Affirmative Action as Reverse Discrimination

America is the land of opportunity, but to be fully qualified for the status, it needs to be “color-blind, race-blind, and gender-blind.” Affirmative Action began as a way to stop discrimination, but as new laws have been added to it, it has become reverse discrimination. Everyone has the opportunity to be a great addition to society. It is an immense injustice for people to say that someone of a different race or gender is not capable of achieving the same status in life as a white male. Through this paper, the concepts of affirmative action will be analyzed and discussed.
Affirmative Action began in 1965 when President Johnson signed the Executive Order 11246 in to law.

The Executive Order 11246 “prevents Federal contractors from discriminating against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” This is when the phrase ‘affirmative action’ was first used, because it “requires federal contractors to take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are not discriminated against based on race color, religion, sex, or national origin.” When Affirmative Action was created, it only included minorities. In 1967, Johnson decided to expand the program to include women, because women have received some of the same discrimination as men in the workplace.

There were also earlier laws that were passed to ensure equal rights. The 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act are two examples of these laws, but they were a little behind considering the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments to the Constitution were passed much earlier. The Fourteenth amendment guarantees equal protection under the law and the Fifteenth amendment forbid racial discrimination in access to voting. Also, there was the 1866 Civil Rights Act, which was passed one hundred years earlier to ensure equal rights to all men.

Secretary George Schultz and Arthur Fletcher, a top deputy, were the architects of some federal hiring and contracting regulations that added to the Affirmative Action regulations. In 1969, Schultz and Fletcher created these regulations under the Nixon administration to “redress the unfair treatment of minorities and women in the workplace.”4 Even though America is the land of freedom, minorities and women did not fully receive these freedoms until the mid 1960’s.

The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs was established to require compliance to affirmative action. The Executive Order required that companies “with more than fifty employees and doing more than $50,000 in business directly with the federal government or as a subcontractor prepare goals and timetables.” Periodic reports are also required to show progress toward these adversity goals. The OFCCP investigates into the complaints and lawsuits against companies that have been accused of discrimination. It requires that annual reports be submitted to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The OFCCP analyzes these reports and then audits about 4,100 firms in connection with the federal government each year. So, not only can a company get into trouble by people filing complaints, the OFCCP looks for companies that it thinks are not abiding by its rules, which are not always written clearly. The general public, because of how the OFCCP has gone about auditing companies, has come to know some of these goals, as quotas. Goals are the precepts of affirmative action, but the goals are sometimes enforced to the point of looking like quotas, which are numeric targets for the racial composition of the work force. An example of how the OFCCP works is in the case of Aaron Woodson, an African American. He applied for a job at Solectron Corporation, but did not get the job. He was a qualified applicant, but there may have been a better one. When the reports were analyzes, the OFCCP decided that the company had “a low percentage of minority workers compared to other similar companies in the area.” At the end of the case, Solectron offered jobs to the nine qualified minority applicants, payment totaling $237,000, and a promise to refine its affirmative action goals. Woodson did not accept the job, because by this time, he already had another job. This is not the right way to conduct business, because Solectron was following all the rules and the OFCCP decided that the company did not meet the goals.
In 1972 and 1973, Allan Bakke, a white male, applied to the University of California at Davis Medical School. He was denied admittance, but his test scores and GPA were higher than students admitted through the affirmative action admittance program. The affirmative action admittance program set 16 of the 100 opening aside for minority students that did not meet the standards of the normal admittance process. Bakke sued for admissions on the basis on the Fourteenth amendment and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Bakke claimed he was a victim of reverse discrimination. The University of California’s logic behind this policy was that it is “necessary to compensate for past injustice suffered by members of certain disadvantaged groups…It was one way to open new opportunities for individual groups that in the past had not enjoyed these opportunities.” The vote was five to four in favor of Bakke. Justice Lewis Powell wrote, “The guarantees of the Fourteenth amendment extends to all persons…The guarantee of equal protection cannot mean one thing to one individual and something else when applied to another.” This case was very controversial, because four justices believed that race should not be a consideration at all, while four others believed that affirmative action was a very good idea. The final decision of this case was that Bakke should be admitted to the school and that race could be a factor of the admissions process, but not the main criteria. This reinforces the questions about the legitimacy of affirmative action. This judgement was a step in the right direction, but was not totally constitutional, because the constitution is supposed to be race-blind.
Not only does Affirmative Action affect the hiring goals; it also regulates how the government contracts its business. The 8(a) Program is designed to give minority and women owned businesses government contracts. If a firm is given 8(a) status, it is able to get a contract without competitive bidding. “Participating companies must be 51 percent owned, controlled, and operated by individuals who are socially and economically disadvantaged.” Minorities and women are usually considered to be socially and economically disadvantaged. This means that minorities and women should qualify, but that is not the only qualification. The applicant must also demonstrate that their net worth is not above $250,000 to qualify. This criteria means that not only white males are automatically excluded, but also some minorities do not qualify. This criteria not only affects the person who is applying, it also may apply to the spouse of the applicant. For example, Rep. Eva Clayton was denied a contract, because her husband made too much money. Even with this, “46 percent of the program’s 5,330 participants are black…23 percent are Spanish-speaking and 21 percent are Asian,” but only seven white women have qualified. In society, this means that the applicant must learn to play the system, because the qualifications tend to vary between applicants. To be eligible for any government contract, not just the “set-aside program,” a company must also make a “good faith effort” to meet their “goals and timetables.”

