« Affirmative Action »
( 1645 Words )
More than 200 years of slavery of African Americans, more than 6 decades of immigration exclusion on Asian Americans, the annexation of land from Chicanos, the annihilations of Native Indians, accompanied by Eurocentricism had created a society so unjust in which the people of colors, minorities and women were constantly under the attacks of institutionalized discrimination and prejudice. They were denied of citizenship. They were deprived of their rights to vote. They were limited of their life chances. In order to correct the wrongs done by our government in the past, to remedy the plights forced upon them, to achieve an American society based on equality and justice, affirmative action must be fully implemented and strongly enforced.

Affirmative action policy first appeared in the Executive order 10925 by President Kennedy as a positive measure to ensure equal opportunities for all qualified persons in employment. The policy was further refined and strengthened by President Johnson in Executive order 11246 to redress discriminations that have persisted in spite of the constitutional guarantee of equal opportunity and protection. Not only is affirmative action an important acknowledgement of our government of its past inaction toward racial inequality and social injustice, it is also a commitment by our government to actively fight for equality for all as President Johnson asserted in his 1965 public speech “We seek not just freedom but opportunity . . . not just equality as a right and a theory, but equality as a fact and as a result.”

More than 40 years have passed since the first conception of Affirmative action, yet racial inequality and under-representations of the people of colors and women still exist in every faucet of our society. The opponents of affirmative action have constantly attacked the legitimacy of this policy while some proponents who once firmly supported it have started to question the effectiveness of affirmative action. Is it true that affirmative action has not worked? Should we end affirmative action? The answers to both questions are simply no. Affirmative action has not been able to create equal access for all the people of colors and women in public employment, contracting and academia because “there are many [places] where affirmative action has not been seriously implemented, where it has not been given a chance to work” (Bergmann, 53). For places where affirmative action was put to work, good result shown as confirmed by several studies. According to a report from the US Department of Labor, affirmative action has helped 5 million people of colors and 6 million women move up in the workforce ("Reverse Discrimination," 1995). Additionally, a study sponsored by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, the government agency mainly responsible for enforcing affirmative action policy, showed that between 1974 and 1980 federal contractors added people of colors and female officials and managers at twice the rate of non-contractors (Citizens' Commission, 1984). Affirmative action works. And it should not be terminated. All it needs is just a little bit more time, patience, and commitment from you, me and our government, to attain the long term result of universal equality.

Without affirmative action, minority groups will never catch up in terms of social status, economical and political power. Unfortunately, with the passing of the 1997 proposition 209 in California, affirmative action was outlawed and prohibited in public employment, education and contracting. The enrollment statistics from the two most selective schools in the UC system, namely UCLA and UC Berkeley, in 1997 and 1998 is evident that the immediate result of the termination of affirmative action is the sharp decline in the admission rate for African American and Chicano students. According to a CNN news report, in the UCLA law school alone, the admission rate for African American students have dropped by 50% while Chicano students have seen a 17% decrease one year right after the passing of proposition 209. According to the same report, the admission number in UC Berkeley did not fare any better. The undergraduate admissions for African American applicants drop from 598 to 255 while Chicano applicants drop from 1411 to 825 in 1998. Without affirmative action, people of colors and women are denied of their rights for higher education in our nation’s prestigious campuses. Without affirmative action, we will see fewer lawyers, doctors and highly educated persons from minorities and women. Without these persons, we will have fewer female or non-white politicians, managers, and executives. Without these people, the people of colors and women will forever be underrepresented from our congress, from our supreme court, to every branch in our government, to every place in our society.

According to statistics taken from the websites of the House of Representatives, of the Senate, of the US Bureau of the Census, Women, African Americans, Chicanos, Asian and Native Indians are all under-represented in our Congress. In year 2000, Women general population is at a 51.1% high while they only makeup 14% of the population in both houses. Out of the 100 US senators, none of them are Chicano or African American. Equal representation is the ultimate goal of an ideal democracy, yet with the under-representations of millions and millions of minorities and women in America, our democracy is far away from perfect. The under-representation problem in America is a direct result of past institutionalized discriminations upon minorities and women. Today, even though explicit discriminations have been outlawed, implicit discriminations in many forms are still very much alive in every corner of our society. Thus, affirmative action is needed to ensure a level playing field for all the people in America. Affirmative action is needed to provide the opportunities and God given rights back to minorities and women which were forcefully taken away by past and ongoing discriminations. It is needed to correct the problem of under-representation, not just in our government, but in every university, in every workplace and corporation. It is needed for a better democracy. It must continue until the day when every group in America is equally represented in every places of society.

