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Affirmative action in the United States

Affirmative action in the United States

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In the United States, affirmative action
Affirmative action
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 underrepresented group, usually as a means to counter the effects of a history of discrimination.-Origins:The term...

refers to equal opportunity employment
Equal Opportunity Employment
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the first federal law designed to protect most U.S. employees from employment discrimination based upon that employee's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin . The Title also established the U.S...

 measures that Federal contractors and subcontractors are legally required to adopt. These measures are intended to prevent discrimination against employees or applicants for employment, on the basis of "color, religion, sex, or national origin". Examples of affirmative action offered by the United States Department of Labor
United States Department of Labor
The United States Department of Labor is a Cabinet department of the United States government responsible for occupational safety, wage and hour standards, unemployment insurance benefits, re-employment services, and some economic statistics. Many U.S. states also have such departments. The...

 include outreach campaigns, targeted recruitment
Recruitment
Recruitment refers to the process of attracting, screening, and selecting qualified people for a job. For some components of the recruitment process, mid- and large-size organizations often retain professional recruiters or outsource some of the process to recruitment agencies.The recruitment...

, employee and management development
Management Development
Management Development is best described as the process from which managers learn and improve their skills not only to benefit themselves but also their employing organizations....

, and employee support programs.

The impetus towards affirmative action is to redress the disadvantages associated with overt historical discrimination. Further impetus is a desire to ensure public institutions, such as universities, hospitals and police forces, are more representative of the populations they serve.
Affirmative action is a subject of controversy. Some policies adopted as affirmative action, such as racial quotas
Racial quotas
Racial quotas in employment and education are numerical requirements for hiring, promoting, admitting and/or graduating members of a particular racial group. Racial quotas are often established as means of diminishing racial discrimination, addressing under-representation and evident racism against...

 or gender quotas for collegiate admission, have been criticised as a form of reverse discrimination
Reverse discrimination
Reverse discrimination is a controversial term referring to discrimination against members of a dominant or majority group, including the city or state, or in favor of members of a minority or historically disadvantaged group such as African Americans being slaves. Groups may be defined in terms of...

, and such implementation of affirmative action has been ruled unconstitutional by the majority opinion of Gratz v. Bollinger
Gratz v. Bollinger
Gratz v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 244 , was a United States Supreme Court case regarding the University of Michigan undergraduate affirmative action admissions policy...

. Affirmative action as a practice was upheld by the court's decision in Grutter v. Bollinger
Grutter v. Bollinger
Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 , was a case in which the United States Supreme Court upheld the affirmative action admissions policy of the University of Michigan Law School...

.

History of term


Affirmative action in the United States began as a tool to address the persisting inequalities for African Americans in the 1960s. This specific term was first used to describe US government policy in 1961. Directed to all government contracting agencies, President John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy , often referred to by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963....

's Executive Order 10925
Executive Order 10925
Executive Order 10925 was signed by President John F. Kennedy on March 6, 1961, requiring government 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." It...

 mandated "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."

Four years later, President Lyndon B. Johnson
Lyndon B. Johnson
Lyndon Baines Johnson , often referred to as LBJ, was the 36th President of the United States after his service as the 37th Vice President of the United States...

 elaborated on the importance of affirmative action to achieving true freedom for African Americans:
After describing the specific historical context of American affirmative action, President Johnson outlined the basic social science view that supports such policies:
As the social science explaining impact of such 'unseen forces' has developed, affirmative action has widened in scope. In 1967, President Johnson amended a previous executive order on equal employment opportunity to expressly mention "discrimination on account of sex" as well.

One of the United States' first major applications of affirmative action, the Philadelphia Plan
Revised Philadelphia Plan
The Revised Philadelphia Plan was a plan that required government contractors in Philadelphia to hire minority workers. Department of Labor Assistant Secretary for Wage and Labor Standards Arthur Fletcher implemented the Revised Philadelphia Plan in 1969, based on an earlier plan developed in 1967...

, was enacted by the Nixon administration in 1969. The Revised Philadelphia Plan was controversial for its use of strict quotas and timetables to combat the institutionalized discrimination in the hiring practices of Philadelphia's skilled trade unions.

The concept and application of affirmative action has developed since its inception, though its motivation remains the same.

Legal history

  • 1866 - The Equal Protection Clause
    Equal Protection Clause
    The Equal Protection Clause, part of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, provides that "no state shall ... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws"...

     of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
    Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
    The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was adopted on July 9, 1868, as one of the Reconstruction Amendments.Its Citizenship Clause provides a broad definition of citizenship that overruled the Dred Scott v...

mandates that no state "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." This Clause grants citizens the protection of their Fifth Amendment
Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which is part of the Bill of Rights, protects against abuse of government authority in a legal procedure. Its guarantees stem from English common law which traces back to the Magna Carta in 1215...

 rights from state actors.

  • 1954 - Brown v. Board of Education
    Brown v. Board of Education
    Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 , was a landmark decision of the United States Supreme Court that declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students unconstitutional. The decision overturned the Plessy v. Ferguson decision of 1896 which...