There are several very influential people who think that these program requirements are not fair. Rep. Jan Meyers is the chairman of the House Small Business Committee. She stated:
“A black Harvard graduate with a net worth of a quarter of a million dollars stands a better chance of getting into the program than a poor white woman from Appalachia. There is something wrong with that.”
Also, the government allows the participant to stay eligible while his net worth steadily climbs during his nine-year tenure in the program.

Every area of government is affected by Affirmative Action from the EPA to the Department of Transportation. In the Department of Defense, five percent of its entire procurement budget is to be awarded to socially or economically disadvantaged individuals who own firms. The Navy is cleaning up environmental damage on the Kahoolawe, a Hawaiian Island, and gives “special preferences to businesses owned by native Hawaiians.”

In the Education Department, “special consideration” is given to minorities and minority colleges when applying for grants. Also, public colleges and universities offer scholarships, tutoring, and outreach programs for minority and female students. “Not less than ten percent of the money appropriated for diplomatic construction shall be allocated…to minority contractors.” That rule also applies to the Department of Transportation.8 These goals are designed to give minorities and women more opportunities. This is not constitutional, because in the Fourteenth amendment, equal protection of the law is guaranteed to all people, not just minorities and women.

California decided to question the laws on affirmative action and make them more constitutional. In 1996, California lawmakers presented proposition 209 to its voters. The purpose of proposition 209 was to eliminate affirmative action on the state and local level where the federal government permitted. The court would decide exactly what programs have “preferential treatment” and what programs the federal government requires that California maintain. California Governor Pete Wilson, Newt Gingrich, Pat Buchanan, and many other people from around the country support this proposition, because America will reach its potential when the Constitution is considered color-blind.

Proposition 209 also has exceptions to the rule since the federal government has not yet passed this law. One exception is to meet privacy standards based on sex. Another is to keep the state eligible for federal money. The state must also stay in accordance with the United States Constitution and the federal law. It has eliminated state affirmative action laws and voluntary rules that are strict quotas. This is Constitutional, because the interpretation of the Constitution cannot change when it is affecting different races of people.
Proposition 209 effects public employment and contracting, public schools and community colleges, and state universities. In public employment and contracting, this would save California money spent by not using the lowest bidder on contracts and hiring based solely on qualifications, not race or gender. Funding for public schools would be decided on need, not on the number on minority students. Proposition 209 will affect up to $75 million spent on schools. That money would not leave the school fund, but it might be reallocated to other schools.

Proposition 209 would also require California State University and the University of California to restructure its admissions policy. This would also change the requirements such as outreach, counseling, tutoring, and financial aid programs. Proposition 209 would affect about $50 million each year spent at the university level. This is a good idea, because it would put all applicants and students on the same level. With affirmative action, students and applicants are separated by their race and gender and that is not fair, because no one is better than someone else because of their race or gender.

Fortunately, California voters passed this proposition with 54 to 46 percent vote. Table 1 shows further demographic breakdown of the state vote on Proposition 209. As visible on the chart, the traditional white male, protestant or catholic, conservative voter voted yes, but the minorities that had the rights taken away from them voted no. It can be assessed from the table that the minority voters are the main critics of proposition 209. Moderates and female voters were the closest vote, because 52 percent is barely a majority. It is also important to remember that the main California supporters were not reelected like Governor Wilson.

