Who Benefits from Affirmative Action? Essay

Who Benefits From Affirmative Action? Who benefits from Affirmative Action? Affirmative action is the positive effort to recruit subordinate-group members, including women, for jobs, promotions, and educational opportunities. The phrase affirmative action first appeared in an executive order issued by President Kennedy in 1961. The order called for contractors to “take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin. However, at that time, no enforcement procedures were specified. Six years later, the order was amended to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, but affirmative action was still defined vaguely. Today, affirmative action has become a catchall term for racial preference programs and goals. It has also become a lightning rod for opposition to any programs that suggest special consideration of women or racial minorities. Affirmative Action Explained: Affirmative action has been viewed as an important tool for reducing institutional discrimination.

Whereas previous efforts were aimed at eliminating individual acts of discrimination, federal measures under the heading of affirmative action have been aimed at procedures that deny equal opportunities, even if that are not intended to be overtly discrimination. Its requirement has been aimed at institutional discrimination in such areas as the following: • Height and weight requirements that are unnecessarily geared to the physical proportions of White men without regard to the actual characteristics needed to perform the job and, therefore, excluded women and some minorities. Seniority rules, when applied to jobs historically held only by White men, that make more recently hired minorities and females more subject to layoff,” the last hired, first fired” employee and less eligible for advancement. • Nepotism-based membership policies of some unions that excluded those who are not relatives of members who, because of past employment practices, are usually White. • Restrictive employment leave policies, coupled with prohibitions on part-time work or denials of fringe benefits to part-time workers, that make it difficult for the heads of single-parents families, most of whom are omen, to get and keep jobs and also meet the needs of their families. • Rules requiring that only English be spoken at the workplace, even when not a business necessity, which result in discriminatory employment practices toward people whose primary language is not English. Affirmative action is criticized for giving preferential treatment, but colleges have a long history of giving admissions preferences to relatives of past graduates who are much more likely to be White rather than Black or Latino.

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Affirmative action is practiced in many areas of our society in addition to leveling the playing field for people of color. There are hiring and recruiting preferences for veterans, women, the children of alumni of many universities. There are special economic incentives for purchases of U. S. made products, import quotes against foreign goods, agricultural and textile subsidies. Over many decades these practices have led to a huge over –representation of white people, men and people of middle, upper middle and upper class backgrounds in our universities, in well-paid jobs, and in the professions.

One indication that attacks on affirmative action are part of white backlash against equality is that affirmative action in the form of preferences that primarily benefit white people are not being questioned. Affirmative action measures were established to fight racial discrimination. The federal government mandated affirmative action programs to redress racial inequality and injustice in a series of steps beginning with the executive order issued by President Kennedy in 1961.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 made discrimination illegal and established equal employment opportunity for all Americans regardless of race, cultural background, color or religion. Subsequent executives orders, in particular Executive Order 11246 issued by President Johnson in 1965, mandated affirmative action goals for all federally funded programs and moved monitoring and enforcement of affirmative action programs out of the White House and into the Labor Department.

Initially, affirmative action was a policy primarily aimed at correcting institutional discrimination where decisions, policies and procedures that are not necessarily explicitly discriminatory have had a negative impact on people of color. Affirmative action policies address and redress systematic economic and political discrimination against any group of people that are underrepresented or have a history of being discriminated against in particular institutions. For example, most job opportunities are heard about through informal networks of friends, family and neighbors.

Since the results of racism are segregated communities, schools and workplaces, this pattern leaves people of color out of the loop for many jobs, advancement opportunities, scholarships and training programs. Affirmative action helps mitigate the historical effects of institutional racism. It also encounters the effects of current discrimination, intentional or not. Not all white people are well intentioned. Some believe that everyone should have an equal chance but still hold deep seated prejudices against people of color.

Some people have claimed that affirmative action programs lower self-esteem in those who are favored by them, perhaps even in those individuals who do not directly benefit from them. There is no systematic evidence for this effect. It seems to be something that white people worry about more than people of color. Persistent denial of equal opportunity and therefore inadequate access to goods jobs, good education and housing leads to poor self-esteem. It is discrimination that seems to be the more important harm to eliminate.

People who are truly worried about low self-esteem among people of color should be strong advocates for effective affirmative action programs to counter discrimination. These action programs have been effective in many areas of public life because they opened up opportunities for people who would not otherwise have them, including white women and men. Attacks on affirmative action are part of a systematic attempt to roll back progress in ending discrimination and to curtail a broad social commitment to justice and equality. Attacking affirmative action is self-destructive for all of us except the rich.

Affirmative action has been a symbol of white people’s acknowledgment of and serious commitment to eradicating racial discrimination. It has been interpreted as such by most people of color. It is crucial that at this stage of backlash against the gains of the last three decades, we do not abandon programs that counter the effects of discrimination. Affirmative action benefits a broad range of people and communities that continue to face discrimination in this country, including Latino, Native, Arab, Asian and African Americans.

The primary beneficiaries, however, have been white women. Of these groups the Department of Labor found that white women are the primary beneficiaries of affirmative action. A broad range of minority groups have also benefited from these policies. Programs that direct resources, outreach and opportunities to people of color have been extraordinarily important in opening up American institutions to a wide variety of communities. Yet even the beneficiaries of affirmative action, like most Americans, may not realize that these programs are under an intense nationwide assault.

Many may mistakenly assume that the attacks on Blacks into colleges are the principal focus of efforts to eliminate these policies. In fact, however, attacks on affirmative action programs have included everything from English as a Second language programs to breast cancer screenings, from mentoring and after school programs to magnet schools, from programs that require Asian-owned businesses to be advised of possible government contracts to battered women shelters that create a safe space for victims of domestic violence and their children.

References Horne, Gerald. Reversing Discrimination: The Case for Affirmative Action. New York: International Publishers. 1992. Pps. 40-41 Who really benefits from Affirmative Action? Chicago Sun Times , July 2004 by. Tom McNamee: www. freepublic. com/focus/f-news/1174562/posts Schafer, Richard T. Race and Ethnicity in the United States/ Richard T. Schaefer, 5th ed. Upper Saddle River, Pearson Prentice Hall


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