The NAACP filed on behalf of a black student, Linda Brown, who was transported out of her white neighborhood to attend a black school in Topeka, Kansas. The Supreme Court ruled that separate educational facilities were "inherently unequal" and violated the Fourteenth Amendment. The next year the Court ordered segregated districts to integrate with "all deliberate speed."

  • 1961 - Executive Order No. 10925, issued by President Kennedy
Established the concept of affirmative action
Affirmative action
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 underrepresented group, usually as a means to counter the effects of a history of discrimination.-Origins:The term...

 by mandating that projects financed with federal funds "take affirmative action" to ensure that hiring and employment practices are free of racial bias.

  • 1964 - Section 717 of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

  • 1965 - U.S. Executive Order 11246
    Executive Order 11246
    Executive Order 11246, signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson on September 24, 1965 required Equal Employment Opportunity. The Order "prohibits federal contractors and federally assisted construction contractors and subcontractors, who do over $10,000 in Government business in one year from...

     and Executive Order 11375
    Executive Order 11375
    Executive Order 11375, signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson on October 13, 1967 amended Executive Order 11246.In this executive order, President Johnson justifies his measure, by claiming the following in the preamble of the order:...

The Johnson administration embraced affirmative action in 1965, by issuing U.S Executive order 11246, later amended by Executive order 11375. The order, as amended, aims "to correct the effects of past and present discrimination". It prohibits federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, skin color, religion, gender, or national origin. The order requires that contractors take affirmative action to ensure that "protected class, underutilized applicants" are employed when available, and that employees are treated without negative discriminatory regard to their protected-class status.

The order specifically requires certain organizations accepting federal funds to take affirmative action to increase employment of members of preferred racial or ethnic groups and women. Any organization with fifty or more employees and an aggregate revenue exceeding $50,000 from a single federal contract during a twelve month period must have a written affirmative action plan. This plan must include goals and timetables for achieving full utilization of women and members of racial minorities, in quotas based on an analysis of the current workforce compared to the availability in the general labor pool of women and members of racial minorities.

The order is enforced by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs of the Employment Standards Administration of the U. S. Department of Labor and by the Office of Civil Rights of the Justice Department.

  • 1969 - Revised Philadelphia Plan
    Revised Philadelphia Plan
    The Revised Philadelphia Plan was a plan that required government contractors in Philadelphia to hire minority workers. Department of Labor Assistant Secretary for Wage and Labor Standards Arthur Fletcher implemented the Revised Philadelphia Plan in 1969, based on an earlier plan developed in 1967...

During the Nixon administration, affirmative action was adopted as a federal mandate for companies with federal contracts and for labor unions whose workers were engaged in those projects. This revised Philadelphia Plan was spearheaded by Labor Department official Arthur Fletcher.

  • 1971 - Executive Order No. 11625, issued by President Nixon
This order claims to build upon the Office of Minority Business Enterprise
Minority Business Enterprise
A Minority Business Enterprise is an American term which is defined as a business which is at least 51% owned, operated and controlled on a daily basis by one or more American citizens of the following ethnic minority classifications:...

 (MBE) established in 1969 by clarifying the Secretary of Commerce's authority to "(a) implement Federal policy in support of the minority business enterprise program; (b) provide additional technical and management assistance to disadvantaged businesses; (c) to assist in demonstration projects; and (d) to coordinate the participation of all Federal departments and agencies in an increased minority enterprise effort."


  • 1973 - Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
Section 717 of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 require all United States Federal Agencies to implement affirmative employment opportunity programs for all federal employees. EEOC Equal Employment Opportunity Management Directive 715 (MD 715) provides guidance as to how such programs are to be implemented.


  • 1978 - Regents of the University of California v. Bakke
    Regents of the University of California v. Bakke
    Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, was a landmark decision of the Supreme Court of the United States that ruled unconstitutional the admission process of the Medical School at the University of California at Davis, which set aside 16 of the 100 seats for African American...

     438 U.S. 265 (1978)
The Supreme Court held that the UC Davis
University of California, Davis
The University of California, Davis is a public teaching and research university established in 1905 and located in Davis, California, USA. Spanning over , the campus is the largest within the University of California system and third largest by enrollment...

 medical school admissions program violated the equal protection clause with the institution of quotas for underrepresented minorities. However, Justice Lewis Powell's decision in the majority upheld diversity in higher education as a "compelling interest" and held that race could be one of the factors in university admissions.

  • 1979 - U.S. Executive Order 12138
Issued by President Carter, this executive order created a National Women's Business Enterprise Policy and required government agencies to take affirmative action in support of women's business enterprises.

  • 1989 - City of Richmond v. J.A. Croson Co.
    City of Richmond v. J.A. Croson Co.
    City of Richmond v. J.A. Croson Co., 488 U.S. 469 was a case in which the United States Supreme Court held that the city of Richmond's minority set-aside program, which gave preference to minority business enterprises in the awarding of municipal contracts, was unconstitutional under the Equal...

