Affirmative Action is a policy or a program that seeks to redress past discrimination through active measures to ensure equal opportunity, as in education and employment.Initiative 200 aims to give each and every person a fair and equal opportunity, in public employment, public education, and public contracting. Is I-200 the appropriate means of abolishing Affirmative Action? Despite its intentions, there are many people who feel that this initiative will not move the fight against racism forward, but it will move it backwards, back to where it was in the 1950s and 1960s.
When President John F. Kennedy issued Executive Order 10952 he became the first President to use the phrase “Affirmative Action”. The order created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and directed contractors on projects financed with federal funds to take Affirmative Action to ensure that applicants are employed, and employees are treated during their employment, without regard to race, creed, color or national origin.Kennedy went on to urge Congress to enact a fairly comprehensive civil rights act, to expand educational and employment opportunities for minorities.
The original intent of Affirmative Action was good, but over the past 30 years, people have altered what it is supposed to mean, and what it is supposed to do. In the 90s the tables have changed, Caucasians, specifically males, have been discriminated against, just to ensure that the government meets its ethnicity quota. The state of Washington, and the Federal government, have both wasted our money, and discriminated against white males. A real life example of this is at the University of Washington, where a young, poor, white female, who was raised by a single mother in Seattle, paid for her undergraduate degree by working as a janitor at night. She applied for the Universitys law school, and was rejected, even though her admission test scores were in the 95th percentile. Why would someone be rejected with her background? The reason, she checked one little box marked white she feels that she was probably passed up for someone more diverse, with lower than average test scores and GPA. In 1994, when she applied, the University of Washington Law School had just finished a diversity program that raised the minority enrollment from 17% in 1989 to well over 40% in 1994 . Even though this is just one example, there are many more throughout Washington, and even more throughout the U.S.
Is this right; is it the right thing to do? No, of course not, there ought not to be a place for you to check on a college application, employment application, or anywhere else, which asks you what your ethnical background is. By doing so, it creates even more prejudices because those people who were passed up, become angry at the system and at the people who could had been admitted, with lower test scores. The only way to end Affirmative Action, and racism, is for everyone to be looked at equally.
Many people define Affirmative Action as the ability to strive for equality and inclusiveness. Is Affirmative Action fair? In 1974, a woman named Rose was turned down for a supervisory job in favor of a male. She was told that she was the most qualified person, but the position was going to be filled by a man, because he had a family to support. Five years before that, when Rose was about to fill an entry-level position in banking, a personnel officer outlined the womans pay scale, which was $25 to $50 a month less than what men were being paid for the same position. Rose was furious because she felt this was discriminating to her. She confronted the personnel officer and he saw nothing wrong with it (Skrentny, 1996). Thanks to Affirmative Action today things like these situations are becoming more rare and are corrected more quickly. Affirmative Action has definitely helped women and minorities in their careers, but it has yet to succeed in the goal of equality to the fullest for the business world to women and minorities. Some observers argue that women have made huge strides, with the help of Affirmative Action. They now hold 40 percent of all corporate middle-management jobs, and the number of women-owned businesses has grown by 57 percent since 1982 (Blackwood, 1995). Affirmative Action was designed to give qualified minorities a chance to compete on equal footing with whites (Chappell, 1995). Equal opportunities for the blacks, for the most part, have remained more wishful thinking than fact. Black business owners are still competing against their white counterparts, and black workers are experiencing an unemployment rate twice that of Whites and hold dead-end, labor-intensive, low-paying jobs. Few can argue that racism is still rampant in awarding contract jobs, and educational opportunities, even though its been proven beneficial to have people of different races with different ideas and different experiences working toward the same goal (Chappell, 1995).
Perhaps the biggest complaint that one hears about Affirmative Action policies aimed at helping black Americans is that they violate the 14th Amendment of the Constitution and the Civil Rights. The claim is that these programs distort what is now a level playing field and bestow preferential treatment on undeserving minorities because of the color of their skin.
Lyndon B. Johnson once said to justify Affirmative Action programs. Suppose that there is a track official judging two athletes running a hundred-yard dash. Before the official shoots off the starting pistol, one runner kicks the other in the shin, stomps on his toes, and then runs ahead fifty yards. Now because our official is observant, he sees this dirty play and immediately halts the race. So, he walks over to the runner, who is fifty yards ahead and tells him that what he did was unfair and wrong and he is forbidden from doing it again. Then he goes back to check on the runner at the starting line. The runner is a little bruised up. The official tells him, “Don’t worry I saw everything that happened. I told the other runner that what he did was wrong and that he shouldn’t have done it. As I speak the rules are being changed to outlaw such actions from ever happening again.” Then the official strolls back to his position and fires the starting pistol to begin the race, where the runners left off.
Surely there is something wrong with this scenario. Is it enough to simply chide the offending runner, change the rulebook, and then begin the race with one runner halfway to the finish line? By advancing one runner ahead, would we be corrupting the idea of the100 yard dash? These questions yield one answer. No. The race has already been tainted. It is our duty to somehow reconstruct the situation so that fairness can again pervade the event.
Affirmative Action was originally started to give people of different ethnical backgrounds a fair and equal opportunity at what the traditional white American had. It has gone far beyond that now, to say that being a white male is a major disadvantage. Initiative 200 will hopefully end Affirmative Action, as we now know it in Washington State.
Our parents teach us to treat people equally regardless of race. Our schools teach us to treat each other equally, from the first day of kindergarten to the last day of high school. Our churches and synagogues teach us to treat others, as we want to be treated. It’s time for our government to do the same.
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Affirmative Action on Ever-Thinning Ice, Dundul, Tom. American Enterprise, Janurary/February1996, p. 27-33.
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The Jobs of the Future. Pittsburgh Business Times, April 1996, p72-81.
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September 3rd, 1998. Wall Street Journal, Numbers Bind
Carlson, John. The Case for I-200. Seattle Post Intelligence, October 18, 1998.