Over the years, the United States has been one of the countries that have championed affirmative action. It refers to a global policy that was developed to address the challenge of discrimination with regard to access to education, employment opportunities, and wage gaps (Bean 20). In America, affirmative action was purposely adopted to promote the education and employability of people belonging to various minority groups that had been subjected to discrimination for several years.
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In the United States, it has been used to address the problem of inequalities in the pay differences between men and women, as well as promoting diversity through the acceptance of all the communities living in the country. In the recent past, affirmative action has been the subject of numerous debates that have largely centered around employment and education matters (Klein 8). A section of Americans believes in the adoption of a quota system that allows a certain number of positions within the government, political parties, and educational institutions to be reserved for members of certain groups, while others believe everyone should be treated equally.
With regard to education, a section of Americans believes that learning institutions should be allowed to consider race as a factor when making admissions, while others are strongly opposed to this idea because they believe it promotes favoritism (Bean 59). Affirmative action is a positive and necessary tool in the United States with regard to admissions for higher education because it promotes diversity and, at the same time, allows everyone to have equal access to education.
Historical Background of Affirmative Action
Affirmative action in the United States was introduced with the intention of ending and correcting historical injustices that people belonging to minority groups had been subjected to over the years (Pedrick and Arnold 45). These injustices included denial of access to education and employment opportunities based on one’s gender or racial background. Debates on the need for affirmative action were first introduced during the Civil Rights Movement.
The federal government developed a set of laws, policies, and administrative culture that accommodated measures such as cultural assimilation, feminism, multiculturalism, racial integration, and self-determination that were geared towards ending discrimination (Klein 22). In addition, the government adopted policies that required all public institutions such as hospitals, law enforcement agencies, and institutions of higher learning to promote diversity by accommodating all groups that constituted the communities they served (Asbury 110).
The Revised Philadelphia Plan of 1969 was the first federal policy that was implemented to address the challenge of racial discrimination. The policy required government contractors and other employers to develop strategies that would diversify their workforce to include people from minority groups (Pedrick and Arnold 109). Such strategies were also adopted by institutions of higher learning, whereby they were required to consider admitting more women and qualified students from minority groups.
Theories, Principles, and Concepts Relevant to Affirmative Action
Unlike in other countries where affirmative action is implemented using a quota system, the United States has, over the years, emphasized on the need to have goals that specifically address wrongs that need to be corrected within a group or community for them to feel accepted (Klein 69). For example, institutions of higher learning across the country volunteered to increase the number of students they admitted from minority groups as a way of increasing access to education for all.
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In addition, they have also adopted programs that allow them to train women and qualified individuals from these groups as a way of improving their employability. Over the years, affirmative action has been a major source of controversy within political circles. Proponents of affirmative action believe that inequalities in the United States go beyond one’s race to include gender, religion, age, sexual orientation, disability status, and social class (Pedrick and Arnold 122).
They argue that successful people who belong to minority groups in the United States are not subjected to discrimination in a similar degree to their counterparts who are poor and uneducated. Proponents believe that creating race-conscious affirmative programs will go a long way in removing the obstacles that make education and employment opportunities for minority groups inaccessible (Asbury 113).
Research has established that one of the fruits of affirmative action in America is the growing African American middle class. It is a testament that access to education and employment opportunities for all minority groups in the country could correct all the major wrongs that have occurred over the years. In addition, proponents of affirmative action refer to the numerous gains that women have made in the country as evidence that it is possible to accommodate everyone within the American setup.
Since the introduction of affirmative action, there has been a considerable increase in the number of women, especially those from minority groups working as doctors, lawyers, architects, engineers, and heads of faculties across various institutions of higher learning (Klein 101).
Critics argue that affirmative action has created a culture of reverse discrimination in America because certain people are in finding themselves in positions of favor because of the racial preference they get as a way of correcting wrongs from the past. They believe that in contemporary America, one’s racial background has taken precedence over achievements when it comes to running for public office or getting a job because many Americans still believe in promoting diversity (Bean 100).
Relevant Cases of Affirmative Action Suits, their Outcomes, and Relevance to Affirmative Action
In 2003, the Supreme Court gave affirmative action the greatest support it has ever received through two historic rulings. In Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger, the Supreme Court allowed institutions of higher learning to consider the admission of students based on their race, as well as discouraging the use of quotas (Anderson 71). In Grutter v. Bollinger, the court upheld the affirmative action practices of the University of Michigan Law School.
According to the ruling, the judges believed that the institution’s interest in promoting class diversity through their programs that considered students from racial minority groups was undeniable, as it did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment (Anderson 82). In Gratz v. Bollinger, the Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to apply quotas in college admissions, as was the case with the University of Michigan. According to the ruling, the university’s decision to allocate predetermined points to applicants from underrepresented minority groups was unconstitutional (Anderson 102). This undermined the importance of assessing the individual abilities of students before admission.
Trump Administration’s Position on Affirmative Action and Future Policy Implications
Affirmative action has been under serious threat since President Donald Trump came to the office. According to civil rights groups, the numerous changes witnessed at the Supreme Court under Trump’s administration are part of a large effort by the president to end affirmative action that has received great support from his predecessors. The appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court by President Trump signaled bad news to affirmative action.
Early this year, the Justice Department announced it was scrapping 24 federal guidance documents that are considered inconsistent with the current laws. Part of the documents were those issued by the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights during the regime of President Obama. The documents required institutions of higher learning to consider race as a factor when making an admission of new students as a way of improving diversity within their campuses (Pedrick and Arnold 121).
President Trump has since made attempts to reverse the policies, although many universities and colleges have vowed to maintain the admission policies they have applied for decades in accordance with the constitution. Proponents of affirmative action believe that President Trump is out to dilute the gains made over the years with regard to creating an inclusive America, where everyone has equal access to education and employment opportunities (Pedrick and Arnold 130). However, there are great fears with regard to the impact that his regime is likely to have on future policy implications on affirmative action owing to the fact that the Supreme Court has undergone numerous changes since he assumed office.
Affirmative action is one of the elements that have contributed to the high diversity witnessed in contemporary America. Since its introduction, Americans have managed to address the majority of challenges relating to discrimination based on racial background, level of education, social class, religion, sexual orientation, and gender. Through affirmative action, more women and members of racial minority groups have gained access to education and employment opportunities within the American system.
The use of race-neutral methods during admission of students to institutions of higher education is a provision in the constitution that has now developed into a culture. Although President Trump has attempted to reverse the provision, universities and colleges have vowed to stick with their admission policies because affirmative action is a necessary tool that helps America to remain positive.
Anderson, Carol. White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of our Racial Divide. Bloomsbury USA, 2017.
Asbury, Ben. “The Fisher Oral Argument: Why Affirmative Action Might Endure.” Stanford Journal of Civil Rights & Civil Liberties, vol.9, 2013, pp. 107-119.
Bean, Jonathan. Big Government and Affirmative Action: The Scandalous History of the Small Business Administration. University Press of Kentucky, 2015.
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Klein, Naomi. No is not Enough: Resisting the New Shock Politics and Winning the World we Need. Knopf Canada, 2017.
Pedrick, Karin, and Sandra Arnold. Inside Affirmative Action: The Executive Order that Transformed America’s Workforce. Taylor & Francis, 2018.