    , 488 U.S. 469 (1989) (strict scrutiny standard to state and local programs).

  • 1989 - Wards Cove Packing Co. v. Atonio, 490 U.S. 642 (1989) revised the standards established by the 1971 Griggs decision.

  • 1990 - Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
    Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
    The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 is a law that was enacted by the U.S. Congress in 1990. It was signed into law on July 26, 1990, by President George H. W. Bush, and later amended with changes effective January 1, 2009....

People with disabilities as a group were more fully recognized as being protected by this act.

established strict scrutiny standard of review for race and ethnic-based Federal Affirmative Action programs.

  • 1996 - Hopwood v. Texas
    Hopwood v. Texas
    Hopwood v. Texas, 78 F.3d 932 , was the first successful legal challenge to a university's affirmative action policy in student admissions since Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, 438 U.S. 265...

    , 78 F.3d 932 (5th Cir.1996)
(first successful legal challenge to racial preferences in student admissions since Regents of the University of California v. Bakke).


  • 2003 - Grutter v. Bollinger
    Grutter v. Bollinger
    Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 , was a case in which the United States Supreme Court upheld the affirmative action admissions policy of the University of Michigan Law School...

     (02-241) 539 U.S. 306 (2003)


  • 2009 - Ricci v. DeStefano
    Ricci v. DeStefano
    Ricci v. DeStefano, 129 S. Ct. 2658, 2671, 174 L. Ed. 2d 490 is a decision by the Supreme Court of the United States arising from a lawsuit brought against the city of New Haven, Connecticut by twenty city firefighters alleging that the city discriminated against them with regard to promotions...


California

  • 1946 - Mendez v. Westminster School District

  • Penn/Stump v City of Oakland, 1967
This Consent Decree stated that men and women should be hired by race and gender as police officers in the same percentage that they’re represented in the population of the city. This process took more than twenty years to complete. There were approximately 34 black police officers on the Oakland Police department. There were no black females among them. At this time, the militant Black Panther Party
Black Panther Party
The Black Panther Party wasan African-American revolutionary leftist organization. It was active in the United States from 1966 until 1982....

 had formed in part due to police brutality at the hands of Oakland's overwhelmingly white police force and the City of Oakland at the time was approaching an African American
African American
African Americans are citizens or residents of the United States who have at least partial ancestry from any of the native populations of Sub-Saharan Africa and are the direct descendants of enslaved Africans within the boundaries of the present United States...

 majority as well prompting the push for minority police officer recruitment.

  • Proposition 209, 1996
This proposition mandates that "the state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting."http://vote96.sos.ca.gov/Vote96/html/BP/209text.htm Prop 209 was controversial because it was promoted as civil rights legislation, although it was essentially a ban on affirmative action. Proponents argue that the measure ensures that the civil rights of Caucasians, South Indians, and South East-Asians are protected by ensuring parity between races.

Washington

  • Initiative 200
    Initiative 200
    Initiative 200 was a Washington State initiative to the Legislature promoted by California affirmative-action opponent Ward Connerly and filed by Scott Smith and initiative entrepreneur Tim Eyman. It sought to prohibit racial and gender preferences by state and local government. It was on the...

    , 1998
in Washington was overwhelmingly passed by the electorate. Taking effect on December 3, 1998, it applies to all local governments, including counties, cities, and towns. I-200 prohibits "preferential treatment" based on race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in public employment, education, and contracting.

  • Smith v. University of Washington 233 F.3d 1188 (9th Cir. 2000) :

  • Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1, 149 Wn.2d 660, 72 P.3d 151 (2003), 2003
The Washington State Supreme Court interpreted I-200 to forbid affirmative actions that promote a "less qualified" applicant over a "better qualified" one, but not programs that sought to achieve diversity without consideration of individual merit.


In the beginning, racial classifications that identified race were inherently suspect and subject to strict scrutiny. These classifications would only be upheld if necessary to promote a compelling governmental interest. Later the U.S. Supreme Court decided that racial classifications that benefited underrepresented minorities were to only be upheld if necessary and promoted a compelling governmental purpose. (See Richmond v. J.A. Croson Co.) There is no clear guidance about when government action is not "compelling", and such rulings are rare.

Michigan

  • Grutter v. Bollinger
    Grutter v. Bollinger
    Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 , was a case in which the United States Supreme Court upheld the affirmative action admissions policy of the University of Michigan Law School...

    , 2003
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that race could be used as one of several factors in professional school admissions without necessarily violating the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. The Court found that the University of Michigan Law School's narrowly-tailored policy which considered race and other factors, with no quota or predetermined weight associated with the factors, was constitutional and appropriate "to further a compelling interest in obtaining the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body."
  • Gratz v. Bollinger
    Gratz v. Bollinger
    Gratz v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 244 , was a United States Supreme Court case regarding the University of Michigan undergraduate affirmative action admissions policy...

    , 2003
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the University of Michigan's undergraduate admissions system, which granted extra "points" to minorities based on race, and which determined admissions status based on cumulative points, was unconstitutional because it is too mechanical and does not appear to consider the individual's actual contribution to the educational environment.

