Racial and Ethnic Politics

Affirmative Action, Civil Rights

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Civil Rights Movement

CIVIL RIGHTS

Plessy vs Ferguson (1896)-ruled that racial segregation was acceptable provided African Americans had 'equal' facilities. DECISION UPHELD RACIAL SEGREGATION.

Impetus for change came in 1950s with Brown vs Topeka Board of Education (1954)-ruled that separate facilities were inherently unequal. Separate but equal did not work. DECLARED SEGREGATION UNCONSTITUTIONAL.

Change did not come for a further 10 years however with the Civil Rights Act (1964) pushed through by President Lydon Johnson- ended unequal application of voter registration requirements, racial segregation in schools and at the workplace.

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Affirmative Action

President John F. Kennedy created the Equal Employment Opportunity Council (EEOC) which required that prjects financed with federal funds 'take affirmative action' to ensure that hiring and employment practices would be free from racial bias.

Lyndon Johnson said that 'this is the next stage of the battle for civil rights.' 

In Bakke vs Regents of University of California (1978) it was suggested that Affirmative Action should be measured by how fast it manages to move a society to a point when race no longer matters.

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Arguments FOR Affirmative Action

  • Led to greater levels of diversity which would not have been achieved had segregation and unequal opportunity remained- e.g. number of African Americans doing 'white-collar jobs' rose from 15% in 1960 to 70% in 2002.
  • Justified as it rights previous wrongs- The first few centuries of US existence saw blacks enslaved by whites. Minorities gave decades of unpaid labour and had land taken from them. Affitmative Action actsas form of compensation.
  • Effective in delivering promise of equal opportunity- e.g. between 1960 and 1995, % of blcks that graduated from university rose from 5% to 15%. Without Affrimative Action, this may not have achieved.
  • Draws people into areas of work they may never have considered- e.g. men into nursing, women into technology fields etc. The more stereotypes are changed/stamped out, the less Affirmative Action will be required in the future.
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Arguments AGAINST Afirmative Action

  • Reverse discrimination- White people who work hard and are highly qualified may be overlooked. e.g. a white person who lives in poverty but is as qualification equal to those of a black person may be lose their place because there is a 'quota' of African Americans to be hired.
  • Students may be ill equipped to deal with demands of education- Prestigious schools such as Yale require a minimum GPA for 4.0 for a reason. This may be dropped to enable African Americans. Perhaps original requirements should be adhered to.
  • Undermines achievements of African Americans who have got where they are through hard work- e.g. Condoleezza Rice. Perhaps Affirmative Action is no longer necessary given how much society has changed.
  • Highlights race- In reality skin colour should be ignored completely, as hair colour or eye colour. Colour blind society cannot be created if Affirmative Action remains to highlight raical differences.
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