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Affirmative action is a set of policies by the government meant to help and compensate for past misdeeds and present discrimination based on race, religion, sex, color and place of origin. These policies which were an extension of Civil Rights were designed mainly to help Africans Americans to become fully Americans. From the 1886 Civil Rights Act which made slavery illegal, guaranteed equal protection and gave blacks the rights to vote, the affirmative action is to ensure that the blacks are compensated against past misdeeds and they are not discriminated upon but enjoy life like the white Americans. This essay will look into some famous lawsuits in America concerning affirmative action and how it has created economic opportunity and security for all Americans (Sykes M. 2009).
Famous law suits
In America, affirmative action has evolved through several processes and a series of government proclamations and court decrees. Since 1896 when the Supreme Court upheld a separate but equal opportunity for all in Plessy v. Ferguson case, 1941 when the then President signed an executive order outlawing segregation to 1954 when the Supreme Court overturned the Plessy v. Ferguson case in Brown v. Education.
Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896). In 1892, the state of Louisiana enacted a law that required blacks to use separate railway cars from the whites. In the same year, Adolph Plessy who was of mixed race took a seat in the all whites car and refused the all blacks car. He was arrested. In determining the case, the judges upheld the state imposed racial segregation, that blacks and whites to use equal but separate facilities. They argued that the 14th amendment meant absolute equal opportunity for all races but segregation does not itself constitute unlawful discrimination. The case was argued in Ferguson's favor (Sykes M. 2009).
Another example is the case of Brown v. Education in 1954. In this case, black children were denied admission to public schools attended by the white children. This was due to laws that permitted segregation according to the races. The case was to determine whether segregation of public going children on the basis of race deprives the minority black children equal protection as provided by the 14th amendment. All the judges unanimously voted that this was a racial segregation and that it made black children feel inferior. Separate use of facilities although equal was rejected as inherently permissible. The judgment sounded the end for forms of racial segregation in state facilities (Sykes M. 2009).
Another case is that of a reverse discrimination, Bakke and reverse discrimination in 1978. Bakke's (a white) application to a medical school was rejected twice in a row although he was qualified like the minority blacks because the school had reserved places for the minorities. The Supreme Court ruled that admissions had unfairly discriminated against the white applicant although the court upheld the legality of affirmative action (Brunner B. 2007).
The policies of the affirmative action ensures that blacks and other minorities do enjoy the same opportunities like those enjoyed by the whites for promotions, salary increases, career advancement, school admissions and scholarships. Executive orders have been signed fro equal opportunity and nondiscrimination in government employments and sanctions and penalities have been put to punish those who float the rules (Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, OFCCP). For blacks, the door was opened to compete for jobs, promotions and education while for whites it was literally shut up. Some conservatives resented the idea that the blacks were enjoying preferential treatment and were playing the role of professional victim. Because of these laws, minorities were threatening the jobs of the whites. Liberals take the affirmative action as unjust, they always point the case of Wygant in1986 where white senior employees were laid off while blacks retained their jobs, and conservatives were pressed to impose strict quota system in the paradise case of 1987 where the Alabama Department of Public Safety did not promote any blacks but did after 12years when the Court decided that they do it (Brunner B. 2007).
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In a landmark ruling on the buttresses of affirmative action in 2003, the Supreme Court upheld the right of affirmative action in higher education. This was after two cases were determined, in 2000 for Gratz v. Bollinger & 2001for Grutter v. Bollinger. The first case was ruled that race can be one of the factors that that are considered when selecting students and thus "a compelling interest in obtaining the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body." But in the second case it ruled that the formulaic approach of admission had to be modified from the point system to provide individualized consideration. In the two cases, it was ruled that although affirmative action is no longer a way of redressing past injustices, it has promoted a "compelling state interest" at all levels in society (Brunner B. 2007).
The concrete steps that have been taken by the government to and eliminate discrimination in education, employment and contracting and also try and address the past discrimination. Some famous cases like that of Brown v. Education in 1954 was a landmark ruling in that it signaled the end of racial segregation in public facilities, an opportunity for all despite the color of their skin. Affirmative action has been seen by some as a preferential treatment to these groups and has been opposed but they were reaffirmed by the Civil rights Act of 1991. Whites see this as shutting up their revenue but for blacks its opening the door for them for more opportunities as the whites. Some cases have been ruled for or against affirmative action as it has been seen that it is a complex and sensitive issue but the affirmative action has been seen as a way of leveling the playfield for minorities. Discrimination has not ended though but has significantly reduced thanks to the affirmative action which has enabled equal opportunities for all through the executive orders signed for the equal employment opportunity and non-discrimination in government employment.
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