An attorney who filed an amicus brief on behalf of Pennsylvania legislators and former legislators in Grutter v. Bollinger, Rep. Mark B. Cohen
Mark B. Cohen
Mark B. Cohen is a Democratic politician from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Succeeding Eugene Gelfand, he has represented Pennsylvania House of Representatives, District 202 in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives since June 10, 1974, making him the most senior member in the Pennsylvania...

 of Philadelphia, said that "The cumulative effect of the Bakke, Grutter, and Bollinger cases is that no one has a legal right to have any demographic characteristic they possess be considered a favorable point on their behalf, but an employer has a right to take into account the goals of the organization and the interests of American society in making decisions. This is a moderate, inclusive position that ably balances the various legal interests involved."

  • Proposal 2, 2006
After Grutter and Gratz, in November 2006, voters in the State of Michigan made affirmative action illegal by passing Proposal 2 (Michigan Civil Rights Initiative
Michigan Civil Rights Initiative
The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative , or Proposal 2 , was a ballot initiative in the U.S. state of Michigan that passed into Michigan Constitutional law by a 58% to 42% margin on November 7, 2006, according to results officially certified by the Michigan Secretary of State. By Michigan law, the...

), a state-wide referendum amending the Michigan Constitution. Proposal 2 bans public affirmative action programs that give preferential treatment to groups or individuals based on their race, gender, color, ethnicity or national origin for public employment, public education or public contracting purposes. The amendment, however, contains an exception for actions that are mandated by federal law or that are necessary in order for an institution to receive federal funding. All attempts to appeal this legislation on supposed grounds of unconstitutionality have thus far failed.

Nebraska

  • Nebraska Civil Rights Initiative 424
    Nebraska Civil Rights Initiative 424
    The Nebraska Civil Rights Initiative, also known as Initiative 424, was a 2008 ballot measure that proposed a constitutional amendment which would prohibit the state from discriminating against, or granting preferential treatment to, "any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color,...

In November of 2008, Nebraska voters passed a constitutional ban on government-sponsored affirmative action. Initiative 424 bars government from giving preferential treatment to people on the basis of ethnicity or gender..

Arizona


In 2010 Arizona voters passed a constitutional ban on government-sponsored affirmative action known as Proposition 107.

Connecticut


Ricci v. DeStefano
Ricci v. DeStefano
Ricci v. DeStefano, 129 S. Ct. 2658, 2671, 174 L. Ed. 2d 490 is a decision by the Supreme Court of the United States arising from a lawsuit brought against the city of New Haven, Connecticut by twenty city firefighters alleging that the city discriminated against them with regard to promotions...

 was heard by the United States Supreme Court in 2009. The case concerns white and Hispanic firefighters in New Haven, Connecticut
New Haven, Connecticut
New Haven is the second-largest city in Connecticut and the sixth-largest in New England. According to the 2010 Census, New Haven's population increased by 5.0% between 2000 and 2010, a rate higher than that of the State of Connecticut, and higher than that of the state's five largest cities, and...

, who upon passing their test for promotions to management were denied the promotions, allegedly because of a discriminatory or at least questionable test. The test gave 17 whites and two Hispanics the possibility of immediate promotion. Although 23% of those taking the test were African American, none scored high enough to qualify. Because of the possibility the tests were biased in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, no candidates were promoted pending outcome of the controversy. In a split 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that New Haven had engaged in impermissible racial discrimination against the White and Hispanic majority.

Arguments in favor of affirmative action


President Kennedy stated in Executive Order 10925
Executive Order 10925
Executive Order 10925 was signed by President John F. Kennedy on March 6, 1961, requiring government 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." It...

 that "discrimination because of race, creed, color, or national origin is contrary to the Constitutional principles and policies of the United States"; that "it is the plain and positive obligation of the United States Government to promote and ensure equal opportunity for all qualified persons, without regard to race, creed, color, or national origin, employed or seeking employment with the Federal Government and on government contracts"; that "it is the policy of the executive branch of the Government to encourage by positive measures equal opportunity for all qualified persons within the Government"; and that "it is in the general interest and welfare of the United States to promote its economy, security, and national defense through the most efficient and effective utilization of all available manpower".

Some individual American states also have orders that prohibit discrimination and outline affirmative action requirements with regard to race, creed, color, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, gender, age, and disability status.

Proponents of affirmative action argue that by nature the system is not only race based, but also class and gender based. To eliminate two of its key components would undermine the purpose of the entire system. The African American Policy Forum believes that the class based argument is based on the idea that non-poor minorities do not experience racial and gender based discrimination
Discrimination
Discrimination is the prejudicial treatment of an individual based on their membership in a certain group or category. It involves the actual behaviors towards groups such as excluding or restricting members of one group from opportunities that are available to another group. The term began to be...

. The AAPF believes that "Race-conscious affirmative action remains necessary to address race-based obstacles that block the path to success of countless people of color of all classes". The groups goes on to say that affirmative action is responsible for creating the African American middle class, so it does not make sense to say that the system only benefits the middle and upper classes.

