Last updated on: 11/19/2009 7:51:00 AM PST
Does the US Need Affirmative Action?


General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) published a report on Dec. 15, 2004 titled "Affirmative Action Revisited: A Legal History and Prospectus":

"The origins of affirmative action law may be traced to the early 1960's... Judicial rulings from this period recognized an 'affirmative duty,' cast upon local school boards by the Equal Protection Clause, to desegregate formerly 'dual school' systems and to eliminate 'root and branch' the last 'vestiges' of state-enforced segregation...

Congress and the Executive Branch soon followed by adopting a panoply of laws and regulations authorizing, either directly or by judicial or administrative interpretation, 'race-conscious' strategies to promote minority opportunity in jobs, education, and governmental contracting. The basic statutory framework for affirmative action in employment and education derives from the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Public and private employers with 15 or more employees are subject to a comprehensive code of equal employment opportunity regulations under Title VII of the 1964 Act...

Official approval of 'affirmative action' remedies was further codified by federal regulations construing the 1964 Act's Title VI, which prohibits racial or ethnic discrimination in all federally assisted 'programs' and activities, including public or private educational institutions. The Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Education interpreted Title VI to require schools and colleges to take affirmative action to overcome the effects of past discrimination and to encourage 'voluntary affirmative action to attain a diverse student body.'"

Dec. 15, 2004 - Congressional Research Service 
"Affirmative Action Revisited: A Legal History and Prospectus" (315KB)  



PRO (yes)

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) stated the following in its Mar. 21, 2008 publication "Striving for Equal Opportunity: Why the ACLU Supports Affirmative Action," available at www.aclu.org:

"We have come a long way since the Civil Rights Movement, and many Americans feel that the time for affirmative action is over. Opportunities for women and people of color have expanded, and many believe that the unequal conditions that once justified affirmative action no longer exist. Sadly, this is just not true. Millions of Americans continue to experience race and gender barriers in education, contracting and employment. Existing laws help to prevent outright discrimination on the basis of race and gender, but they alone are not enough to create equal opportunities for every American.

Affirmative action programs – including targeted outreach and recruitment efforts, the use of non-traditional criteria for hiring and admissions, after-school and mentorship programs, and training and apprenticeship opportunities – are tailored to fit specific instances where race and gender must be taken into account in order to provide fair and equal access to minorities and women. These programs recognize and strive to correct the barriers that continue to block the paths of many individual Americans, including women, Native Americans, Arab Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, and African Americans. Affirmative action helps ensure equal access to opportunities and brings our nation closer to the ideal of giving everyone a fair chance. We support affirmative action and other race- and gender-conscious policies as vital tools in the struggle to provide all Americans with equal opportunity, to promote diversity in academic and professional settings, and to give each and every one of us a fair chance to compete."

Mar. 21, 2008 - American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) 



Reginald T. Shuford, JD, Senior Staff Attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation Racial Justice Program, stated the following in his May 21, 2009 article "Why Affirmative Action Remains Essential in the Age of Obama," published in the Campbell Law Review:

"[W]hether in the arenas of housing, employment, education, wealth, health care, or the justice system, African- Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans continue to lag way behind others. By way of example, according to one study of over 1300 employers in Boston and Chicago, job applicants with 'white-sounding' names are twice as likely to be called back for interviews as equally qualified applicants with 'black-sounding' names. More than one million students will not graduate from high school this year, and a disproportionate number of them will be African-American, Latino, or Native American. African-American women, moreover, earn only sixty-three cents per hour and Hispanic women only fiftytwo cents per hour for every dollar a white man earns for similar employment. Given its well-documented effectiveness, affirmative action is an appropriate tool for combating these and other ongoing disparities...

While it is abundantly clear that America has made laudable progress towards racial equality— as reflected, in part, by the election of Barack Obama as the nation's forty-fourth president... America's promise of a fully inclusive society has not materialized. In light of all the relevant evidence, America has not fulfilled Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream of a truly equal society. While Obama's election qualifies as a down payment on equality, much more remains to be done. Affirmative action— which is just one of many effective tools for expanding opportunity— remains essential for the full inclusion of all of those who historically have been and continue to be structurally relegated to the margins of society, and who are increasingly left further behind in the race to achieve the American Dream."

