Affirmative Action: A Road to Discrimination and Prejudice
Affirmative action: these words bring to mind many different things to many different people. To some it is a leveler of the playing field and a right for past injustices, but to others it is a tool used to cause reverse discrimination and continues prejudices. Affirmative action was born into a time when our country was attempting to provide equality for all and was only intended to be a temporary measure to bring about this equality into areas where it had been lacking. Now almost forty years later this temporary measure known as affirmative action is still being used and has in the most part failed to bring about the equality it was supposed to. Instead, we have today a system of reverse discrimination that has developed and further prejudices against those that it was to help. Affirmative action is a failure that has caused new problems to exist and has further been weakened by the Supreme Court's ambiguous decisions concerning its legality.
Affirmative action was born into the liberal age of President Lyndon B. Johnson's presidency and came to its full formation on September 24, 1965, in its originating document, Executive Order 11246, in which it took the control of affirmative action out of the hands of the White House and set up a division of the Labor Department to handle it (Lemann, 1995, p.144). This ruling allowed affirmative action to be monitored by a larger and more permanent staff than an ever changing White House staff could have provided. It is interesting that this original form of affirmative action called for in Executive Order 11246 did not call for affirmative action to be used to combat gender discrimination, only to combat racial discrimination, the gender issue would be put in later (Lemann). This fact shows the very narrow vison that affirmative action originally had. From this beginning one can see that affirmative action was too narrow in scope to ever actually level the playing field or to make up for past injustices to all without discriminating against some.
The main focus of affirmative action was on education and employment. It required that measures be used to ensure that minorities and women be given the same opportunities for promotions, salary increases, career advancements, school admissions, scholarships, and financial aid that all others were given (Brummer, 2003), but originally did not state how this was to be accomplished. By 1970, the federal government had established regulations which required affirmative action through goals and timetables. While unintended in conception, in practice, these too often encouraged preferential treatment for members of one group over members of another. Ultimately affirmative action became based on preferential treatment in the form of quotas and other efforts that made race and gender the determining factors in many aspects of employment and admission to colleges (Wilson, 1995, p. 111). Here lies the...