The Failures of Affirmative Action


Once upon a time, there were two people who went to an
interview for only one job position at the same company.
The first person attended a prestigious and highly academic
university, had years of work experience in the field and,
in the mind of the employer, had the potential to make a
positive impact on the company's performance. The second
person was just starting out in the field and seemed to
lack the ambition that was visible in his opponent. "Who
was chosen for the job?" you ask. Well, if the story took
place before 1964, the answer would be obvious. However,
with the somewhat recent adoption of the social policy
known as affirmative action, the answer becomes unclear. 

 After the United States Congress passed the Civil Rights
Act in 1964, it became apparent that certain business
traditions, such as seniority status and aptitude tests,
prevented total equality in employment. Then President,
Lyndon B. Johnson, decided something needed to be done to
remedy these flaws. On September 24, 1965, he issued
Executive Order #11246 at Howard University that required
federal contractors "to take affirmative action to ensure
that applicants are employed . . . without regard to their
race, creed, color, or national origin (Civil Rights)."
When Lyndon Banes Johnson signed that order, he enacted one
of the most discriminating pieces of legislature since the
Jim Crow Laws were passed.
 Affirmative action was created in an effort to help
minorities leap the discriminative barriers that were ever
so present when the bill was first enacted, in 1965. At
this time, the country was in the wake of nationwide
civil-rights demonstrations, and racial tension was at its
peak. Most of the corporate executive and managerial
positions were occupied by white males, who controlled the
hiring and firing of employees. The U.S. government, in
1965, believed that these employers were discriminating
against minorities and believed that there was no better
time than the present to bring about change. 

 When the Civil Rights Law passed, minorities, especially
African-Americans, believed that they should receive
retribution for the years of discrimination they endured.
The government responded by passing laws to aide them in
attaining better employment as reprieve for the previous
two hundred years of suffering their race endured at the
hands of the white man. To many, this made sense.
Supporters of affirmative action asked, "why not let the
government help them get better jobs?" After all, the white
man was responsible for their suffering. While this may all
be true, there is another question to be asked. Are we
truly responsible for the years of persecution that the
African Americans were submitted to?
 The answer to the question is yes and no. It is true that
the white man is partly responsible for the suppression of
the African-American race. However, the individual white
male is not. It is just as unfair and suppressive to hold
many white males responsible for past persecution now as it
was to discriminate against many African-Americans in the
generations before. Why should an honest, hard-working,
open minded, white male be suppressed, today, for past
injustice? Affirmative action accepts and condones the idea
of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Do two wrongs
make a right? I think mother taught us better than that. 

 Affirmative action supporters make one large assumption
when defending the policy. They assume that minority groups
want help. This, however, may not always be the case. My
experience with minorities has led me to believe that they
fought to attain equality, not special treatment. To them,
the acceptance of special treatment is an admittance of
inferiority. They ask, "Why can't I become successful on my
own? Why do I need laws to help me get a job?" These
African Americans want to be treated as equals, not as

 In a statement released in 1981 by the United States
Commission on Civil Rights, Jack P. Hartog, who directed
the project, said:
 Only if discrimination were nothing more than the
misguided acts of a few prejudiced individuals would
affirmative action plans be "reverse discrimination." Only
if today's society were operating fairly toward minorities
 and women would measures that take race, sex, and national
origin into account be "preferential treatment." Only if
discrimination were securely placed in a well-distant past
would affirmative action be an unneeded and drastic remedy.
What the commission failed to realize was that there are
thousands of white males who are not discriminating yet are
being punished because of those who do. The Northern
Natural Gas Company of Omaha, Nebraska, was forced by the
government to release sixty-five white male workers to make
room for minority employees in 1977 (Nebraska Advisory
Committee 40). Five major Omaha corporations reported that
the number of white managers fell 25% in 1969 due to
restrictions put on them when affirmative action was
adopted (Nebraska Advisory Committee 27). You ask, "What
did these white males do to bring about their termination?"
The only crime that they were guilty of was being white.
This hardly seems fair to punish so many innocent men for
the crimes of a relative few. 

