The Full Wiki

More info on Affirmative action in the United States

Affirmative action in the United States: Map


Wikipedia article:

Map showing all locations mentioned on Wikipedia article:

In the United States, affirmative action refers to policies that take gender, race, or ethnicity into account in an attempt to promote equal opportunity and increase ethnic diversity in workplaces and schools. The focus of such policies ranges from employment and public contracting goals, to educational outreach and health programs. The impetus towards affirmative action is twofold: to maximize diversity and its presumed benefits in all levels of society, and to redress perceived disadvantages due to overt, institutional, or involuntary discrimination.

In many cases, affirmative action in the United States is meant to encourage public institutions, such as universities, hospitals, and police forces, to be more representative of the populations they serve.

History of term

Affirmative action in the US 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's Executive Order 10925 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 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, 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

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 rights from state actors.

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."

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

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.

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.

This order claims to build upon the Office of Minority Business Enterprise (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.

The Supreme Courtmarker held that the UC Davismarker 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.

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.

(first successful legal challenge to racial preferences in student admissions since Regents of the University of California v. Bakke).


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

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."[342169] 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.


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) :

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.


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."
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 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."

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), 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.


In November of 2008, Nebraska voters passed an anti-affirmative action measure titled Initiative 424 to amend the state Constitution to ban race and gender preferences in public hiring, contracting, and college admissions .


Ricci v. DeStefano was heard by the United States Supreme Courtmarker in 2009. The case concerns white and Hispanic firefighters in New Haven, Connecticutmarker, 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.

Positions against affirmative action

Clarence Thomas, the only current black United States Supreme Court Justice, opposes affirmative action because he believes it is detrimental to Black Americans.Onkar Ghate believes that, by judging applicants by race instead of merit, affirmative action is not in the tradition of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech.


Affirmative action has been the subject of numerous court cases, where it is often contested on constitutional grounds. 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. Some other states specifically prohibit affirmative action, with laws intended to decrease discrimination, such as California (Proposition 209), Washington (Initiative 200), Michigan (Michigan Civil Rights Initiative), and Nebraska (Nebraska Civil Rights Initiative ).

Some opponents of affirmative action contend that affirmative action programs are discriminatory and that they, in many cases, result in the promotion of under-qualified individuals over higher qualified individuals on the basis of race, ethnicity, or gender. They also argue that preferential treatment should be based upon current social and economical standing, not that of one's ancestors. Some opponents say affirmative action devalues the accomplishments of people who are chosen because of the social group to which they belong rather than their qualifications.

Opponents of affirmative action include Ward Connerly of the American Civil Rights Institute, who has promoted and won a series of ballot initiatives in the states of California (California Proposition 209 ), Washington (1998 - I-200), and Michigan (the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative - MCRI, or Proposal 2, 2006). California's initiative was co-authored by academics Tom Wood and Glynn Custred in the mid-1990s and was taken up by Connerly after he was appointed in 1994 by Governor Pete Wilson to the University of California Board of Regents. Each of the ballot initiatives have won, and Connerly plans what he calls a "Super-Tuesday" of five additional states in 2008.

Professor Carl Cohen of the University of Michigan, who was a supporter of Michigan's Proposal 2, has argued that the term "affirmative action" should be defined differently than "race preference," and that while socioeconomically based or anti-discrimination types of affirmative action are permissible, those that give preference to individuals solely based on their race or gender should not be permitted. Cohen also helped find evidence in 1996 through the Freedom of Information Act that lead to the cases filed by Jennifer Gratz and Barbara Grutter against the University of Michigan for its undergraduate and law admissions policy - cases which were decided by the U.S.marker Supreme Courtmarker on June 23, 2003.

Conservative economist Thomas Sowell identified what he says are negative results of affirmative action in his book, Affirmative Action Around the World: An Empirical Study . 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.

Class inequality

The controversy surrounding affirmative action’s effectiveness is based on the idea of class inequality. Opponents of racial affirmative action argue that the program actually benefits middle- and upper-class people of color 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 Universitymarker 10.0% 16.7% + 67.0%
MITmarker 15.9% 31.6% + 98.7%
Brownmarker 16.6% 26.3% + 58.4%
Pennmarker 21.2% 30.1% + 42.0%
Georgetownmarker 22.0% 30.7% + 39.5%

In 1976, a group of Italian-American professors at City University of New York 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 points (on the old 1600-point scale):
  • Blacks: +230
  • Hispanics: +185
  • Asians: –50
  • Recruited athletes: +200
  • Legacies (children of alumni): +160


Some opponents of affirmative action, like Ward Connerly, call it 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' "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.

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. 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.

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 groups at the expense of the disenfranchised within majority groups (such as lower-class whites). In the British 2001 Summer of Violence Riots in Oldhammarker, Bradfordmarker, Leedsmarker and Burnleymarker, 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. 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 research has indicated that as many as 15 percent of freshmen enrolled at some of America's most selective colleges are wealthy white teens who failed to meet their institutions' minimum admissions standards, furthermore these wealthy white teens outnumber students who benefit from affirmative action. 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.

How the media portrays affirmative action and affirmative action cases plays a role in how the public responds to affirmative action. There are claims that the practice is racist or sexist, or both, depending on how one defines those concepts (for instance, the offering of extra college scholarships to black students and Hispanic students - regardless of race, thus including White Hispanics - as opposed to European American or Asian American students appears overtly racist). Others believe that programs may be motivated by political considerations.

Some states aim to implement ballot measures Fall of 2008 that would eliminate affirmative action. Many of these anti-affirmative action campaigns are spearheaded by the founder of the American Civil Rights Institute, Ward Connerly.

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), 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 scholarships 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.

Admissions officers claim to select not based on academic record alone, but also on commitment, enthusiasm, 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.

UCLAmarker 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 schools. 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 which prohibited the use of racial preferences by public universities Californiamarker 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 banning any use of race in school admissions, the State of Texasmarker 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. Floridamarker 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 is also only helpful because schools are still highly racially segregated. And taking the top 10% of each class still does the same thing that traditional affirmative action programs do - admit students to college that would not be admitted under entirely merit-based policies. 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, a Chinese undergraduate at Yale Universitymarker, filed a civil rights complaint with the Office for Civil Rights against Princeton Universitymarker, 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



External links

  • A law lecture in mp3 format ( part 1 and part 2) on affirmative action and U.S. constitutional law

Embed code:

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address