June 19, 2024

Affirmative Action: What You Need to Know

PrintRecently, marginalized groups in the U.S. and the rights they should be able to obtain effortlessly has been the subject of recurring debate in the media. In particular, race and gender tend to be the two demographics heavily focused on in this debate. When examining racial inequality in America, African-Americans, Latinos, and mixed-race entities seem to be the most aggrieved as they seem to possess unequal rights when compared to races that have more opportunities (i.e., people of Caucasian race). When examining gender inequality, women have been the minorities due to the sexism and unfair treatment present in the average American society today. Affirmative action was originally intended to address these inequalities and abolish the socio-economic walls that exist between different races and sexes by giving marginalized groups higher acceptance rates into universities and higher positions in education and employment.

The term “affirmative action” was first coined by President Kennedy in Executive Order 10925 (1961) with the goal of ensuring that every employee selected by employers were chosen based off of their merit, not his or her race, sex, or creed. Since 1961, affirmative action has evolved to become a form of compensation for those who are not favored by the class system. These individuals previously had to work harder than those favored by the system in order to obtain the jobs they wanted. 

Fisher v. University of Texas
Fisher v. University of Texas

A fairly recent event that affects affirmative action programs is Fisher v. University of Texas. During this case, the following question was considered: “Is it still fair to use race as a qualifying factor when concerning admission to colleges?” Abigail Fisher, a student, contested the legality of affirmative action and blamed it for her denial from the University of Texas. On June 23rd, the Supreme Court’s decision was released: a 4-3 split with the pro-affirmative action ruling coming out on top. The court’s logic for its decision can be traced back to the 2003 case of Grutter v. Bollinger in which the justices ruled that it is acceptable to use race as a factor for acceptance into college because the college can “…[obtain] the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body…” As a result of the Fisher case, guidelines for affirmative action became slightly stricter. One guideline states that a school should have an objective range of percentages of minorities in its student body and should keep implementing its practice of affirmative action until the quota is met.

When examined, it is easy to create generalizations as to which justices support each side of the affirmative action topic. Liberals, concerned more with humanitarian rights, are generally more willing to support these programs. On the other hand, modern-day conservatives commonly believe that merit, not race, should be the factor that is considered when employing people in the workforce and accepting students into universities. As the current-day executive, judicial, and legislative branches are dominated by conservatives, Americans wonder if these programs will be removed. The president, Donald Trump, believes affirmative action is a policy that should be taken away. A ruling or creation of a law similar to the ruling of the Supreme Court in the 2003 case of Grutter v. Bollinger has become a possibility. The Supreme Court took a stance in the case of Hopwood v. Texas in 1992: the court ruled that it was unfair to judge a college applicant on the characteristic of race. The court took a complete 180-degree turn in 2003 when it ruled that the practice of affirmative action is constitutional. Soon, another 180-degree turn back to 1992 may take place.

Currently, affirmative action programs are impacting the lives of minorities on a daily basis. Only time can tell the fate of affirmative action programs in America.118133_orig