History of Affirmative Action

A man of African decent wakes up one early morning and walks into his kitchen. He greets his wife with a cheerful, optimistic, “Good morning!” and sits to eat his breakfast. His wife sits beside him and together

they discuss the financial burden they are in. Luckily, the man has an exceptional shot at an impressive job position and is going for the interview today. He kisses his wife goodbye and heads off to the interview. Once he arrives he sits down and has a wonderful meeting. He is well suited and qualified for the position. Once he gets up to leave, a Caucasian man walks in for an interview for the same position. He sits down and within five minutes, he is given the job. Now, obviously the best choice for an employee was not chosen. In this situation, the employer would rather have one race working for him over another.

There are many other situations like this one that may even be caused by the religious values, national origin, or sex of a person. Whichever the case, Affirmative Action should be used to stop these acts of discrimination and help create more equal and friendlier opportunities for people. By using Affirmative Action, more opportunities will be opened up, stereotypes can be eliminated, and the world will become a more equal place.

Let’s first understand where Affirmative Action originated. It all started when the Thirteenth Amendment was established to abolish slavery. The Fourteenth Amendment was then added to guarantee equal rights to all citizens under law, and the Fifteenth soon followed, which forbids all racial discrimination during voting. These Amendments were made to make all races more equal in life. However, though there were laws, many people still didn’t follow the rules completely. Since those Amendments were enforced, situations have arisen that still do not follow the nondiscrimination laws. There were many court cases presented because of the failure to except others as equals. In 1896, the Plessy v. Ferguson case caused for the ruling of a doctrine that was supposed to keep races separate but equal. However, the African Americans in this situation were still not treated fairly. It was during this time that the Jim Crow laws started spreading throughout the south. In 1941, Executive Order 8802 was signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. This order was meant to help efforts of the Black trade union. Then, in 1954 the Brown v. Board of Education case overturned the Plessy v. Ferguson case which helped eliminate Jim Crow laws. Even though all these major events were taking place, not a lot of progress was being made. Basically, most people were angry about decisions made by the courts, which caused people to want even less to do with other races. Then Affirmative Action was established. President Lyndon Johnson was the first to use this term in 1965. He established Executive Order 11246, which required workers to take in Affirmative Action to make sure employment was given to the right person without the factors of religion, sex, race, or national origin. Since then, Affirmative Action has been a working factor in the neutralization of the United States (Sykes).

So why do we need Affirmative Action? To begin with, opportunities are greatly taken away from minorities everyday. For example, in 1931 the Davis-Bacon Act was passed that preserved white male construction jobs from being taken by less expensive black-labor. Little do some people know that this act is still in effect today which limits the number of minority men and women allowed in the construction trade:
Davis-Bacon limits competition and work opportunities for public projects, which is a $60 billion market funded by taxpayers through preferential treatment based on 1931 union standards. Eliminating Davis-Bacon would improve opportunities for minority workers and minority firms to gain work and build a lucrative future in construction (Davis-Bacon Impact on Minorities).

What Affirmative Action does in this situation is set percentages of minorities that the employer must have working for him or her. Therefore, if a person goes strictly by the Davis-Bacon Act, he or she could be in trouble for not having the correct percentages of all races and sex working for him or her. There are other opportunities cut off to minorities outside of business. When the thirteenth Amendment was established, which abolished slavery, many African Americans found their jobs in factories belonging to down town cities. It is known that the living conditions in inner cities are much cheaper than moving out to suburbs. It is also known that the educational values in inner cities are not as impressive as outer suburb education. These inner city students tend to get looked past. For example, scholarships are a big deciding factor on where a student will attend college. Therefore, students coming out of these poorer families need the extra scholarship funding to help with their financial college needs. Affirmative Action gives scholarships to people of just minority race to help give the jump-start they need. Without Affirmative Action, these students could not be chosen for scholarships and could fall behind. Falling behind would only cause the students to stay in the inner city slumps. The longer a person stays in the inner city, the harder it is to get out.

Secondly, the world is full of stereotypes against different races, religions, and even sex. Dictionary.com defines stereotype as an oversimplified image, conception, or opinion of a type or group of people. Most stereotypes originate from the human abilities each race holds such as intelligence, athletic ability, or lack there of (Harpalani). For example, some people think of Mexicans as lazy or apathetic. Therefore, when a person of Mexican decent walks in for a job interview given by a man who believes this stereotype, the chances of him or her receiving the job drops dramatically. This is simply because no one wants a lazy person working for them. The job would never get done. However, what if that person is in fact a good worker? What if that person was perfectly suited for that job? It is not right that people have to go through these situations because of what people might think.

What about African Americans? When people think of African Americans they may get intimidated or scared at what they might do. Most African Americans not associated with professional sports are immediately thought of as violent or dangerous. According to, A Journal of American History, every Black male in their twenties was in jail, probation, or been convicted of drug handling (Katz, Stern, and Fader as qtd. in Gerstle 94). By reading article after article like this, people start to form views and stereotypes about these different types of people. These actions are not how all people of this race are, however. Some of these people could be turned away from opportunities that they deserve because of these false stereotypes. It is true that there are some crazy people out there, however these crazy people come from all races and religions. With Affirmative Action, stereotypes could be eliminated. When the employers are forced to give minorities jobs to meet the percentages, they may be able to see the person’s real side. With that, stereotypes will eventually fade away.

