Affirmative Action Policy

What is affirmative action?

Affirmative action is a set of public policies that aims to make up for past discrimination while also preventing future discrimination. More specifically, affirmative action is meant to include groups that have been historically excluded from certain opportunities, fields, or institutions.

Timeline of Affirmative Action Policy

Origins of Affirmative Action

· 1865, 1868, 1870 - The Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments repectively abolished slavery, granted equal protection to all citizens under the law, and prohibited discrimination in the election process.
· 1886 - The Civil Rights Act of 1886 granted to all citizens "the same right to make and enforce is enjoyed by white citizens..."
· 1896 - The ruling of Plessy v. Ferguson and the "separate, but equal" doctrine, which allowed for segregation given equal accomodations, did not result in equality for African Americans. Justified by the Plessy v. Ferguson decision, Jim Crow laws were passed throughout the South as the era of Civil War reconstruction came to an end.

Modern Affirmative Action Policy
· 1954 - Brown v. Board of Education overturned the Plessy v. Ferguson decision.
· 1961 - The term affirmative action was first used in President John F. Kennedy's Executive Order 10925, which forced all government contractors to "take 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."
· 1964 - The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination in public facilities, government, and employment, outlawed forced segregation, and created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This was an important part of ending the Jim Crow laws.
· 1965 - President Lyndon B. Johnson's Executive Order 11246 called for Equal Opportunity Employment, prohibiting "federal contractors and federally assisted construction contractors and subcontractors who do over $10,000 in Government business in one year from discriminating in employment decisions on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin."
· 1970 - The Labor Department issued Order No. 4, which developed flexible goals and timetables that could be used fix the "underutilization" of minorities (and later women) by government contractors.
· 1971 - Nixon's Executive Order 11625 created the Minority Business Enterprise contracting program.
· 1973 - Nixon issued "Memorandum-Permissible Goals and Timetables in State and Local Government Employment Practices," which differentiated acceptable goals and timetables from unacceptable quotas, which were too rigid to be appropriate.
· 1978 - The Supreme Court ruling in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke allowed for race to be a factor in the school's application process; however, the ruling didn't support the UC Medical School's policy of reserving 18 of every 100 seats for disadvantaged minority students, calling it reverse discrimination.
· 1996 - California’s Proposition 209 stopped all affirmative action programs in the state within the public sector, including education, employment, and contracting.
· 2000 - New affirmative action policies created by the U.S. Department of Labor included an Equal Opportunity Survey in which federal contractors were required to report information regarding the employment and benefits of minority workers and women.
· 2003 - The Supreme Court’s ruling in Grutter v. Bollinger allowed the University of Michigan’s Law school to legally use race as one of many factors in the admissions process. However, in Gratz v. Bollinger, the Court felt that the admissions process of the University of Michigan’s undergraduate program inflexible, unlike the “holistic” admissions process at the law school.


The majority of opposition comes from people who believe that affirmative action is essentially reverse discrimination. Reverse discrimination, however, is found in less than 2% of the cases reviewed by the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission. Others who criticize affirmative action argue that the policies lower the standards, decrease the motivation, and demean the achievements of people of minority status and women. On the other hand, those who support affirmative action often believe in the advantages of diversity and argue that people starting at a disadvantage deserve extra support, either to compensate for previous discrimination or to help those who may be in more need of help.

Advocates of affirmative action protest against the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative.
Advocates of affirmative action protest against the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative.
The results of a poll shown by race to see the difference of opinions among people of different races.

Present Impact

Affirmative action regulations now require many institutions and contractors to create nondiscrimination policies, develop affirmative action plans, and take affirmative action to protect employees from being discriminated against or being given preferential treatment because of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin. These institutions and contractors must comply with state, as well as federal, law. According to the Executive Orders and their subsequent court interpretations, anyone who benefits from affirmative action must have valid credentials to ensure legality of the situation. The Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, created by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, enforces laws regarding workplace discrimination and investigates reported complaints of discriminations in federal organizations.

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