The Failures of Affirmative Action
Thomas D Goslin III
Joranko & Robbins
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
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
prejudiced individuals would affirmative action plans be "reverse
discrimination." Only if today's society were operating fairly toward
and women would measures that take race, sex, and national origin into
be "preferential treatment." Only if discrimination were securely
placed in a
well-distant past would affirmative action be an unneeded and drastic
What the commission failed to realize was that there are thousands of white
males who are not discriminating yet are being punished because of those who do.
The Northern Natural Gas Company of Omaha, Nebraska, was forced by the
government to release sixty-five white male workers to make room for minority
employees in 1977 (Nebraska Advisory Committee 40). Five major Omaha
corporations reported that the number of white managers fell 25% in 1969 due to
restrictions put on them when affirmative action was adopted (Nebraska Advisory
Committee 27). You ask, "What did these white males do to bring about their
termination?" The only crime that they were guilty of was being white. This
hardly seems fair to punish so many innocent men for the crimes of a relative
But the injustice toward the white male doesn't end there. After the
white male has been fired, he has to go out and find a new job to support his
family that depended on the company to provide health care and a retirement plan
in return for years of hard work. Now, because of affirmative action, this
white male, and the thousands like him, require more skills to get the same job
that a lesser qualified black man needs. This is, for all intents and purposes,
discrimination, and it is a law that our government strictly enforces.
Affirmative action is not only unfair for the working man, it is
extremely discriminatory toward the executive, as well. The average business
executive has one goal in mind, and that is to maximize profits. To reach his
goal, this executive would naturally hire the most competent man or woman for
the job, whether they be black or white or any other race. Why would a business
man intentionally cause his business to lose money by hiring a poorly qualified
worker? Most wouldn't. With this in mind, it seems unnecessary to employ any
policy that would cause him to do otherwise. But, that is exactly what
affirmative action does. It forces an employer, who needs to meet a quota
established by the government, to hire the minority, no matter who is more
Another way that affirmative action deducts from a company's profits is
by forcing them to create jobs for minorities. This occurs when a company does
not meet its quota with existing employees and has to find places to put
minorities. These jobs are often unnecessary, and force a company to pay for
workers that they do not need.
Now, don't get the impression that affirmative action is only present in
the work place. It is also very powerful in education. Just as a white male
employee needs more credentials to get a job than his minority opponent, a white
male student needs more or better skills to get accepted at a prestigious
university than a minority student. There are complete sections on college
applications dedicated to race and ethnic background. Colleges must now have a
completely diverse student body, even if that means some, more qualified
students, must be turned away.
A perfect example of this can be found at the University of California
at Berkeley. A 1995 report released by the university said that 9.7% of all
accepted applicants were African American. Only 0.8% of these African American
students were accepted by academic criteria alone. 36.8% of the accepted
applicants were white. Of these accepted white students, 47.9% were accepted on
academic criteria alone. That means that approximately sixty times more African
Americans students were accepted due to non-academic influences than white
students. It seems hard to believe that affirmative action wasn't one these
Another interesting fact included in the 1995 report said that the
average grade point average for a rejected white student was 3.66 with an
average SAT score of 1142. The average grade point average for an accepted
African American student was 3.66 with a 1030 average SAT score. These stunning
facts shows just how many competent, if not gifted students fall between the
cracks as a direct result of affirmative action (Affirmative action).
Well, I believe that the problem has been identified; affirmative action
is becoming a form of reverse discrimination. It is now time for the doctor to
prescribe a potential remedy. Society should work towards broad based economic
policies like public investment, national health reform, an enlarged income tax
credit, child support assurance, and other policies benefiting families with
young children. Widely supported programs that promote the interests of both
lower and middle class Americans that deliver benefits to minorities and whites
on the basis of their economic status, and not their race or ethnicity, will do
more to reduce minority poverty than the current, narrowly based, poorly
supported policies that single out minority groups. However, if this, or
another remedy is not taken sometime in the near future, and affirmative action
continues to separate minority groups from whites, we can be sure to see racial
tension reach points that our history has never seen.
"Affirmative Action at the University of California at Berkeley" Online.
October 28, 1996. http://pwa.acusd.edu/e_cook/ucb-95.html
"Civil Rights" Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia. (1996). Computer Program
SoftKey Multimedia International Corporation.
United States. Commission on Civil Rights. Affirmative Action in the 1980's:
Dismantling the Process of Discrimination. Washington: 1981.
United States. Nebraska Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on
Civil Rights. Private Sector Affirmative Action: Omaha. Washington: 1979.