Affirmative Action is a very broad topic and narrowing it down to the specifics is very hard to do. There are so many key and vital things to talk about in a paper about this subject that it is easy to stray away from one specific topic. The process of writing this and then re-writing this paper was very hard for me not only because of the broadness of the topic, but because it is a topic that has never affected me. However that being said it does affect a lot of people and I believe it is important for there to be some sense of equality in the world. Research for this topic was hard as it is not a topic that I immediately knew much about or knew where to find anything I was familiar with. I am glad I used Affirmative Action as my topic because when writing this paper I on more than one occasion wondered where this is going on and if anyone I know has been affected by it directly. Affirmative Action was also something that since writing this paper I have heard more and more about. The presidential debates were full of talk about the importance of Affirmative Action and if it needed to be looked at to see if any adjustments needed to be made. I feel I have learned a lot about the topic since writing and have had my eyes opened a lot from the experience of writing the paper.
English 111 Paper 1
Both Sides : The Real Story Behind Affirmative Action
. Two things cause prejudice: ignorance and hate. Prejudice and mistreatment have existed in this country, first with American-Indians and then later with African-Americans and other minorities. The selling and trading of slaves is a shadow that has been hanging over the heads of white Americans for two centuries. Some people feel that it is the white-American’s duty to pay the minority population back. Affirmative Action is designed to give minorities a chance at not being treated as just that. I believe Affirmative Action is needed, But I don’t believe we need quota’s.
Affirmative Action’s concept is to give minorities, such as blacks, the opportunity to maintain jobs in our prejudicial society. Those who support Affirmative Action, define it as a way to give the disadvantaged a chance at the “American dream.” Those who do not support Affirmative Action define it as giving minorities positions that they are not qualified to have. First I will give a little background and general information on the subject. Secondly, I will show how those that are in support of affirmative action feel. I will then balance the argument out by showing how those who oppose affirmative action feel. I will also explore the minorities that are also against affirmative action. Finally, After I present the information from both sides of this argument, I will give you my own opinions as to the rights, wrongs and mechanical tune-ups so to speak I feel are needed to bring Affirmative Action into the twenty-first century.
The definition of Affirmative Action, according to” Webster’s New World Dictionary College Edition”, is “a policy or program for correcting the effects of discrimination in the employment or education of members of certain groups, as women, blacks, etc.” In today’s world some people deem it necessary to balance the discrimination that is prominent in today’s workplace. According to supporters, Affirmative Action does not mean hiring unqualified women or minorities over qualified white male applicants, nor does it mean quotas. In fact, hiring somebody solely on the basis of race or gender without concern for merit is the very definition of discrimination, be it against women or men, whites or minorities.
The courts have said repeatedly that the purpose of Affirmative Action programs is to create an environment where merit can prevail. (Zip 25) Many people believe that the hiring of unqualified employees is actually how Affirmative Action works. That giving jobs to those who are unqualified strictly because they are a minority is really how the process works. Those whom believe in the idea behind Affirmative Action actually believe that jobs should be given based on merit not just the idea of hiring anyone who happens to be of a different color or be a minority. But if the opportunity arises where there is an equally qualified minority and a white male some believe that the minority should be given the job.
Discrimination in the workplace is a reality, and Affirmative Action is constantly at work to eliminate it. Consider this example: A job opens in a field currently dominated by white men. Ten people apply for the job, some of them women and some of them minorities. Out of the four individuals who are qualified, one of them is a woman, and the other three are white men. Assuming that all applicants are equally qualified, then the female candidate should be offered the job, unless there is a clear, nondiscriminatory reason as to why it should not be offered to her. (Zip 25) It seems that others in prominent positions would agree. Some actually encourage the hiring of minorities and women. Kermit Ecklebarger, dean at Denver Conservative Baptist Seminary, states “Our principle is that if we have two people who are of equal quality, we will choose the person from the underrepresented group.” (Zip 43)
In Jeffrey Rosen’s article “Is Affirmative Action Doomed”? He says, “Consider the case of faculty hiring. The number of positions is far more limited; and when a certain number of them are set aside only for blacks, there are especially heavy costs on the rejected whites, who have invested an extraordinary amount of time in specialized preparation.” (Rosen 31) All that time spent on learning a specific trade and not being able to make the most of that skill seems a little wasteful. It also can explain the despair among white males about not getting jobs they know they are qualified for.
Juliane O’Gara states in her article “Affirmative Action: Leveling the Playing Field”, More than 150 years ago, Sarah Grimke, the famous abolitionist, said, “I ask no favor for my sex… All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.” While many believe that Affirmative Action means giving preferential treatment, in reality it does not. In fact, where there is clear discrimination – when employers utilize numerical quotas, for example- the law has been violated and those discriminated against should seek the protection of civil rights statutes. The solution for these situations is for the law to be enforced, rather than repealed. (Zip 26) This simply states that although there are some employers that hire minorities even if they are unqualified, the government should not stop Affirmative Action completely. There is the belief in the minority community that prejudice is a constant and that without Affirmative Action they would not stand a chance. Ron Brown of the NAACP says that, “We’re not ready to be color-blind because racial discrimination continues to afflict our society. (Khalenberg 26) Affirmative Action continues to be needed not to redress grievances of the past, but the current discrimination that continues to exist.”
