (EOA) of 1972, which served to amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include a requirement that all federal agencies submit affirmative action plans to the EEOC. These affirmative action plans were to contain a recruitment program by which they plan to eliminate the underrepresentation of minorities in certain job categories. Under the EOA of 1972, it was required of each agency to submit a yearly statistical analysis to show the results of their affirmative action plan. The EOA of 1972 was the source of the first mention of “quotas” as related to affirmative action. The EEOC continued to set guidelines for the voluntary practice of implementing temporary employment tools which recognized race, sex, or ethnic group to balance any previous discrimination and to equal the promotional pool within an organization. These guidelines were upheld by the Supreme Court in United Steelworkers of America v. Weber. In that case a federal contractor instituted a racial quota for admission to a training program to increase minority employment. The United Steelworkers of America contended that practice violated Title VII, but the Supreme Court decided that the quota was permissible as a temporary measure to alleviate a racial imbalance.(2) In 1978, the Civil Service Commission, EEOC, Department of Justice, and OFCC issued a joint declaration ÃÂ¦ Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures (UGESP) – to give industry guidelines for the lawful use of selection procedures in employment. The guidelines also state that when the percentage of minorities in a company is less than 80 percent of their surrounding population, that fact will be sufficient evidence of adverse impact.(3) Several court decisions throughout the years following 1978 served to narrow the scope of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In light of that fact, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1991 to strengthen the availability of remedies for discrimination and to update Title VII to include punitive measures for discriminatory actions. The entire Act was amended to represent a less passive policy, as opposed to the very passive policy of 1964.
One can see that the affirmative action policy envisioned in 1964 has been updated because of many landmark court cases and government mandates. The affirmative action of today does not call for non-discrimination, but requires strict adherence to a policy of anti-discrimination. The current anti-discrimination policy includes the verbiage to prohibit reverse discrimination. It might be in our federal government’s best interest to discover a new, less politically adverse, term for the new anti-discrimination policies.
Alternative to Affirmative action
There are a few alternatives for replacing affirmative action. Our government could make efforts to augment the major related social programs. Minority communities would need some minor reconstruction regarding their view of the equalities and inequalities that exist in the United States. By achieving this, minority communities would begin to proliferate a more satisfied feeling of equality as opposed to harboring resentment for majority races. This would negate the need to continue on the current course of trying to make up for past discrimination. Community associations, schools, media and independent social agencies would need to fortify the outlook on equality of each community. This will help build a bright and successful future for minority children and increase their ability to compete for jobs on the basis of quality work and merit. The state would need to build the programs and provide needed funding, but it would be up to the communities and individuals to listen and embrace the ideas and theories presented.
Another alternative to affirmative action would be to work toward more broad-based, race-neutral economic policies. They can also have a national health reform, meaning all citizens would be entitled to some sort of basic medical care. The government could increase the earned income tax credit, which would put more money into the pockets of the lower class so they can better provide for their families financial needs. This could lead to better education and basically a better way of life. Child support assurance could be used for lower class families that do not make enough money to pay for daycare and are forced to stay home. This idea would also help substantially alleviate welfare abuse.
The benefits of these methods could be astonishing. If the government and society could formulate these support programs, both lower and middle-income families would be given a greater opportunity to become more contributing members to society. Delivering substantial benefits to minorities, based on economic condition, is simply not cutting it anymore. These efforts should be designed to coincide with the intermediate institutions. Thereby, they can and will, if implemented appropriately, contribute to the overall process of societal reconstruction and renewal. It would allow businesses to maximize quality from its employees, which would lead to maximum profit. These methods would not only provide opportunity to reduce poverty in the United States, but – more effectively – reduce the poverty among minority citizens/families.
Affirmative action is an issue that affects all people in the United States. Its broad-reaching theory has allowed for many misunderstandings and misinterpretations throughout the past several decades. A result of some of these misinterpretations is an equally serious injustice, reverse discrimination. However, over the past 10 years, the legislation related to the regulation of affirmative action – and civil rights in general – has begun to spawn a new, more strict understanding of the theory behind affirmative action. Beyond legislation, the United States government must enact some policy changes with regards to social programs. These social programs would serve to initiate equality in society’s newest generations and combat the discrepancies in regulation that led older generations to despise the terminology. If appropriate reform and social changes are enacted in a timely manner, affirmative action could begin to stand for the social equality that it strives to create in theory.