Affirmative Action as Public Policy
Develop a five page APA style paper (not including cover and reference pages) in which you research and discuss the US Affirmative Action initiative. The focus of your paper should be on the initiative’s impact on current and future public policies. How have these initiatives and policies affected the average American citizen?
Affirmative Action as Public Policy
Affirmative action is a common term in law referring to any type of action that directly seeks to increase the educational and employment opportunities of the disadvantaged or minority groups. The term affirmative action emerged during President J.F. Kennedy’s tenure, specifically in 1961. President Lyndon B. Johnson later implemented the affirmative action policy as an executive order (Kurtulus, (2016). For a country reeling from the dark shadows of the slavery era, the affirmative action initiative was critical in helping instill basic civil rights for the minority groups and the disadvantaged. The affirmative action policy helps in ensuring that all citizens receive equal educational as well as employment opportunities irrespective of their ethnic background. This paper examines the impact of the United States affirmative action policy to the average citizen.
The major goal of the affirmative action plan is to ensure increased female and minority representation in the American workplace. Affirmative action is a voluntary action by local, state and federal governments to reduce cases of discrimination in the society. The respective governments can take a number of actions to ensure reduced underrepresentation of minority groups (Kurtulus, 2016). For instance, workforce data collection is important in assisting relevant authorities to monitor the unemployment situation in the country. The respective governments develop initiatives that aim at increasing job applicants from the minority groups. Another set of actions relates to job training of the underrepresented groups. Some state and local governments develop job-training sessions, which aim at increasing the employability of underrepresented groups. In some situations, the respective governments develop policies relating to gender or ethnicity and employment decisions made by employers.
The affirmative action initiative has had diverse impact on the current and future public policies. With the passage of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, discrimination based on gender, religion, race or color was prohibited. The impact on current policies is that it encourages public officials, administrators and educators to treat individuals in consideration to their racial background. The Civil Rights Act mandates the local, state and federal governments to institute special preferences or racial boosts in order to increase the uptake of the minority groups in the education sector and to offer more employment opportunities. The preferential treatment of minority groups serves to accord them more opportunities for growth and representation in the economy. Thus, affirmative action is a conscious action to eliminating discrimination in the society.
The major goal of the affirmative action plan was to promote equal opportunity in the U.S. However, some of the policies used by administrators, educators and other public officials promoted reverse discrimination. It is important to note that affirmative action policies are voluntary and at the discretion of public officials and administrators. Due to the nature of some of these policies opposition towards the affirmative initiative begun as early as 1978. In the lawsuit involving Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, the Supreme Court held that use of quotas for considering admission was unfair as it promoted reverse discrimination (Fugere, Cathey, Beetham, Haynes, & Schaedler, 2016). In Grutter v. Bollinger (2003), the court ruled that it was necessary take into consideration the racial background of applicants during the admission process. The court, however, asserted that such admission policies ought to be “narrowly tailored”. This is important in avoiding reverse discrimination.
Affirmative action may lead to reverse racism where one part feels ignored while the other party feels entitled due to the protection accorded to them (Ball, 2000). It leaves many people dependent on the system such that they cannot operate on their own rather they would want to sit for things to happen. In this era of time as much as affirmative action is beneficial to a number of individuals it is not worth it since it only does more harm than good. There is a significant increase in diversity since the adoption of the act, with employers being more open to employees from different social, ethnic and religious backgrounds. It opens up opportunities to children of the minorities since they are assured of access to education in some of the best universities that would otherwise have failed to accommodate them (Fugere et al., 2016). The law puts in place serious consequences to anyone who discriminates based on race, religion or sexual orientation.
In the modern times, affirmative action plans mainly involve opportunity enhancements. Opportunity enhancements entail various actions such as eliminating cases of discrimination, encouraging the disadvantaged groups to apply for jobs, and the willingness to take qualified applicants from the underrepresented groups. Evidence indicates that majority of White Americans hold a negative attitude with regard to the affirmative action policy implementation. This is because most of them associate it with reverse discrimination. Majority of White Americans are also concerned about fairness of the affirmative action policy. Opponents argue that affirmative action policy go against the principle of merit. The opponents argue that affirmative action policies are a threat to most of the individuals through reverse discrimination. According to Fugere et al. (2016), most the Whites who consider the policy as promoting negative discrimination hold the belief that the policy involves quotas and the hiring of nonqualified applicants, which is not true.
Perhaps one of the most significant discoveries is that race is not the obstacle to achieving diversity, rather class plays a bigger role. According to Kahlenberg (2010), students of white descent are twice likely to gain university admission compared to blacks. On the other hand, students from high-income families are seven times likely to gain university admission than those from low-income families. Wealthy students from all ethnics groups predominate admissions to institutions of higher learning (Ledesma 180. The solution to overcoming this is to adopt affirmative action programs based on the socioeconomic class of the student. For instance, factors such as income level of the families, status of the family and education level are important while making admission decisions. Moreover, it is important to consider that the Whites earn relatively higher compared to other minority groups. The Blacks earn the lowest real median household income, followed by Hispanics. The disparities in income levels calls on the need to use affirmative action initiatives.
Reaching out to the low-income students at an early stage can help alleviate the racial and ethnicity diversity problem in higher learning. This can be achieved by giving financial aid to poor but bright disadvantaged students. Alternatively, institutions can reach out to them through creating a good rapport with the disadvantaged schools. Institutions of higher learning should thus expand their financial aid to low-income students as well as disadvantaged schools. Some institutions have already started giving out Pell grants to students from low-income families. Pell grants have enabled students from low-income families access higher education which, which was formerly a privilege of the middle and high-class families (Winkle-Wagner & Locks, 2013).
Other institutions have simply developed outreach programs that target the disadvantaged schools. Officers from these institutions visit these schools in order to publicize or make aware of the available opportunities in their institutions. They also sponsor open houses and fairs as well as other programs that encourage students to work hard. Students have the chance to visit campus through various programs in a bid to motivate them to work hard. Institutions such as California Institute of Technology offers students free visits where they learn about the various courses available, financial aid opportunities available and general campus environment. Involving the private sector in offering financial aid can go a long way in ensuring that students from poor families access higher learning. Developing a private foundation to run funding programs can help many low-income students.
To conclude, majority of people have benefited from the development of affirmative action yet it also has some repercussions. Diversity has greatly increased since the adoption of the act, with employers being more open to employees from different social, ethnic and religious backgrounds. It opens up opportunities to children of the minorities since they are assured of access to education in some of the best universities that would otherwise have failed to accommodate them. The law puts in place serious consequences to anyone who discriminates based on race, religion or sexual orientation.
Ball, H. (2000). The Bakke case. Retrieved from http://lilt.ilstu.edu/gmklass/pos334/archive/ball.htm
Fugere, M. A., Cathey, C., Beetham, R., Haynes, M., & Schaedler, R. A. (2016). Preference for the diversity policy label versus the affirmative action policy label. Social Justice Research, 29(2): 206 – 227.
Kahlenberg, R. (2010). “Introduction”. Rewarding Strivers: Helping Low-Income Students Succeed in College. New York: Century Foundation Press.
Kurtulus, F. A. (2016). The impact of affirmative action on the employment of minorities and women: A longitudinal analysis using three decades of EEO‐1 filings. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 35(1), 34-66. doi:10.1002/pam.21881
Winkle-Wagner, R., & Locks, A. (2013). Diversity and Inclusion on Campus: Supporting Racially and Ethnically Underrepresented Students. New York: Routledge.