The Failures of Affirmative Action

Once upon a time, there were two people who went to an interview for only one job position at the same company. The first person attended a prestigious and highly academic university, had years of work experience in the field and, in the mind of the employer, had the potential to make a positive impact on the company’s performance. The second person was just starting out in the field and seemed to lack the ambition that was visible in his opponent. “Who was chosen for the job?” you ask. Well, if the story took place before 1964, the answer would be obvious. However, with the somewhat recent adoption of the social policy known as affirmative action, the answer becomes unclear.

After the United States Congress passed the Civil Rights Act in 1964,it became apparent that certain business traditions, such as seniority status and aptitude tests, prevented total equality in employment. Then President, Lyndon B. Johnson, decided something needed to be done to remedy these flaws. On September 24, 1965, he issued Executive Order #11246 at Howard University that required federal contractors “to take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed . . . without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin (Civil Rights).” When Lyndon Banes Johnson signed that order, he enacted one of the most discriminating pieces of legislature since the Jim Crow Laws were passed.

Affirmative action was created in an effort to help minorities leap the discriminative barriers that were ever so present when the bill was first enacted, in 1965. At this time, the country was in the wake of nationwide civil-rights demonstrations, and racial tension was at its peak. Most of the corporate executive and managerial positions were occupied by white males, who controlled the hiring and firing of employees. The U.S. government, in 1965, believed that these employers were discriminating against minorities and believed that there was no better time than the present to bring about change.

When the Civil Rights Law passed, minorities, especially African-Americans, believed that they should receive retribution for the years of discrimination they endured. The government responded by passing laws to aide them in attaining better employment as reprieve for the previous two hundred years of suffering their race endured at the hands of the white man. To many, this made sense. Supporters of affirmative action asked, ”why not let the government help them get better jobs?” After all, the white man was responsible for their suffering. While this may all be true, there is another question to be asked. Are we truly responsible for the years of persecution that the African Americans were submitted to?

The answer to the question is yes and no. It is true that the white man is partly responsible for the suppression of the African- American race. However, the individual white male is not. It is just as unfair and suppressive to hold many white males responsible for past persecution now as it was to discriminate against many African-Americans in the generations before. Why should an honest, hard-working, open minded, white male be suppressed, today, for past injustice? Affirmative action accepts and condones the idea of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Do two wrongs make a right? I think mother taught us better than that.

Affirmative action supporters make one large assumption when defending the policy. They assume that minority groups want help. This, however, may not always be the case. My experience with minorities has led me to believe that they fought to attain equality, not special treatment. To them, the acceptance of special treatment is an admittance of inferiority. They ask, “Why can’t I become successful on my own? Why do I need laws to help me get a job?” These African Americans want to be treated as equals, not as incompetents.

In a statement released in 1981 by the United States Commission on Civil Rights, Jack P. Hartog, who directed the project, said: Only if discrimination were nothing more than the misguided acts of a few prejudiced individuals would affirmative action plans be “reverse discrimination.” Only if today’s society were operating fairly toward minorities and women would measures that take race, sex, and national origin into account