The roots of affirmative action can be traced back to the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act where legislation redefined public and private behavior. The act states that to discriminate in private is legal, but anything regarding business or public discrimination is illegal ("Affirmative" 13). There are two instances when opposing affirmative action might seem the wrong thing to do. Even these two cases don't justify the use of affirmative action. First is the nobility of the cause to help others. Second, affirmative action was a great starter for equality in the work place. The most promanite variable in deciding affirmative action as right or wrong, is whether or not society is going to treat people as groups or individuals. Affirmative action is a question of morals. The simplicity to form two morals that are both correct but conflicting is the reason for the division of our nation on affirmative action.
Affirmative action is very noble when looking at who benefits from the outcome. Take a closer look at affirmative action. The people that are involved and the damage it takes on our society surfaces many doubts. Taking a closer look also stirs up a question of nobility that needs to be answered before making a decision on affirmative action. Does affirmative action simply change who is discriminated against and makes it legal for the new discriminators?
Coming from my point of view, the view of a white male, this is a serious question. One example of this came to my attention from Dave Shiflett who once worked at Rocky Mountain News wrote "Rocky Mountain Hire". In this article he tells about a new hiring strategy used at the Denver news paper Rocky Mountain News. A memo was sent out stating, "The job reviews of supervisors and others involved in hiring should address race and sex. Each review should have a hiring goal of at least half of our hires being women and at least half non-white" (Shiflett 45). Lets put this strategy to work. We have ten positions to fill, these positions can be filled following the above guidelines by hiring five black women. It can also be met by hiring five white women and five non-white men. Obviously to meet this goal successfully would mean to not hire a white male (Shiflett 45). I strongly disagree with my white fore fathers and society today who both address race and sex when hiring. Using a persons skin color in hiring is discrimination no matter how society looks at it.
At St. Bonaventure University the potential for reverse discrimination became a reality. In May 1994, 22 faculty members were fired, all were male. The president of the university was very blunt about his motive, to protect the small number of women on the university staff (Magner 18). This was purely a discussion based on gender not qualification. No matter how efficient these men were some were fired for not being part of a certain minority. Gary A. Abraham, who was fired as a tenured associate professor stated, "It seems ludicrous that the university can rectify its failure to engage in affirmative action on the backs of its male faculty." Twelve of the men took their complaints to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The commission sided with the men and are even planning to bring the university up on charges themselves (Magner 18). Giving an employer the power to discriminate only towards minorities is unfair and unethical.
Now the question is who will the government protect? Society can not consider its self fair when we are still forming decisions based upon gender or race. It is not noble to protect the jobs of women at Bonaventure University simply there are not enough women on the roster. We should protect the jobs of the experienced. We can not form a new society from affirmative action and believe the rights of all United States citizens will be upheld.
The whole idea behind affirmative action is to right the wrongs of the past. Well, what about the individuals that were not even born when this atrocity of discrimination was going on. Society should not punish the youth for the crimes of their white male forefathers. Thomas Sowell gave an interesting story in his article "Free Markets vs. Discrimination" about Albert Greuner. He had graduated from Pensacola Naval photography school and was refused a job he was more than qualified for. The reason Albert was denied the position was based on the conduct of the other cadets graduating from Pensacola(Sowell 69). These are the battles that need to be fought. Stop employers from hiring in a discriminatory fashion Not to just favor the group that has been discriminated against in the past.
Not only does it affect white males, but the recipients of affirmative action suffer from negative side effects also. There is an angry backlash that women and minorities feel from affirmative action. There is also the effect of pampering. It can make any individual lazy and unmotivated. Affirmative action does nothing but build walls to separate us more, and pollute our work atmosphere with tension.
An angry backlash towards the recipients of affirmative action appears prominently in the work place. An example of affirmative action backlash comes from the article "When an Advantage is Not an Advantage." "I recently got a large chunk of government funding in a program that didn't even have any sort of affirmative action ranking. Yet, almost all men I talk to including my father, assume there was at least some component of consideration given to me for being female" (Cohen 18). Affirmative action weakens the spirit of the individual by making them think the reason they got the job or grant was because someone felt sorry for them. Some women believe affirmative action will benefit them in the beginning because there is an incentive to hire women. This will do more to hinder than to help in the long run. Here is a quote from an article opposing affirmative action. "I think affirmative action helps to get a female an interview but once on the interview and onc!
e on the job, it gives males a basis for their resentment and skepticism of females..." (Cohen 18). This can cause additional tension between men and women that was not there before affirmative action.
Another side effect is how pampering can make a person lazy and unmotivated to excel. This is exactly what affirmative action does. It makes sure that women and minorities are pampered to make up for lost time. Well, lets take a look at what all the pampering in the past has done for the white male. Look at the college graduation numbers of today. Eighty percent of blacks attending college graduate, while only 55% of white college students graduate. These numbers alone show what discrimination did to help the white male to achieve a lazy attitude of "I don't need good grades, I am white I'll get a god job." This is a dangerous attitude in 1996, because in some situations a white male needs to be over qualified to compensate for small "bonus points" some minorities receive. By pampering any single group the long-term disaster will outweigh the short term relief.
Discrimination is not the problem that plagues society. This is shown with the increase of women in the work force. The number of women in the computer industry has increased 93%, in auto industry 89%, and in pharmaceuticals 78% (Dunkle 44). Thirty years ago this was not the case, and affirmative action forced American employers to open their eyes to the benefits of diversity. "Affirmative action in 1995 is beginning to resemble Soviet Communism in 1969. Outside the sheltered elites, the majority of people loathe it. The circumstances in which it was dreamed up no longer exist" (Sullivan E15). Now it is time to end affirmative action and focus on what is holding down minorities today. Let us turn our sites on poverty, poor family life, poor schooling, for these problems are colorblind, and can hinder an individuals chances for success more than anything else. To equal the opportunity of minorities for employment we should educate and prepare them, not force them into the work force or universities.
Guadalupe Quintanilla, the assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs for the University of Houston, stated, "Affirmative action has been distorted and abused. We need to take a second look at it. I think affirmative action has opened a lot of doors, but it has been misrepresented. I'm for opportunity, not special treatment. The majority of people in this country are open-minded and willing to work with people without considering their sex or color. So I think we could do away with set asides" (Dunkel 42).
Problems with equality in our work force and universities can not be blamed completely on discrimination. The problem today is colorblind poverty. Affirmative action actually hurts the lower income individual of any minority group. Thomas Sowell, in his 1990 book, Preferential Policies, used an international survey of affirmative action programs to show the consequences. "The benefits of affirmative action went overwhelmingly to people who were already better off., while the poorer members of the same groups either did not gain ground or actually fell further behind" (Richardson 4C). The wealthier neighborhoods have better school systems, which in turn offer greater resources. If we bring equality to our school systems, a rise in minorities in the work force will soon follow.
Some universities here in the United States have based enrollment on College Board's and SAT's or ACT's, none of which show intelligence levels. These tests rather show the standards of education that the individual has encountered. The gap between mean SAT scores for black and whites is 938 for whites and 740 for blacks(Shipler 16) These test scores sometimes become the discrimination against minorities. Another form of evaluating students is where the Universities and government need to focus, to establish a standard in education that spans across all levels of income. Affirmative action is definitely not the answer for equality in this day in time.
Affirmative action has balanced for thirty years on a moral threat. It is now time to apply new moral threats, not towards the employers and colleges but towards the government. For it is the government that needs to change its polices. The government needs to take action towards the real problems of equality: poverty, not the bad white man from the past. Affirmative action is simply the same old discrimination in reverse.