“You do not wipe away the scars of centuries by saying: ‘now, you are free to go where you want, do as you desire, and choose the leaders you please.’ You do not take a man who for years has been hobbled by chains, liberate him, bring him to the starting line of a race, saying, ‘you are free to compete with all the others,’ and still justly believe you have been completely fair . . . This is the next and more profound stage of the battle for civil rights. We seek not just freedom but opportunity—not just legal equity but human ability—not just equality as a right and a theory, but equality as a fact and as a result.” – President Lyndon B. Johnson, speaking to the graduating class at Harvard University, 04 June 1965
Affirmative Action: an action or policy favoring those who tend to suffer from discrimination, especially in relation to employment or education.
A brief (I promise) bit of history:
On March 6, 1961 President John F. Kennedy issued Executive Order 10925, which included a provision that government contractors “take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin.” The intent of this executive order was to affirm the government’s commitment to equal opportunity for all qualified persons, and to take positive action to strengthen efforts to realize true equal opportunity for all. This executive order was superseded by Executive Order 11246 in 1965.
On September 24, 1965 President Lyndon B. Johnson issued Executive Order 11246, prohibiting employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, and national origin by those organizations receiving federal contracts and subcontracts. In 1967, President Johnson amended the order to include sex on the list of attributes. Executive Order 11246 also requires federal contractors to take affirmative action to promote the full realization of equal opportunity for women and minorities.
African-Americans, at the time of Order #11246, had been legally freed from slavery for a short 100 years, but they had still not been free in so many ways. Segregation and Jim Crow laws kept them slaves to the white man for nearly another century, at least in some parts of the country. And now, Presidents Kennedy and Johnson were doing something about it. Many will say the government should not regulate such things, and I would agree, with a caveat: the government should not need to regulate such things. But when we are unwilling to treat all people equally, when we discriminate on the basis of skin colour (or religion, gender, gender identification, ethnicity or cultural values), then yes, it is right and just for the government to legislate equal opportunity for all. And thus we have what came to be known as Affirmative Action.
Which brings us to August 2017, when the Justice Department is planning to take funds that are intended to investigate cases of ‘race-based discrimination’ and redirect those funds to investigate and sue colleges that have followed the law of Affirmative Action in admissions determinations. The project was quickly understood to be targeting affirmative action policies that many on the right see as “discriminating” against white applicants — in particular, ones that might give black and Latino students an edge.
If discrimination against whites actually existed on any significant scale, one might make that argument, but the reality is that wealth, not race, is most often the factor that influences admissions decisions. Discrimination, overall, remains in this, the 21st century, against blacks, Jews, Muslims, gays, and women.
If we, as a society, do not wish to live under laws that give preferential treatment to one group or another, then the solution is simple: treat everyone … EVERYONE … as equals. STOP condoning the killing of blacks by police officers for no reason other than they were black. STOP perpetuating the myth that blacks are more likely to be criminals. And STOP believing that people whose skin is darker than yours, are somehow inferior.
Most laws need to be revisited, reassessed and tweeked from time to time, and Affirmative Action is no exception. Certainly there have been abuses of the law. No doubt there are improvements that can be made, but I certainly do NOT trust the Justice Department under Jeff Sessions to do so. The bottom line is that if we do not wish laws that enforce equality in hiring, in college admissions, in houring preference, then We The People need to get off our high horses and realize that people are people, no matter the colour of their skin, what church – if any – they attend, what country they or their ancestors come from, or whatever other characteristics they may own. Until we do that, the government must uphold the laws that enforce equality. Don’t like the laws? Then police thyself, friends.
We have seen a recent rise in bigotry of all forms, and white supremacy seems to be gaining a toehold when crimes against blacks, even by police officers, go unpunished. We have seen states attempt to pass laws limiting opportunities for LGBT people. The president of the nation has thrown his lot in with white supremacists. As long as this type of organized and state-sanctioned discrimination exists, we will need laws to protect those being discriminated against. It’s that simple.