 But the injustice toward the white male doesn't end there.
After the white male has been fired, he has to go out and
find a new job to support his family that depended on the
company to provide health care and a retirement plan in
return for years of hard work. Now, because of affirmative
action, this white male, and the thousands like him,
require more skills to get the same job that a lesser
qualified black man needs. This is, for all intents and
purposes, discrimination, and it is a law that our
government strictly enforces.
 Affirmative action is not only unfair for the working man,
it is extremely discriminatory toward the executive, as
well. The average business executive has one goal in mind,
and that is to maximize profits. To reach his goal, this
executive would naturally hire the most competent man or
woman for the job, whether they be black or white or any
other race. Why would a business man intentionally cause
his business to lose money by hiring a poorly qualified
worker? Most wouldn't. With this in mind, it seems
unnecessary to employ any policy that would cause him to do
otherwise. But, that is exactly what affirmative action
does. It forces an employer, who needs to meet a quota
established by the government, to hire the minority, no
matter who is more qualified. 

 Another way that affirmative action deducts from a
company's profits is by forcing them to create jobs for
minorities. This occurs when a company does not meet its
quota with existing employees and has to find places to put
minorities. These jobs are often unnecessary, and force a
company to pay for workers that they do not need.
 Now, don't get the impression that affirmative action is
only present in the work place. It is also very powerful in
education. Just as a white male employee needs more
credentials to get a job than his minority opponent, a
white male student needs more or better skills to get
accepted at a prestigious university than a minority
student. There are complete sections on college
applications dedicated to race and ethnic background.
Colleges must now have a completely diverse student body,
even if that means some, more qualified students, must be
turned away. 

 A perfect example of this can be found at the University
of California at Berkeley. A 1995 report released by the
university said that 9.7% of all accepted applicants were
African American. Only 0.8% of these African American
students were accepted by academic criteria alone. 36.8% of
the accepted applicants were white. Of these accepted white
students, 47.9% were accepted on academic criteria alone.
That means that approximately sixty times more African
Americans students were accepted due to non-academic
influences than white students. It seems hard to believe
that affirmative action wasn't one these outside influences.
 Another interesting fact included in the 1995 report said
that the average grade point average for a rejected white
student was 3.66 with an average SAT score of 1142. The
average grade point average for an accepted African
American student was 3.66 with a 1030 average SAT score.
These stunning facts shows just how many competent, if not
gifted students fall between the cracks as a direct result
of affirmative action (Affirmative action).
 Well, I believe that the problem has been identified;
affirmative action is becoming a form of reverse
discrimination. It is now time for the doctor to prescribe
a potential remedy. Society should work towards broad based
economic policies like public investment, national health
reform, an enlarged income tax credit, child support
assurance, and other policies benefiting families with
young children. Widely supported programs that promote the
interests of both lower and middle class Americans that
deliver benefits to minorities and whites on the basis of
their economic status, and not their race or ethnicity,
will do more to reduce minority poverty than the current,
narrowly based, poorly supported policies that single out
minority groups. However, if this, or another remedy is not
taken sometime in the near future, and affirmative action
continues to separate minority groups from whites, we can
be sure to see racial tension reach points that our history
has never seen.
 Works Cited
"Affirmative Action at the University of California at
Berkeley" Online.
 October 28, 1996.
"Civil Rights" Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia. (1996).
[Computer Program] 
 SoftKey Multimedia International Corporation. 
United States. Commission on Civil Rights. Affirmative
Action in the 1980's: 
 Dismantling the Process of Discrimination. Washington:
United States. Nebraska Advisory Committee to the U.S.
Commission on Civil Rights.
 Private Sector Affirmative Action: Omaha. Washington: 1979.

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