A study conducted at the University of Chicago in 2003 found that people with "black-sounding" names such as Lakisha and Jamal are 50 percent less likely to be interviewed for a job compared to people with "white-sounding" names such as Emily or Greg.

A recent study by Deirdre Bowen tested many of the arguments used by the anti-affirmative action camp. Her research showed that minority students experience greater hostility, and internal and external stigma in schools located in states that ban affirmative action—not the schools where students may have benefited from affirmative action admissions.

Arguments against affirmative action


Affirmative action has been the subject of numerous court cases, where it is often contested on constitutional
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

 grounds. Some states specifically prohibit affirmative action, such as California (Proposition 209), Washington (Initiative 200
Initiative 200
Initiative 200 was a Washington State initiative to the Legislature promoted by California affirmative-action opponent Ward Connerly and filed by Scott Smith and initiative entrepreneur Tim Eyman. It sought to prohibit racial and gender preferences by state and local government. It was on the...

), Michigan (Michigan Civil Rights Initiative
Michigan Civil Rights Initiative
The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative , or Proposal 2 , was a ballot initiative in the U.S. state of Michigan that passed into Michigan Constitutional law by a 58% to 42% margin on November 7, 2006, according to results officially certified by the Michigan Secretary of State. By Michigan law, the...

), and Nebraska (Nebraska Civil Rights Initiative
Nebraska Civil Rights Initiative 424
The Nebraska Civil Rights Initiative, also known as Initiative 424, was a 2008 ballot measure that proposed a constitutional amendment which would prohibit the state from discriminating against, or granting preferential treatment to, "any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color,...

).

Class inequality


The controversy surrounding affirmative action’s effectiveness is based on the idea of class
Social class
Social classes are economic or cultural arrangements of groups in society. Class is an essential object of analysis for sociologists, political scientists, economists, anthropologists and social historians. In the social sciences, social class is often discussed in terms of 'social stratification'...

 inequality. Opponents of racial affirmative action argue that the program actually benefits middle- and upper-class African Americans and Hispanic Americans
Hispanic and Latino Americans
Hispanic or Latino Americans are Americans with origins in the Hispanic countries of Latin America or in Spain, and in general all persons in the United States who self-identify as Hispanic or Latino.1990 Census of Population and Housing: A self-designated classification for people whose origins...

 at the expense of lower class European Americans and Asian Americans. This argument supports the idea of solely class-based affirmative action. America’s poor is disproportionately made up of people of color, so class-based affirmative action would disproportionately help people of color. This would eliminate the need for race-based affirmative action as well as reducing any disproportionate benefits for middle and upper class people of color.
College Acceptance Rates (2005)
Overall Acceptance Rate Black Acceptance Rate % Difference
Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

10.0% 16.7% + 67.0%
MIT
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a private research university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. MIT has five schools and one college, containing a total of 32 academic departments, with a strong emphasis on scientific and technological education and research.Founded in 1861 in...

15.9% 31.6% + 98.7%
Brown
Brown University
Brown University is a private, Ivy League university located in Providence, Rhode Island, United States. Founded in 1764 prior to American independence from the British Empire as the College in the English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations early in the reign of King George III ,...

16.6% 26.3% + 58.4%
Penn
University of Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania is a private, Ivy League university located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. Penn is the fourth-oldest institution of higher education in the United States,Penn is the fourth-oldest using the founding dates claimed by each institution...

21.2% 30.1% + 42.0%
Georgetown
Georgetown University
Georgetown University is a private, Jesuit, research university whose main campus is in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Founded in 1789, it is the oldest Catholic university in the United States...

22.0% 30.7% + 39.5%


In 1976, a group of Italian-American professors at City University of New York
City University of New York
The City University of New York is the public university system of New York City, with its administrative offices in Yorkville in Manhattan. It is the largest urban university in the United States, consisting of 23 institutions: 11 senior colleges, six community colleges, the William E...

 asked to be added as an affirmative action category for promotion and hiring.

A 2005 study by Princeton sociologists Thomas J. Espenshade and Chang Y. Chung compared the effects of affirmative action on racial and special groups at three highly selective private research universities. The data from the study represent admissions disadvantage and advantage in terms of SAT
SAT
The SAT Reasoning Test is a standardized test for college admissions in the United States. The SAT is owned, published, and developed by the College Board, a nonprofit organization in the United States. It was formerly developed, published, and scored by the Educational Testing Service which still...

 points (on the old 1600-point scale):
  • Blacks: +230
  • Hispanics: +185
  • Asians: –50
  • Recruited athletes: +200
  • Legacies (children of alumni): +160


In 2009, Princeton sociologist Thomas Espenshade and researcher Alexandria Walton Radford, in their book 'No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal', examined data on students applying to college in 1997 and calculated that Asian-Americans needed nearly perfect SAT scores of 1550 to have the same chance of being accepted at a top private university as whites who scored 1410 and African-Americans who got 1100. Whites were three times, Hispanics six times, and blacks more than 15 times as likely to be accepted at a US university as Asian-Americans. These results were after controlling for grades, scores, family background (legacy status) and athletic status (whether or not the student was a recruited athlete).