Conservatives 77% Yes Latino 76% No
$60,000 to $75,000 65% Yes Black 74% No
Male 61% Yes Less than $20,000 59% No
California has recognized the problems with affirmative action. They have recognized that it teaches that if you are a minority, you do not have to be as smart to get into college or bid as low to get a government contract. It is wrong that minorities can get more scholarships and get in to the university of their choose easier than the average, middle class white student. At some universities, an African American can get into a university with a lower GPA and lower test scores than a white applicant. Not only can they get into college, that student is eligible for scholarships that are based on race, not qualification.

As the demographics change in the United States, the definition will also have to change, because then that group should not get to be listed as a minority. In the year 2010, it is expected that Latinos will be in the majority in the United States. At that time, white Americans should get to be called ‘minorities,’ because they will no longer be the majority of the United States population. If white Americans were minorities, it would be with in reach for them to receive the same benefits that minorities are presently receiving. Affirmative action should be done away with totally before we get to this point in the future. If affirmative action still exists, that will mean that the nation is still seeing race and gender, not the person. Just about everyone has heard of affirmative action these days, but just what is it, really? Is it something only minorities really benefit from? Is it really as controversial as some people seem to think? Affirmative action is a term people use, but what it really means can be very misleading.
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines affirmative action as “positive steps taken to increase the representation of women and minorities in areas of employment, education, and business from which they have been historically excluded” (“Affirmative Action”). “Positive steps” can mean many things, but here, they are meant to mean that women and minorities should enjoy the same rights and opportunities that anyone else in this country enjoys. It sounds simple, and it was meant to be simple, but the entire idea of affirmative action has become very controversial.

Affirmative action was not a widely used term until the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed into legislation. The term was associated with the Act, but still was not very common. It really came into use in the 1970s, when the American Secretary of Labor finally fully defined who was affected by the ruling, and what businesses, institutions, and educational facilities had to do to implement affirmative action and ensure women and minorities had the same rights as anyone else in the “system.” This is when the term began to become controversial, because many people began to see affirmative action as a kind of quota system, that forced businesses and education to admit certain numbers of women and minorities, even if they were not as qualified as other applicants. The Stanford Encyclopedia continues, “Affirmative action, if it did not impose preferences outright, at least countenanced them” (“Affirmative Action”). Therefore, affirmative action became increasingly controversial and disliked by many people.

That did not stop affirmative action from gaining ground across the country. It was the law, and it was commonly used for educational admissions, employee hiring, and even guaranteeing that all people could qualify for decent, affordable housing. It continued to be controversial, but it also allowed many women and minorities to gain a foothold in the educational and business communities. Many people who companies and schools might have overlooked got good educations and decent jobs because of affirmative action.

However, that did not stop other people from saying it was preferential and kept qualified men and whites out of jobs they were highly qualified for. Even President Clinton acknowledged the dilemma of how to choose between a white and a black using affirmative action procedures. He said, “Imagine a college admissions committee trying to decide between the white [son] of an Appalachian coal miner’s family and the African American son of a successful Pittsburgh neurosurgeon. Why should the black applicant get preference over the white applicant? Many people came to hate the idea of affirmative action, and challenge it in the court system.

In 2003, for example, affirmative action made headline news when students at the University of Michigan’s Law School finally had their day in the U.S. Supreme Court. They had initially filed a suit in 1997 that challenged the University’s affirmative action admissions process. The two white students alleged that the university used race as a major factor in admissions to the Law School, and that it actually acted as “reverse discrimination” against more qualified white students. Eventually, the case made its’ way to the Supreme Court – the first such affirmative action case heard in 25 years, and the Court supported the Univeristy’s admissions procedures. This opened up the topic for current debate and made it even more controversial. One thing is sure, affirmative action can be defined differently by different people. Some see it as a postive step for women and minorities, and others see it as a way to discriminate against white people

Affirmative Action may have been a short-term solution to discrimination, but it has out lived its benefits. It is now encouraging reverse discrimination by setting quotas on the number of minorities required for a firm, contract, or school. America is now ready to become a color-blind society, and judge people on their merits, not their race or gender. We need to come together now as one nation, one world and one race the Human race, then and only then we will truly be a free country and a free people.