Among blacks, there remains a keen awareness that discrimination is alive and well in America. A March Gallup Poll of 1,220 adults…showed that half of all blacks believe that they have encountered some form of job discrimination. The poll also found that 55 percent of Americans- including 72 of blacks- favor affirmative action programs for minorities and women. While only 35 percent of all Americans believe businesses should establish quotas to make up for past discrimination, 63 percent of blacks favor such policies. (Zip 43) Blacks know they are treated unfairly and therefore some blacks feel it is necessary to take advantages of all the opportunities that are given to them.
A perfect example would be Vela McClam Mitchell. She graduated college with a Master’s degree in education and an MBA. She was having difficulty finding a job but affirmative action helped her. She states, “Without Northwest’s commitment to affirmative action, I wouldn’t have gotten the job at the airline or my current position at Worldspan”. I think people gravitate toward people who are like them – who talk like them, act like them, look like them. And that means without affirmative action programs, a lot of white males won’t let people like me in. The attitude is, “It’s our playground, and we decide who comes into it.”(Jones 40 )Ms. Mitchell is one of thousands that affirmative action programs have helped. Without some intervention of the government to install affirmative action programs Ms. Mitchell and many others would be without jobs.
Not only minorities support affirmative action. White people support it as well. Although it may seem selfish, the white supporters are looking out for themselves. John Zipperer explains, “In twenty to thirty years, these minorities are the people who are going to be paying for social security. If they don’t get the training and the education, how are we going to pay for others’ retirement and the national debt “? (Zip 43) Whatever the reason behind it, whites are beginning to support affirmative action in large numbers. Most people who are against the idea of affirmative action are the ones that it will hurt the most: white men. It seems that whites are afraid that the minorities that affirmative action is helping will take the jobs that they believe are theirs. For whites there is a feeling that it will hurt more than it will help. One way that it will hurt more than it will help is that it will cause tension between the races.
John Zipperer gives his feelings on the tension of the races, in understanding the racial divide in America; the role of the historic social divide between the races cannot be underestimated. “We’ve done a very efficient job of separating ourselves along racial lines,” says Spencer Perkins who also serves as editor of Urban Family magazine in Jackson Mississippi. “You might bump into each other in the workplace, but anything private tends to be split along racial lines.” (Zip 43) Our country is very separate right now and anything that could separate it even more could be suicide. As of now, in many cities across America there is a feeling of unrest between black and white communities. Glynn Custred, a California professor says, “The policies that we have today are pervasive and are spreading everywhere. They are weakening our institutions, and they cause a stigma for those who are supposed to be helped by it.” (Zip 44)
It becomes an impossible battle to differentiate between affirmative action and reverse discrimination. Just like whatever goes up comes down and whenever there is an action there is always an opposite reaction, whenever someone gets a job at the expense of someone else there is going to be someone who has to suffer. Although affirmative action would be very beneficial to them, there are some minorities that refuse to accept what affirmative action programs have to offer. It may be because of the fact that minorities have overcome so much in the past such as slavery and the women’s movement. (Rosen110 )It seems that some minorities take exception at being seen as “charity cases.” Ms. Leigh Fulwood, a lawyer at The Regional Legal Counsel in Seattle is one woman in particular who says she would take offense to being “given” a job through affirmative action. She states, “I would be mortified if I thought somebody hired me because I’m female”. I’m a bike racer- I race against men and women- and if I pulled up to the starting line and they said, “Well, Leigh, why don’t you go ahead and get a two or three minute start on everybody,” that would not be the point.
The whole point is to race with the pack, to perform at the level, to go at their speed, to learn the pack dynamic. I want to be an athlete out there. And you know what? I am. They don’t cut me any slack because I’m female. Ms Fulwood also states that she also believes that the way you are treated in the workplace is based on how you perceive yourself. She says, I know it sounds naive, but it never occurred to me that my gender was an issue, much less a problem. It really has never been one to me, and therefore I don’t think it’s been one to anybody else. Or if it has been, I have, perhaps somewhat deliberately, chosen to ignore that. I think we bring on our treatment, to a great extent, with our expectations. (Jones 46) To an extent Ms. Fulwood may be right.
If one has self-confidence he or she will usually be treated with a greater amount of respect. The consequences of affirmative action vary depending on the situation. In some cases affirmative action can help those who need it. It helps those who are in tough situations by being classified as minorities. In other aspects it hurts the white male who has spent long tedious hours learning a trade(as the minority has in most cases) in which he may never find a job to show off his skills. The courts are now recognizing affirmative action as a source of reverse discrimination. In April, the U.S. Supreme Court made verdicts on two racially charged court decisions. John Zipperer reports, “In one verdict, a judge voided a quota for black Birmingham firefighters, designed to increase promotions. In the second case, a jury handed out a damage award of $425,000 to a white Pennsylvania engineer who was passed over for promotion in favor of a less-qualified black man.” (Zip 42) Affirmative Action is an issue that is very controversial in America right now. White America and the minorities are at deadlock in agreeing on what they feel is right.
Unfortunately, an entire country cannot come to an agreement because we are so diversified. Although there are many who disagree about whether or not giving minorities a slight advantage is just, we can all agree that there is a too much prejudice and hatred in America today. Because of the horrid history of this nation, the disgust directed at “White America” is not surprising, however, it does seem surprising to many Americans that there are minorities who are against affirmative action. This country, whether we will admit it or not, was built on the blood and sweat of minorities. Therefore it should not be unexpected that minorities would like a fair share of what this country has the to offer. If this happens, maybe minorities will someday have the opportunity to walk our “streets of gold,” and live the American dream.