Discrimination


Some opponents of affirmative action, like Ward Connerly
Ward Connerly
Wardell Anthony "Ward" Connerly is an American political activist, businessman, and former University of California Regent . He is also the founder and the chairman of the American Civil Rights Institute, a national non-profit organization in opposition to racial and gender preferences...

, call it reverse discrimination, saying affirmative action requires the very discrimination it is seeking to eliminate. According to these opponents, this contradiction makes affirmative action counter-productive. Other opponents say affirmative action causes unprepared applicants to be accepted in highly demanding educational institutions or jobs which result in eventual failure. (See, for example, Richard Sander's study of affirmative action in Law School, bar exam and eventual performance at law firms). Other opponents say that affirmative action lowers the bar, and so denies those who strive for excellence on their own merit and the sense of real achievement. (See, for example, Clarence Thomas
Clarence Thomas
Clarence Thomas is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Succeeding Thurgood Marshall, Thomas is the second African American to serve on the Court....

' "My Grandfather's Son: A Memoir".) Some argue that affirmative action itself has some merit when it is targeted to true causes of social deprivation such as poverty, but that race-, ethnicity- or gender-based affirmative action is misguided.

Some opponents further claim that affirmative action has undesirable side-effects and that it fails to achieve its goals. They argue that it hinders reconciliation, replaces old wrongs with new wrongs, undermines the achievements of minorities, and encourages groups to identify themselves as disadvantaged, even if they are not. It may increase racial tension and benefit the more privileged people within minority group
Minority group
A minority is a sociological group within a demographic. The demographic could be based on many factors from ethnicity, gender, wealth, power, etc. The term extends to numerous situations, and civilizations within history, despite the misnomer of minorities associated with a numerical statistic...

s at the expense of the disenfranchised within majority groups (such as lower-class whites). In the British 2001 Summer of Violence Riots in Oldham
Oldham
Oldham is a large town in Greater Manchester, England. It lies amid the Pennines on elevated ground between the rivers Irk and Medlock, south-southeast of Rochdale, and northeast of the city of Manchester...

, Bradford
Bradford
Bradford lies at the heart of the City of Bradford, a metropolitan borough of West Yorkshire, in Northern England. It is situated in the foothills of the Pennines, west of Leeds, and northwest of Wakefield. Bradford became a municipal borough in 1847, and received its charter as a city in 1897...

, Leeds
Leeds
Leeds is a city and metropolitan borough in West Yorkshire, England. In 2001 Leeds' main urban subdivision had a population of 443,247, while the entire city has a population of 798,800 , making it the 30th-most populous city in the European Union.Leeds is the cultural, financial and commercial...

 and Burnley
Burnley
Burnley is a market town in the Burnley borough of Lancashire, England, with a population of around 73,500. It lies north of Manchester and east of Preston, at the confluence of the River Calder and River Brun....

, one of the major complaints voiced in poor white areas was alleged discrimination in council funding which favored minority areas. There has recently been a strong push among American states to ban racial or gender preferences in university admissions, in reaction to the controversial and unprecedented decision in Grutter v. Bollinger
Grutter v. Bollinger
Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 , was a case in which the United States Supreme Court upheld the affirmative action admissions policy of the University of Michigan Law School...

. In 2006, nearly 60% of Michigan voters decided to ban affirmative action in university admissions. Michigan joined California, Florida, Texas, and Washington in banning the use of race or sex in admissions considerations. Some opponents believe, among other things, that affirmative action devalues the accomplishments of people who belong to a group it's supposed to help, therefore making affirmative action counter-productive.

Prominent people against affirmative action


Conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas
Clarence Thomas
Clarence Thomas is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Succeeding Thurgood Marshall, Thomas is the second African American to serve on the Court....

, the only current black Justice, opposes affirmative action. He believes the Equal Protection Clause
Equal Protection Clause
The Equal Protection Clause, part of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, provides that "no state shall ... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws"...

 of the Fourteenth Amendment
Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was adopted on July 9, 1868, as one of the Reconstruction Amendments.Its Citizenship Clause provides a broad definition of citizenship that overruled the Dred Scott v...

 forbids consideration of race, such as race-based affirmative action or preferential treatment. He also believes it creates "a cult of victimization" and implies blacks require "special treatment in order to succeed". Thomas also cites his own experiences of affirmative action programs as a reason for his criticism.

Libertarian
Libertarianism
Libertarianism, in the strictest sense, is the political philosophy that holds individual liberty as the basic moral principle of society. In the broadest sense, it is any political philosophy which approximates this view...

 economist Thomas Sowell
Thomas Sowell
Thomas Sowell is an American economist, social theorist, political philosopher, and author. A National Humanities Medal winner, he advocates laissez-faire economics and writes from a libertarian perspective...

 identified what he says are negative results of affirmative action in his book, Affirmative Action Around the World: An Empirical Study
Affirmative Action Around the World
Affirmative Action Around the World: An Empirical Study is a 2004 nonfiction work by economist Thomas Sowell.-Summary:Already known as a critic of affirmative action or race-based hiring and promotion, Sowell, himself African-American, analyzes the specific effects of such policies on India,...

