February 26, 2014
Affirmative Action's Intentions: Education and the Workplace
Does the idea of affirmative action do what it was intended to do or does it create even more inequalities in the workplace and education?
Ever since the civil war of the 1800s and the civil rights movement of the 1960s in which minorities in America, majorly composed of blacks and women, were denied the opportunity to use public services and to obtain education and employment opportunities, the government of the United States has tried to restore the equality and balance to the society of this country by passing policies that would ensure that those who were oppressed during the turbulent times would not be left in struggle and failure. Affirmative Action was one of these policies. In the effort to restore equality, an amendment was made to the constitution in 1868; the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment declared that every individual was guaranteed equal rights as a citizen of America (Langwith 188). The Fourteenth Amendment was enacted primarily to guarantee the constitutionality of the race conscious measures found in the Freedmen's Bureau Acts, which were subsequently affirmed through the Civil Rights Act of 1866, and to address the problems of racism during the post-Civil War period. In fact, Congress debated the Fourteenth Amendment and the 1866 Freedmen's Bureau Bill simultaneously.
The Court noted that the fourteenth amendment only applied to state action. Therefore, this law excluded private business owners from following this. They could do as they pleased. Shortly after President John F. Kennedy took office in 1961, he found the president's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) by signing Executive Order 10925. The order stated, "The contractor will take Affirmative Action to ensure that applicants are employed, and employees are treated during their employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin" (Guernsey 30-31).
Affirmative Action was intended for minorities to be given a second chance when in the past they were being treated poorly and unfair. This happens not only in the workplace but also in educational settings. There have been many discrepancies with school admissions. Many schools limit their number of students based on their race and ethnicity to have a “diverse” student body. Many believe that when you have all the requirements such as good grades that you should be admitted with no issues. When affirmative action plays its part, it has an effect of reverse racism.
There have been numerous lawsuits regarding affirmative action in colleges. In 2003, the Supreme Court made two very important decisions regarding affirmative action in college admissions. In Grutter v. Bollinger, the court upheld that the University of Michigan law school’s use of race as one of many factors in admissions, agreeing that there was interest in promoting racial diversity on campus. However, in Gratz v. Bollinger the court struck down the University of Michigan’s system of undergraduate admissions in which every applicant from and underrepresented racial or ethnic minority group was awarded 20 points of the needed 100 in order to gain admission. The twenty points awarded to minorities were more than the school awarded for some measures of academic excellence, writing ability, or leadership skills. These lawsuits were brought about by two white women whose grades and test scores should have ensured their acceptance to the University of Michigan law school and undergraduate program respectively, and they were unfairly rejected because the school gave admission preferences to minority applicants in order to have a "diverse" student body.
Despite the efforts that have been made to establish equal opportunity, gaps in college enrollment between minority and white students remain. According to data from the