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The History of Affirmative Action

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The History of Affirmative Action

Abstract

This paper is an informative description of the creation and history of affirmative action in the United States. This explores the history of discrimination in the workplace and society in this country and how it the behavior resulted in the creation of affirmative action. This paper researches the Civil Rights Movement and discusses how it affected discrimination in the workplace and the steps the government took to attempt to correct this problem. This will examine several acts of legislation that were created to improve civil rights and the rights of minorities specifically. The organizations that have been created in result of these pieces of legislation will also be discussed such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. 

The History of Affirmative Action

Introduction

Affirmative action is a civil rights policy created and implemented in the 1960’s by the U.S. government to help members of society that were viewed as suffering from discrimination in society. This targeted ethnic minorities, women, and other ethnic groups that were underrepresented throughout history and not given equal rights in modern civilization. The U.S. government formed this policy to force U.S. organizations to include ethnic minorities and women in admissions of educational entities, employment, and government sectors. This policy was meant to ensure that minorities and women were being given the same opportunity for employment, academics, and financial stability that were awarded to Caucasians at the time. Reasons for Creation

White people had received preferential treatment since the United States was formed and affirmative action was a method of correcting some of the past wrongs and attempting to give minorities the equal treatment they deserve in various aspects of their lives. Martin Luther King Jr. responded to being asked about an employment program that would help 20,000,000 black people, "A society that has done something special against the Negro for hundreds of years must now do something special for the Negro"(Deberry, 2014). This is a good representation of where the motivation for the creation of this act came from. This paper will examine the history, motivation, and evolution of affirmative action in the United States.

History and Background

Affirmative action programs are a legal attempt to remedy racial suppression of ethnic minorities and women from the founding of this country through the 1960’s. There were a few affirmative action efforts prior to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s but they were not truly implemented until it was realized that anti-discrimination laws alone were not enough to disrupt the historic pattern of discrimination in society.

Legal and Social Exclusion

The United States has a long history of prejudice and discrimination against minorities in civilization. In the 1930’s almost a half of a million Mexicans were deported even though many were U.S. citizens. They were deported for taking jobs from Americans during the depression. In 1942 the Bracero Program was created that allowed Mexican nationals to work agricultural jobs in the U.S. temporarily again but only at wages that were less than that of domestic workers. Part of the reason this was created was because at the same time the U.S. had formed relocation camps for Japanese Americans. These camps were circled in barb wire fence and guards were instructed to shoot anyone attempting to leave. This was done because the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor at the end of 1941 and the government felt that people of Japanese heritage could not be trusted even though many were U.S. citizens. The most obvious and egregious act of civil rights violations by the U.S. is the fact that until 1865 it was legal in parts of the country to own another human being. Slaves were black people that were bought and sold by farmers and plantation owners as property. The slaves had absolutely no rights and were breaking the law if they attempted to leave their owners.

Discrimination was an accepted part of culture in employment and social settings throughout the biggest part of history. This affected all minorities to some degree but African-Americans were the most noticeable. Segregation was a legally and socially accepted use of discrimination until the late 1960’s. Separate schools were constructed for black children so that they were not awarded the same opportunities as white children. Employment opportunities were scarce for minorities because employers had the right to not hire an applicant based of their sex or race. Jim Crow laws were created in the South that made it illegal for African-Americans to have the same civil rights as white citizens. “These laws made it illegal for African-Americans to use the same public facilities as whites, restricted their travel, impeded their ability to vote, forbade interracial marriage, and generally relegated them to a legally inferior position” (Civil Rights, 2005). Many of these discriminatory acts effected women in employment as well. Many jobs were regarded as a man’s job and women were not considered for many positions because of the ideology developed by employers. A female police officer was rare until the 1970’s because of this idea that they were not capable of performing the job as a woman. The Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s was the beginning of legal change and recognition of rights for minorities and women in education, employment, and society as a whole.

Civil Rights Movement

The Civil Rights Movement was a mass widespread movement in hopes to obtain equal access and opportunities of basic civil rights for African-Americans that U.S. citizenship warranted. The movement began in the 1800’s but peaked and affected the entire country in the 1960’s. Many civil rights activists used nonviolent forms of protest and civil defiance to encourage this change. This movement led to legislation in favor of minorities such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This came after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the separate but equal doctrine in 1954 in result of the landmark case Brown vs Board of Education.

Legislation

Brown vs Board of Education of Topeka resulted in the courts establishing that separate schools for white and black citizens were unconstitutional. Brown stated that racial separation in education was creating substandard accommodations for the black students

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