. Sowell writes that affirmative action policies encourage non-preferred groups to designate themselves as members of preferred groups [i.e. primary beneficiaries of affirmative action] to take advantage of group preference policies; that they tend to benefit primarily the most fortunate among the preferred group (e.g., upper and middle class blacks), often to the detriment of the least fortunate among the non-preferred groups (e.g., poor white or Asian); that they reduce the incentives of both the preferred and non-preferred to perform at their best — the former because doing so is unnecessary and the latter because it can prove futile — thereby resulting in net losses for society as a whole; and that they engender animosity toward preferred groups as well.

Implementation in universities


In the U.S., a prominent form of affirmative action centers on access to education, particularly admission to universities and other forms of higher education. Race, ethnicity, native language, social class, geographical origin, parental attendance of the university in question (legacy admissions
Legacy preferences
Legacy preferences or legacy admission is a type of preference given by educational institutions to certain applicants on the basis of their familial relationship to alumni of that institution...

), and/or gender are sometimes taken into account when assessing the meaning of an applicant's grades and test scores. Individuals can also be awarded scholarship
Scholarship
A scholarship is an award of financial aid for a student to further education. Scholarships are awarded on various criteria usually reflecting the values and purposes of the donor or founder of the award.-Types:...

s and have fees paid on the basis of criteria listed above. In 1978, the Supreme Court ruled in Bakke v. Regents that public universities (and other government institutions) could not set specific numerical targets based on race for admissions or employment. The Court said that "goals" and "timetables" for diversity could be set instead.

The affirmative action debate surrounding admission to U.S. college and universities reflects competing notions of what colleges are for: "To what extent should they pursue scholarly excellence, to what extent civic goods, and how should these purposes be balanced?". Scholars such as Ronald Dworkin
Ronald Dworkin
Ronald Myles Dworkin, QC, FBA is an American philosopher and scholar of constitutional law. He is Frank Henry Sommer Professor of Law and Philosophy at New York University and Emeritus Professor of Jurisprudence at University College London, and has taught previously at Yale Law School and the...

 have asserted that no college applicant has a right to expect that a university will design its admissions policies in a way the prizes any particular set of qualities. In this view, admission is not an honor bestowed to reward superior merit but rather a way to advance the mission as each university defines it. If diversity is a goal of the university and their racial preferences do not discriminate against applicants based on hatred or contempt, then affirmative action can be judged acceptable based on the criteria related to the mission the university sets for itself.

Consistent with this view, admissions officers often claim to select students not based on academic record alone, but also on commitment, enthusiasm, motivation
Motivation
Motivation is the driving force by which humans achieve their goals. Motivation is said to be intrinsic or extrinsic. The term is generally used for humans but it can also be used to describe the causes for animal behavior as well. This article refers to human motivation...

, and potential. Highly selective institutions of higher learning do not simply select only the highest SAT performers to populate their undergraduate courses. Nevertheless, high performers, with 1500 to 1600 points, are extraordinarily well-represented at these institutions.

During a panel discussion at Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

's reunion for African American alumni during the 2003–04 academic year, two prominent black professors at the institution—Lani Guinier
Lani Guinier
Lani Guinier is an American lawyer, scholar and civil rights activist. The first African-American woman tenured professor at Harvard Law School, Guinier's work includes professional responsibilities of public lawyers, the relationship between democracy and the law, the role of race and gender in...

 and Henry Louis Gates—pointed out an unintended effect of affirmative action policies at Harvard. They stated that only about a third of black Harvard undergraduates
Harvard College
Harvard College, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is one of two schools within Harvard University granting undergraduate degrees...

 were from families in which all four grandparents were born into the African American community. The majority of black students at Harvard were West Indian and African immigrants or their children, with some others coming from biracial couples. One black Harvard student born in the South Bronx to a family that has been in the United States for multiple generations said that there were so few Harvard students from the historic African American community that they took to calling themselves "the descendants" (i.e., descendants of American slaves). The reasons for this underrepresentation of historic African Americans, and possible remedies, remain a subject of debate.

