America is called “the land of opportunity” however, most of the countries citizens are not able to enjoy the benefits that the title provides. Being able to accomplish scholastic goals, attend a four-year college, and to have an influential career, are not obtainable for many, even though they work hard. Our nation has long been plagued by an ugly occurrence. An occurrence that finds its origins at the very core of our society. It is a problem familiar in some ways to all of us regardless of which side of the argument we find ourselves, and yet it remains unsolved. To verify that a problem exists, as Beverly, Tatum explains, we must first understand, racism as a system of advantage based on race, and white privilege as unjust enrichment through racial oppression,(Tatum,pg 10, 115). Next we must look at the steps taken to level the playing field of advanced racial groups.
In America racism and discrimination is a cruel reality. For centuries now, local, state, and federal governments have been proactive in protecting or expanding the system of racial discrimination. White government officials and programs have often favored the racial and political-economic interests of white Americans. Government programs historically provided much access to homesteading land and numerous other valuable resources exclusively to white Americans (Feagin, 2010, p. 143). In an affords toward concern for equality, Affirmative action was created. It was designed to counteract the effect that discriminatory practices have embedded in the American culture. Affirmative action refers to policies that take factors including “race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or national origin” into consideration in order to benefit an under represented group “in areas of employment, education, and business”, usually justified as countering the effects of a history of discrimination.
The term “affirmative action” was first used in the United States in Executive Order 10925 and was signed by President John F. Kennedy on 6 March 1961; it was used to promote actions that achieve non-discrimination. In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson enacted Executive Order 11246 which required government employers to take “affirmative action” to hire without regard to race, religion and national origin. In 1968, gender was added to the anti-discrimination list. A lively debate with sparks flying within racial group exists over the importance of the Affirmative action process. Some would argue that affirmative action undeservingly rewards minorities, and takes away from whites in effect causing reverse discrimination. Not long ago, Senator Bob Dole, a Republican presidential candidate, spoke in a television interview of “displaced” white men who compete with black workers because of affirmative action.
He said that he was not sure that “people in America” (he meant “whites”) should be paying a price for discrimination that occurred “before they were born”. (Feagin, 2010, p. 15). Taking this evidence into consideration, should this influence the direction taken regarding affirmative action? University of California Regent Ward Connerly believes that affirmative action is used as a crutch that is ruining the relationship between blacks and whites. If this were true, would this be a good reason to halt government involvement in affirmative action programs? Would people identify these issues and take steps to make changes? Historically this has not been the case. Affirmative action programs have been successful in making social change. Minorities that have previously been excluded from opportunities have been afforded opportunities to achieve through affirmative action programs.
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. Beneficiaries of these programs have included white men and women, people with disabilities, and poor working class people, but their primary emphasis has been on addressing racial discrimination (Kivel, P)
If our goal is to eradicate discriminatory practices, then our government must continue to mandate legislation, and fund programs to address these issues. Following this conclusion it is clear to see that all evidence supports the benefits of affirmative action. What we have before us is a society with the possibility to make great strides in regards to changing the system of inequality. It is important that government lead in the direction that supports affirmative action programs. Government needs to see this as the biggest problem on their social agenda, and it will take a significant effort to mandate change, but the benefit for everyone will be extraordinary.
Feagin, J. (2010). Racist America Roots, Current Realities, and Future Reparations New York: Routledge Press. Tatum, Beverly Daniel. (2003). ”Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? New York: Basic Books. Executive Order 11246. (2012, July 2). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 17:23, October 30, 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Executive_Order_11246&oldid=500344831 Montgomery, A. (2000, march 27). A “poison” divides us, salon.com, Kivel, P. (1997, November,17) Affirmative Action Works! Motion Magazine