What is Affirmative Action? The Government Response to Ethnic Inequalities. Affirmative Action was a series of programmes introduced by the Federal Government since the 1970’s to try and improve the economic position of mainly Black’s and Hispanics in the USA. The aim was to overcome the past patterns of discrimination that existed in employment and education for these groups. AA tried to recruit ethnic minorities into education and employment at a level which reflected their percentage of the population e.g. African Americans make up 12% of the population, therefore would be given 12% of college places and occupations at each skill level.
Is Affirmative Action effective or not? The gap has begun to close between the incomes of the Blacks and the Whites with many blacks achieving middle class status with good jobs and salaries. Growing opposition to the Affirmative Action Programmes (AAP’s) Many white people feel they have lost jobs or promotions as companies have chosen black people over them simply to match the targets of AAP’s. Many businesses have seen contracts awarded to ethnic minority businesses. Some Black people also oppose the AAP’s, due to “tokenism”. They argue that Blacks should be seen to get jobs on merit, not because of a programme.
Affirmative Action in Education Example: Busing Busing was introduced in the 1970’s to try to achieve a racial balance in urban schools. It involved children being driven across cities in buses every day to create schools that were more evenly balanced between Black, Hispanic and White students. However this policy led to violence in schools. Many black children were faced with fourteen-hour days being bused to and from schools miles from their neighbourhoods.
Example: University Admissions • Some universities gave places to ‘minority’ students who had poorer qualifications than white applicants. • The argument was if you come from inner city schools you had less chance of getting the entry qualifications. So universities should make allowances. • The argument was • “once they were in university, the qualification they gained would lead to better paid employment and a narrowing of income differences”
However……Again, many believed that merit should be the key, not a persons ethnic background.So much so thatopponents of the AAP’s took the University of Michigan to court over its policy of minority admissions in 2003. However the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the right of universities to consider race in admission procedures in order to achieve a diverse student body.