Affirmative Action

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Contents

Overview

Affirmative action is a set of public policies that attempts to ameliorate - by the use of race and sex preferences, ironically - present and past discrimination based on race, color, or sex.

Timeline

1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs Executive Order 8802, outlawing segregationist hiring practices in defense industries bidding for Federal contracts.
1954 The US Supreme Court unanimous overturns 'separate but equal' racial segregation in Brown v. Board of Education.
1955 The US Supreme Court directs governments to eliminate segregation with 'all deliberate speed.'
1964 President Lyndon B. Johnson coins the phrase 'affirmative action' in Executive Order 11246 requiring all federal contractors to "take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin."
1964 Congress passes the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibiting racial discrimination in public places and racial and sexual discrimination in employment.
1965 Congress passes the Voting Rights Act of 1965, overturning local and state government practices denying the right to vote to members of minorities.
1978 The US Supreme Court outlaws racial quotas in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke
1991 The US Congress passes the Civil Rights Act of 1991, strenghthening some Civil Rights protection and allowing damages to be sought in cases of intentional discrimination.
1995 President Bill Clinton makes a speech supporting affirmative action. His famous line from this speech was "Mend it, don't end it."
2003 The US Supreme Court hears two cases on affirmative action. The Court upheld the affirmative action policies of the University of Michigan Law School but struck down the policies of the University of Michigan's undergradate admission process.

Important Concepts

The following two paragraphs need to be noninflammatorily merged.

  • Reverse discrimination and unwarranted preferences - The main critique of affirmative action is the belief that affirmative action promotes discrimination against whites in favor of minorities. In fact, less than 2 percent of the 91,000 cases pending before the EEOC are reverse discrimination cases.
  • Racial Preferences - A primary critique of affirmative action is that such racial preferences promote unlawful discrimination against whites in favor of members of a "protected class".

The Recent Law School Admissions Debate

While the U.S. Supreme Court has authorized affirmative action in law school admissions, if the University of Michigan model of Grutter v. Bollinger is followed, there is controversy over whether doing so is good policy. A recent article by Richard Sander in the Stanford Law Review makes the case that it is not good policy and does not benefit black law students. David Chambers and Richard Lempert of the University of Michigan Law School, Timothy Clydesdale of the College of New Jersey, and William Kidder who works for a non-profit organization are among the principal figures responding that Sanders analysis is incorrect. Another opponent of Sanders analysis if found in this op ed column.

External Links

Ten Myths About Affirmative Action

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