May 21, 2009 - Reginald T. Shuford, JD 



Barack Obama, JD, 44th President of the United States, provided the following statement on affirmative action to the NAACP "2008 Voter Action Center," (accessed Nov. 16, 2009):

"I support affirmative action. When there is strong evidence of prolonged and systemic discrimination by organizations, affirmative action may be the only meaningful remedy available. Given the dearth of black and Latino Ph.D. candidates in mathematics and the sciences, for example, a scholarship program for minorities interested in getting advanced degrees in these fields won't keep white students out of such programs, but can broaden the pool of talent that we need to prosper in the new economy. We shouldn't ignore that race continues to matter: To suggest that our racial attitudes play no part in the socio-economic disparities that we often observe turns a blind eye to both our history and our experience - and relieves us of the responsibility to make things right."

Nov. 16, 2009 - Barack Obama, JD 



Scott Plous, PhD, Professor of Psychology at Wesleyan University, wrote in his article "Ten Myths About Affirmative Action," posted on his website (accessed Aug. 17, 2005):

"Several studies have documented important gains in racial and gender equality as a direct result of affirmative action...

Despite the progress that has been made, the playing field is far from level. Women continue to earn 76 cents for every male dollar... Black people continue to have twice the unemployment rate of White people, twice the rate of infant mortality, and just over half the proportion of people who attend four years or more of college... In fact, without affirmative action the percentage of Black students at many selective schools would drop to only 2% of the student body...

Some writers have criticized affirmative action as a superficial solution that does not address deeper societal problems by redistributing wealth and developing true educational equality. Yet affirmative action was never proposed as a cure-all solution to inequality. Rather, it was intended only to redress discrimination in hiring and academic admissions. In assessing the value of affirmative action, the central question is merely this: In the absence of sweeping societal reforms -- unlikely to take place any time soon -- does affirmative action help counteract the continuing injustice caused by discrimination? The research record suggests, unequivocally, that it does."

Aug. 17, 2005 - Scott Plous, PhD 



The National Organization for Women (NOW), a national feminist organization, stated the following in its article "Talking About Affirmative Action," available at www.now.org (accessed Nov. 19, 2009):

"Affirmative Action levels the playing field so people of color and all women have the chance to compete in education and in business. White men hold 95% to 97% of the high-level corporate jobs. And that's with affirmative action programs in place. Imagine how low figures would be without affirmative action...

Despite the enormous gains made by the civil rights and women's rights movements, women and people of color still face unfair obstacles in business and education. An astonishing 70% of schools are not in compliance with Title IX, the federal equal education opportunity law...

Affirmative Action programs merely acknowledge that hundreds of years of discrimination cannot be erased in a few decades and still hold women and people of color back. Affirmative Action is the bridge between changing the laws and changing the culture.

The radical right wing would have us believe that women and people of color earn less because we don't work as hard or we're not as smart. That simply isn't the case. Laws have changed, but discrimination persists. Affirmative Action only opens doors, women and people of color have to walk through those doors by themselves."

Nov. 19, 2009 - National Organization for Women (NOW) 



CON (no)

John A. Farrell, Contributing Editor at US News and World Report, stated the following in his June 10, 2009 article "Obama's Election Shows That Affirmative Action's Day Has Passed," published in US News and World Report:

"In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Barbara Grutter, a [white] college grad who sued the University of Michigan law school because it employed racial preferences in its admissions process to achieve academic diversity.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor joined the court's four liberal justices to keep affirmative action alive that day, in a 5-to-4 decision. But the moment was fast approaching, O'Connor said, when the promotion of people of color, solely because of their race, would not be justified.

No one knew precisely when the tipping point would be reached, O'Connor wrote, but 'the court expects that 25 years from now the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary.' Five years later, Barack Obama was elected president of the United States.

Obama's election was the sign we've been waiting for. It is time we do away with preferences and recognize people, as Martin Luther King urged us, by the content of their character. Today, a black man sits in the Oval Office, having narrowly defeated a woman for the Democratic nomination whom, to considerable acclaim, he then appointed secretary of state."