Not only affirmative action brings us a better democracy, it also increases the diversity in higher education and in workplaces. By allowing more underrepresented minority group members and females to enter our universities, to enter our workplaces, we will have a more diverse working, learning environment which in turn will more accurately reflects the real world of American multiculturalism and the multiracial makeup of our population. Thru these cultural, racial and personal exchanges, racism, sexism, discrimination and prejudice which were solely based on ignorance will gradually fade away as we learn to understand, accept, and appreciate others’ cultures. With the end to discrimination, we will all live in a world of racial, cultural, and gender harmony.

People who accuse affirmative action being unfair basically take history out of context. It is true that federal laws and amendments have been created to ensure equal opportunity, rights and protection for minorities and women. However, even more laws are made up to circumvent, counteract, and blind justice and equality. To name a few, the poll tax, the literacy test, the grandfather clause, and the whole package of Jim Crow Laws in the south are aimed to prevent African Americans to exercise their rights to vote and their rights to live with dignity. The laundry ordinance, the cubic air ordinance, the cable act, the page law were all directed specifically at Asian communities for the sole purpose of discrimination, subordination and exclusion. The destructions of Indian culture, the prohibition of the Spanish language, and the forced assimilations of Indian and Chicano children are attacks on their roots and souls. When people of colors and women were held back hundreds of years by these systematic, economic, political, and social discriminations, “the belated gift of fairness in the form of a resolution no longer to discriminate against them legally is hardly an adequate remedy” (Fish). Thus, positive action by our government must be taken to address, redress and correct this historical flaw of inequality and injustice.

Affirmative action is not reverse racism because there is no legal obligation of a firm or legal requirement of a university to ever hire or admit an unqualified person. In choosing among qualified candidates, hiring or admission preference is to go for a person of color or female because past discrimination has resulted in white male receiving preferential treatment. Affirmative action is a corrective measure rather than punitive. The intent of affirmative action is equality. It is reverse racism, only if you believe minorities and women as candidates are inherently and automatically unqualified. It is reverse racism, “only if one considers the cancer of racism to be morally and medically indistinguishable from the [chemo]therapy we apply to it” (Bell, 50).

With affirmative action, we are a brave government that acknowledges past errors. With affirmative action, we are a great country that prospers in democracy. With affirmative action, we are a just society based on equality. With affirmative action, we are the diverse America that the world sees. This is why we, Americans all need affirmative action.

Bergmann, Barbara. In Defense of Affirmative Action . New York: Basic Books, 1996
Bell, Derrick. And We Are Not Saved: The Elusive Quest for Racial Justice . New York: Basic Books, 1987
Census 2000. (2005, Nov). Census Bureau. http://www.census.gov/ [18 Nov. 2005]
Citizens' Commission on Civil Rights. (1984, June). Affirmative action to open the doors of job opportunity. Washington, DC.
CNN. (1997, Aug). "California law barring affirmative action takes effect" CNN News. http://www.cnn.com/US/9708/28/prop.209/ [26 Nov. 2005]
Cohen, Carl. Naked Racial Preference: The Case Against Affirmative Action . Boston: Madison Books, 1995
Fish, Stanley. Reverse Racism: Or How the Pot Got to Call the Kettle Black." Atlantic Monthly November 1993
House. (2005, Jan). United States House of Representatives. http://www.house.gov/ [17 Nov. 2005]
Kull, Andrew. The Color Blind Constitution . Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992
Michael Olivas, "The Attack on Affirmative Action" Change, March/April 1993

Senate. (2005, Nov). United States Senate. http://www.senate.gov/ [16 Nov. 2005]
Reverse discrimination of whites is rare, labor study reports. (1995, March 31). New York Times, p. A23.
West, Cornell. Race Matters . New York:Vintage, 1994