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Affirmative Action - Essay Example

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Affirmative action (hereforth referred to as “AA”) is defined as “a set of practices undertaken by employers, university admission offices, and government agencies to go beyond nondiscrimination, with the goal of actively improving the economic status of minorities and women with regard to employment, education and business ownership and growth” (Holzer & Neumark, 469). …
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Download file to see previous pages The phrase “affirmative action” was introduced by Executive Order 10925. EO 10925 was issued by U.S. President John F. Kennedy in 1961, which urged employers to actively adopt policies and safeguards against discriminatory practices in their workplace. Four years after, EO 11246 made it mandatory for federal contractors and subcontractors to: (1) identify underutilized minorities, (2) assess availability of minorities, and if available, (3) to set goals and timetables to fill vacancies with minorities with the aim of reducing such underutilization. In 1967, EO 11375 extended the benefits of AA to women. The further expansion of the application of AA was made possible by the U.S. Supreme Court when it promulgated the Bakke decision. In this case the Court was asked to rule whether or not it was unconstitutional for universities to give preference for blacks and minorities in admitting applicants for placement, because it violated the doctrine of “equal protections of the laws.” The Court ruled that “racial preferences are permissible if their purpose is to improve racial diversity among students, and if they do not stipulate fixed minority quotas but take race into account as one factor among many (Dworkin, 79). Today, AA is more widely observed, but as employment prospects and educational placements become more competitive, more people are raising questions about the propriety and fairness of AA. In defense of affirmative action According to the study by Bowen & Bok (cited by Dworkin, 79), the success of racial integration is attributable to AA in education, because it has enabled a higher rate of graduation among African American students, which led to more African American leaders in industry, professionals, community leaders, and subsequently a more sustained interaction and lasting friendships among the races than would have been otherwise expected. The benefits of AA are not in themselves the moral argument; the argument is that where for past centuries racial minorities have been constrained to live in conditions of extreme social and economic disadvantage, it is but right that AA provide for them now an advantage over the majority to make up for the adverse conditions they have been subjected to. The implications are more than merely symbolic, and the effects referred to are more than just economic. Present-day descendants of slaves and people of color start life from a position of disadvantage in institutionalized society as a result of the limitations imposed on their ancestors. This is known as the “stigma theory” (Soni, 581). Parents denied an education because of their race will provide little inspiration for their children to conceive of and aspire for such education. The moral precept that all people are created equal, to be applied with effect, refers to enabling individuals be perceived and regarded the respect of equals. AA not only provides reparation for the past, but more pragmatically speeds up the slow process of transforming social perception. An African American, or woman, or a person with a disability, are persons who, in aspiring for the opportunities provided by the equality clause, struggle under the weight of social perception which, while not discriminatory per se, tends to manifest in subtle ways of stereotyping that renders the “equality” superficial. In this manner, AA provides an active catalyst to accelerate the social transformation to true equality. Critique of affirmative action Detractors of AA point out that the policy has been implemented by positive and aggressive action “ ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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