Affirmative Action: Equal Opportunity and Diversity for Minorities The term "Affirmative Action" originated in the United States and first referenced when President John F. Kennedy signed Executive Order 10925 on March 6, 1961 (Infoplease 2000-2007). The term was used in the Order to mandate federal employers to take affirmative action to ensure employment practices are free from racial discrimination against minority groups. Executive Order 10925 increased diversity between minorities and whites but was not enforced until four years later under Executive Order 11246, signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson. This act has since been expanded several times to prohibit discrimination and influenced implementation of other acts, such as The Civil Rights Act, that prohibits discrimination of all kinds based on race, color, religion, or national origin (National Archives, n.d.). Affirmative Action increased diversity between minorities and whites because Affirmative Action created equal opportunities in employment and education for minorities. “Blacks have a 375-year history on this continent: 245 involving slavery, 100 involving discrimination, and only 30 involving anything else”. (Historian Roger Wilkins). The United States has a long history of discrimination against minorities. After being forced from their native land onto ships bound for America, they were enslaved and forced to work for their White owners. They were a mistreated group of people because of Whites prejudice about their race and ethnicity. They were subjected to oppression and slavery simply because of their race. This is an image that depicts men captured and enslaved by whites.
Photograph of enslaved Africans
Figure 1. A photograph of Africans enslaved by white Americans Note. From Revolution Newspaper, 2006.
Although the African-American race has suffered years of discrimination and prejudice throughout American history, they played key roles in the development of the legal system, political conflict, and changes in social relations. The United States Constitution even includes Amendments regarding race and slavery. Despite the various laws set in place by the U.S. Government to end discrimination and help African-Americans progress, they were still subjected to discrimination because of their race. With the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 African-Americans could finally embrace the freedom from slavery to being recognized as American citizens. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law on July 2, 1964. Title IV of the act declare that “No person in the United States shall, on the grounds of race, color or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance” (National Archives, n.d.). This Civil Rights Act addressed not only discrimination in employment, but also discrimination in voting, public accommodations, and education as well. The Act sparked a movement of affirmative action across the United States. Affirmative action compensates minorities who have been historically discriminated against. Programs were designed for minorities to receive preferential treatment in determining entrance to universities, employment, and receiving federal contracts when competing with equally qualified whites. Since its origination in the United States in 1961, affirmative action has created equal opportunities for everyone or has it created reverse discrimination? In its 47-year history, affirmative action has attempted to rid America of discrimination against minorities, sometimes at the cost of what has been labeled “reverse discrimination” towards whites. This topic of reverse discrimination applies to all parts of affirmative action which allow a minority to get a position or receive an opportunity over an equally qualified majority individual. Affirmative Action created...
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