June 10, 2009 - John A. Farrell 



Clint Bolick, JD, Director of the Goldwater Institute, stated the following in his June 29, 2009 article "The Supreme Court and New Haven's Firefighters," published in Forbes:

"When blacks and Hispanics flunk examinations, the cause is less likely to be discrimination than the appalling educational conditions to which most economically disadvantaged black and Hispanic children are consigned. 'Affirmative action' programs that leap-frog less-qualified minorities over more-qualified non-minorities sweep those systemic problems under the carpet. As such, race-based affirmative action programs perpetuate fraud upon the very groups they are designed to help."

June 29, 2009 - Clint Bolick, JD 



Ward Connerly, former University of California Regent, in his Mar. 27. 2000 interview with Salon.com titled "A 'Poison' Divides Us," stated:

"In my view, using the powers of government to make sure that people are not discriminated against, I think that was the original intent of affirmative action... But when it gets to the point where you are making a selection for someone to be admitted to the university or someone to be hired for a job, and to have one standard for someone who is black and another standard for someone who is white... I think that's a preference... I think that when you apply different standards to people, that's discriminatory, no matter what you want to call it...

But as long as you have this paradigm where people seem to be using race and gender as a means of making hiring decisions, as long as they keep uttering this mindless blather about 'we've got to achieve diversity,' it kind of taints the whole process. And the decisions that they're making would be no different, in my view, if they just discarded the whole system...

If we really wanted to help black people -- let's just take black people for an example -- we would not be putting so much emphasis on getting them into Berkeley as we would giving them the equivalent money to go out and buy their own cabs, or get the tools to become an electrician or a plumber, or the money to take a vocational course... But we don't even look at that. If I proposed that, they'd think I was a kook, because we're so hung up on the notion that you either go to college or life's a failure. And if you don't get into Berkeley and you're black, there must be some institutional racism there."

Mar. 27, 2000 - Ward Connerly 



Jeff Jacoby, JD, Columnist at the Boston Globe, wrote in his Mar. 19, 2004 article titled "On Flattering Minorities" for Townhall.com:

"Once upon time it was racists who insisted that 'nonwhite' was a synonym for 'intellectually deficient.' Today that attitude is promoted most emphatically by the defenders of affirmative action, a system rooted in the belief that blacks and certain other minorities can't hope to win if they have to compete on a level playing field. And so racial preferences are used to tilt the field in their favor: lower admissions standards at colleges and graduate schools, minority set-asides for government contracts, unofficial racial quotas to benefit those applying for jobs.

Racial preferences are clearly a boon for some minorities -- particularly those from upper-middle-class families who know how to leverage them to get into a good school or land a good job or get in on a good investment. But they do no favors for minority groups as a whole. Preferences stigmatize them as less able than other Americans to stand on their own two feet. Many end up resenting those who believe they need such a crutch -- as well as resenting those who would take the crutch away...

Fortunately, there was no affirmative action at the turn of the 20th century to give members of 'beaten races' a leg up in the competition for education and jobs. They had to rise on their own merits if they were to overcome the stigma of inferiority -- and rise and overcome they did. Black and Hispanic Americans would rise and overcome as well if only they could be liberated from the condescending mind-set that thinks it's a compliment to tell a group of college seniors that they show great promise -- for minorities."

Mar. 19, 2004 - Jeff Jacoby, JD 



Dana White, International Communications Associate at the Heritage Foundation, wrote in her June 27, 2003 article titled "Who Says I'm Inferior?":

"Thirty years ago, affirmative action may have been a necessary step to open the doors of American universities and companies. It helped to correct a history of racial discrimination propagated by whites, but it's a new day in America...

Too many blacks do remain oppressed, but not by white Americans. Rather, it is by blacks who relish a perverse sub-culture of low standards and perpetual victimization. No longer do white racists tell black children books are for white people. Today, black people do this. Every day, black children suffer ridicule and disgrace for doing their homework, behaving in class, striving for excellence -- in short, 'acting white.'...

Affirmative action helps the children and the grandchildren of Jesse Jackson, John Conyers and Al Sharpton who have the money for the SAT prep courses, private schools and the clout to call the deans of admission should something go awry... It is time for liberal black leaders to stop hiding behind racism and admit that our priorities as a community have become our greatest hurdle to achieving long-term success."

June 27, 2003 - Dana White