UCLA
UCLA School of Law
The UCLA School of Law is the law school of the University of California, Los Angeles. It has been approved by the American Bar Association since 1950. It joined the Association of American Law Schools in 1952.- History :...

 professor Richard H. Sander published an article in the November 2004 issue of the Stanford Law Review that questioned the effectiveness of affirmative action in law school
Law school
A law school is an institution specializing in legal education.- Law degrees :- Canada :...

s and noted that prior to his article, there had been no comprehensive study on the effects of affirmative action. The article presents a study that, among other things, shows that half of all black law students rank near the bottom of their class after the first year of law school, and that black law students are more likely to drop out of law school and to fail the bar exam. The article offers a tentative estimate that the production of new black lawyers in the United States would grow by eight percent if affirmative action programs at all law schools were ended, as less qualified black students would instead attend less prestigious schools where they would be more closely matched with their classmates, and thus perform better . Sander helped to develop a socioeconomically-based affirmative action plan for the UCLA School of Law after the passage of Proposition 209 in 1996
California Proposition 209 (1996)
Proposition 209 is a California ballot proposition which, upon approval in November 1996, amended the state constitution to prohibit public institutions from considering race, sex, or ethnicity. It had been supported and funded by the California Civil Rights Initiative Campaign, led by University...

 which prohibited the use of racial preferences by public universities California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

 schools. This change occurred after studies that showed that the graduation rate of blacks at UCLA was 41%, compared to 73% for whites.

In order to accommodate the ruling in Hopwood v. Texas
Hopwood v. Texas
Hopwood v. Texas, 78 F.3d 932 , was the first successful legal challenge to a university's affirmative action policy in student admissions since Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, 438 U.S. 265...

 banning any use of race in school admissions, the State of Texas
Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

 passed a law guaranteeing entry to any state university of a student's choice if they finished in the top 10% of their graduating class. Florida
Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

 and California have also replaced racial quotas with class rank and other programs. Class rank tends to benefit top students at less competitive high schools, to the detriment of students at more competitive high schools. This effect, however, may be intentional, as less-funded, less competitive schools are more likely to be schools where minority enrollment is high. Critics argue that class rank is more a measure of one's peers than of one's self. The top-10% rule also adds racial diversity only because schools are still highly racially segregated. Additionally, the class rank rule has the same consequence as traditional affirmative action: opening schools to students who would otherwise not be admitted had the given school used a holistic, merit-based approach. From 1996 to 1998, Texas had entirely merit-based admission to its state universities, and minority enrollment was low; adopting the "top 10 percent" rule returned minority enrollment to pre-1996 levels.

In 2006, Jian Li
Jian Li
Jian Li is a Chinese undergraduate student at Harvard University, who transferred from Yale University, where he first studied. Li, who holds Chinese citizenship, is a US permanent resident who immigrated with his family to the United States at the age of four...

, a Chinese
Chinese people
The term Chinese people may refer to any of the following:*People with Han Chinese ethnicity ....

 undergraduate at Yale University
Yale University
Yale University is a private, Ivy League university located in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Founded in 1701 in the Colony of Connecticut, the university is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States...

, filed a civil rights
Civil rights
Civil and political rights are a class of rights that protect individuals' freedom from unwarranted infringement by governments and private organizations, and ensure one's ability to participate in the civil and political life of the state without discrimination or repression.Civil rights include...

 complaint with the Office for Civil Rights against Princeton University
Princeton University
Princeton University is a private research university located in Princeton, New Jersey, United States. The school is one of the eight universities of the Ivy League, and is one of the nine Colonial Colleges founded before the American Revolution....

, claiming that his race played a role in their decision to reject his application for admission, and seeking the suspension of federal financial assistance to the university until it "discontinues discrimination against Asian-Americans in all forms" by eliminating race and legacy preferences. Princeton Dean of Admissions Janet Rapelye responded to the claims in the 30 November 2006 issue of the Daily Princetonian by stating that "the numbers don't indicate [discrimination]" and that Li was not admitted because "Many others had far better qualifications." Li's extracurriculars were described as "not all that outstanding".

See also

  • Affirmative action
    Affirmative action
    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 underrepresented group, usually as a means to counter the effects of a history of discrimination.-Origins:The term...

  • Affirmative action bake sale
    Affirmative action bake sale
    An affirmative action bake sale is a campus protest event used by student groups to illustrate criticism of affirmative action policies, especially as they relate to college and graduate school admissions...

     – A critical bake sale organized on college campuses demonstrating "affirmative action pricing structures".
  • Race and inequality in the United States
  • Redistributive change
    Redistributive change
    Redistributive change is a legal theory of economic justice in the context of U.S. law that promotes the recognition of poverty as a classification, like race, ethnicity, gender, and religion, that should likewise draw extra scrutiny from the courts in matters pertaining to civil rights.The theory...

  • White privilege
  • Whites Only Scholarship
    Whites Only Scholarship
    The Whites Only Scholarship was founded in 2004 by Jason Mattera, a Roger Williams University student and member of the school Republican Party...


Organizations

  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
    Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
    The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is an independent federal law enforcement agency that enforces laws against workplace discrimination. The EEOC investigates discrimination complaints based on an individual's race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, perceived intelligence,...

  • Institute for Justice
    Institute for Justice
    The Institute for Justice is a 501 non-profit libertarian public interest law firm in the United States. Its mission is to provide pro bono legal advice and representation, litigating strategically to pursue its goal of a rule of law under which individuals can control their destinies as free and...

  • U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
  • Center for Equal Opportunity
    Center for Equal Opportunity
    The Center For Equal Opportunity is a conservative think tank, which focuses on three specific areas of concern: affirmative action, immigration and bilingual education....