Civil Rights Act of 1964: Reevaluation of the Affirmative Action

Topics: Affirmative action, Minority group, Discrimination Pages: 11 (4130 words) Published: December 1, 2005
Affirmative Action: Then vs. Now

In the 1960s when minorities and whites were equal according to the constitution but unequal in reality, a program was needed to level the playing field. Thus the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was created and prohibited discrimination. It marked the beginning of a debate that has been going on for nearly a half of a century. Affirmative action needs to be reevaluated in educational settings in light of current needs.

The words "affirmative action" were first recorded in law in the year 1961 under the presidency of John F. Kennedy. Congress passed Executive Order 10925 instructing federal contractors to take "affirmative action to ensure that applicants are treated equally without regard to race, color, religion, sex, or national origin." In 1964 President Johnson wrote the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law and it stated that employment discrimination by large employers (large employers is defined as a company having 15 or more employees) was illegal whether they have government contracts or not. In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the Executive Order 11246 requiring all government contractors and subcontractors to take affirmative action to expand job opportunities for minorities. Then again in 1967 Johnson amended E.O. 11246 to include affirmative action for women. However, instead of being required to provide opportunities for women and minorities, they only had to make a "good-faith" effort. In 1970, the first thought of quotas came about when President Nixon issued Order No. 4. It authorized flexible goals and timetables to correct "underutilization" of minorities by federal contractors. In 1971, Order No. 4 was revised to include women.

The notion of leveling the playing field had not been faced with any major problems until the 1970's when the first outcries of reverse discrimination began to surface. Allan Bakke brought one of the first and most popular cases. He was a 34 year old Caucasian who had applied to The University of California at Davis' Medical School twice. Both times he had been rejected even though he had a 3.44 GPA on a 4.0 scale and his MCAT scores placed him in the 72nd percentile. He found out that he wasn't accepted because 16 out of a 100 spots were reserved for minorities. When averaged, the MCAT scores of the 16 minority students admitted, place them only in the 33rd percentile. Not only did he have better credentials than any of the minorities being admitted to the program, but he believed he was a victim of affirmative action. He filed his lawsuit in 1977 and in 1978 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the University of California may uphold the use of race as one factor in choosing among qualified applicants for admission, by they also ruled it unlawful for the Medical School to reserve 16 out of 100 openings for disadvantaged minority students.

This ruling was upheld until 1995 when the Regents of the University of California voted to end affirmative action on all University of California campuses. In 1997, graduate schools, and later undergraduate programs, were no longer allowed to use race, gender, ethnicity or national origin as factors in admission decisions . However, Proposition 209 in California was passed in 1996. This stated that under no circumstances could any employer, contractor or educational facility grant preferential treatment or discriminate against anyone. Proposition 209 passed with a 54% majority. This is surprising considering that in 1995, 26 states had bills to be considered that would ban or significantly change affirmative action in their states. None of the bills passed.

California set the precedence for many states because they were attempting to address reverse discrimination, but Proposition 209 wreaked a lot of havoc on the University of California campuses. There were marches, demonstrations, speeches and student blockades. Some students were thoroughly enraged while others had no...

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