Why Is Affirmative Action Such a Divisive Issue?

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Affirmative Action: Why is Affirmative Action Such a Divisive Issue?


“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of it’s creed: “ We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. King stated this in his famous “I have a Dream” speech in Washington, D.C. in 1963. Is affirmative action still necessary in United States? (Wikipedia, 2007)

In order to even begin to understand the underlying principle behind affirmative action, there need to be a clear grasp of what is being discussed. It is important to first define the intentions and the foundation of affirmative action. Affirmative Action is a term that has been applied to many public and private agendas designed to address problems of discrimination or exclusion in employment, education, and contracting. The policies were developed to convert American social justice from an unequal playing field to an equal one. However, they are misguidedly perceived as a tool used to subjugate whites. (Bergman, 1996)

In truth, the policies merely constitute a "good faith effort" by employers to eliminate discrimination. These good faith efforts ensure that specific, results-orientated procedures are employed to balance competing interests and make certain efforts are put forth to provide equal access in educational and work field for all people. The efforts were positive steps to end discrimination, so that every qualified women and minorities have a fair chance at job, educational and business opportunities. When those steps involve preferential selection, which is selection on the basis of race, gender, or ethnicity than affirmative action generates intense controversy. (Bergman, 1996) Affirmative action programs for minorities and women are a very small part of U.S. preferential policies. College draft deferments, selective allotments for refugees, re-entry programs for GI's, the Marshall Plan (billions of dollars for free training of former European enemies denied to Black GI's in the U.S.), birthright systems, and geographical preferences are but a few of the programs tricked in the name of inclusion and considered worthy of preferential treatment. (Bergman, 1996) President John F. Kennedy Executive Order 10925, which established the Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity, built the overall foundation of affirmative action in March 1961. The order used affirmative action for the primary use to instruct federal contractors to take affirmative action. It purposed was to end discrimination by the government and its contractors. (Dept. of Labor, 2002) Every federal contract was required to include the pledge that, “The Contractor will not discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, creed, color, or national origin. However, affirmative action is widely considered to mean preferential treatment for certain groups. This signified the first time the government called for Affirmative Action with a mission for equal opportunity in employment. (Wikipedia, 2007) The U.S. Department of Labor describes affirmative action as the “banning of discrimination and requiring of contractors to take …. action to ensure that all individuals have an equal opportunity for employment, without the regards to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability or status as a Vietnam era or special disabled veteran.” (Dept. of labor 2002) In the United States, affirmative action is the most contentious and divisive issue. The proponents of affirmative action generally advocate it as a means to address past or present discrimination or enhance racial, ethnic, gender, or other diversity. Those who are against affirmative action argue that by definition, it opposed the ideal of personal rights. Affirmative action proponents propose that the purpose...
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