With opportunities opening up and stereotypes disappearing, the world could become a more equal and fair place to live. As of right now, the world and even the United States is divided between races and religions. Although, some people are starting to view others equally, “…we’re not yet at that point where things are race-neutral” (Powell as qtd. in Powell Defends Affirmative Action in College Admissions). There are still problems with how people treat one another and work with each other. If people get the chance to experience other races and religions and learn the true person, the world overall may learn that true person as well. Imagine a place where people all can compromise with each other and everyone is judged based on personality. Appearance is never made fun of and everyone gives everyone a fair chance in society. This would surely be considered country, if not world, peace. This place as of right now is imaginary. However, with Affirmative Action, the world could lose the stereotyping and negativity given to minorities. With this name calling eliminated, where people live could be a more peaceful and equal place to live. With that, everyone could live a longer, happier life. Without the help of Affirmative Action, minorities would rarely be given jobs and the prejudice employers would never learn that the stereotyping is wrong. Without people learning the truth about other people, the world can never reach full equality and peace.

This peace and equality is all possible with Affirmative Action. Some people fear how it will affect themselves. For example, some Caucasians may be afraid that Affirmative Action could take job opportunities away from them. What these people do not understand is that there are plenty of employers willing to give them job positions. If these people can simply learn to agree and understand the need for it, they will soon realize the fear they have is unnecessary. All that needs to be done is to convince people to treat others as they would want to be treated. This is something that most people are taught at a very young age. It should not be difficult to act upon it as mature, intelligent adults. Good behavior to other races may include not using racial slurs or thinking down on a person because of what he or she looks like. What good do racial comments serve anyway? If they serve no good purpose, then why do people feel it is necessary to say them? To answer this question, let’s think about relationships in a grade school or high school setting. When it comes to girls during these years, a lot of harmful things can be said about one another. Nasty comments are only a result of self-consciousness. People like this think that in order for a person to feel better about his or herself, he or she must make someone else look worse. Therefore, racial comments are only an act of the lack of confidence in oneself. People these comments simply because they want to feel superior to the people around them. People in order to sound “cool” or to stand out in a crowd also use racial comments. It is easy to laugh at someone, and laughter is a fun thing to have with a group of people. So why not throw some funny racial slurs in the conversations to spice things up? The reason is because the people in the surrounding area will feel it is okay to joke around about other people, which takes away from the pleasant world most people want. Not to mention, no one wants to be made fun of for things that are beyond their control. Not using racial comments keeps a lighter, happier environment that can still be fun and pleasant to be in.

Another way Affirmative Action can be used without it affecting others is to make others look for a person’s qualities during interviews rather than the appearance. If everyone learned to do this, Affirmative Action wouldn’t be needed. However, not everyone gives people the fair chance that they deserve as mentioned above. So, help these people that are getting cheated by doing the civil thing. When someone comes into an interview, give him or her the fair chance that they deserve. Everyone deserves a fair chance. Eventually, those set against it will come around to find that it isn’t as hard as they think.

Another way that is easy to cope with the Affirmative Action rules is to think positive about them. Life will be hard to work through if the thought of being cheated is used constantly. When is comes to applying for scholarships, students often get irritated at the fact that many scholarships are marked for only minorities. These students need to understand however, that there are many other scholarships that they can still apply for. Also, they could still apply for those minority scholarships. The applications do not say Caucasians cannot apply, they state that they prefer minority to majority race. There are instances where Caucasians apply for minority scholarships and receive the scholarship. This is because not all minorities take advantage of the situations given. For example, a full-blooded Italian student from Christopher High School states, “Honestly, I really don’t need to receive anything. But, because I am 100% Italian, I can receive various scholarships to help through college. This can be helpful for other full blooded Italians who are struggling to go to school.” This student understands that there are options out there, but since she does not need them. Instead, she lets other students in need take advantage of them. This is the kind of attitude that all people need to have. She doesn’t think about being cheated opportunities, she gives them to others.

With the violence and wars of everyday life, it time for people to put aside race and start thinking as one country. Think of how problems could be eliminated if everyone came together as a country instead of separate groups. Affirmative Action can help lead to this compromise and unity. It is time for people to stand up for Affirmative Action and to help others understand its need in today’s society. Over time, let’s hope that people will not have to use guidelines in treating others fairly. As of right now however, in order to reach a more equal understanding of each other, people must be forced to abide by the rules of Affirmative Action.

Works Cited
“Davis-Bacon Impact of Minorities.” ABC. 22 Apr. 2006 .
“Dictionary.Com/Stereotype.” 2006. 16 Apr. 2006 .
Gerstle, Gary. “When Affirmative Action Was White.” Affirmative Action: The Last Stand (2006): 94. EBSCOHost Apr. 2006. .
Harpalani, Vanay. “Racial Stereotypes and Achievement-Linked Identity Formation During Adolescence.” Scholarly Commons @ Penn. 2005. University of Pennsylvania. Apr. 2006 .
Manzella, Giovanna M. Personal interview. 15 Apr. 2006.
“Powell Defends Affirmative Action in College Admissions.” CNN. 20 Jan. 2003. Apr. 2006 .
Sykes, Marquita. “The Origins of Affirmative Action.” Apr. 2006 .