So What is Affirmative Action?

Affirmative action was created as an effort to improve employment and educational opportunities for members of minority groups, and it was an outcome of the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement. President Kennedy was the first to use the term in an Executive Order that directed 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”. In 1965, however, only five percent of undergraduate students were African American. As a result, President Lyndon Johnson signed an Executive Order in 1965 that required government contractors to use affirmative action policies in their hiring to increase the number of minority employees. Over the years, colleges and universities have adopted affirmative action in their admissions process.

Recently, a debate has begun regarding how fair affirmative action really is. Many news outlets  have even released that President Trump’s Justice Department has decided to begin an investigation to target and sue universities that they believe have affirmative action policies that discriminate against White people in their admissions. A strong argument that many supporters of affirmative action policies have stated is that these policies are necessary in order to compensate for the centuries of racial oppression. Supporters believe that affirmative action compensates for economic disparities. Many also say that affirmative action policies have resulted in dramatically increasing the number of minority applications to colleges or universities.

Critics, like President Trump, believe that the affirmative action policies are outdated, and that they actually result in reverse discrimination in the admissions process. Critics also state that the policies do not help economically disadvantaged, but rather that they favor benefit middle and upper-class minorities. They hold a strong belief that affirmative action only continues to support racial prejudice.  The idea of White victimhood is increasingly central to the debate of affirmative action. How is the myth of reverse racism in admission decisions an example of white fragility?

4 thoughts on “So What is Affirmative Action?”

  1. Human is a kind of animal that afraid to change anything they are familiar with. When white people get used to their privilege, they will regard this status quo as normality. That causes they are too senitive to any policy which may shake their privilege,even the policy about trying to create fair and equality.

  2. The myth of reverse racism in terms of affirmative action showcases white fragility because those that are white, claiming reverse racism, are interpreting something that is supposed to benefit POC as an attack on those that are white. It reminds me of how, even though Anita was critiquing the institution that she worked with, her white coworker, Susan, decided to get upset, take the critiques personal, and cry (Accapadi, 2007). In both of these examples, there is a larger picture being addressed, yet individual white people decide that it is an attack on them.

  3. This post is really interesting because I have had conversations where white people would bring up the fact that people of color are getting jobs at their company over the white people. These comments are very disturbing and I have a hard time responding to people who say this. I also don’t know that much about affirmative actions to be able to give a good enough comment in return. When white people make these types of statements they are examples of white victimhood that you have mentioned in this post.

  4. This is a really interesting post, Carli. Reading it made me realize that I had little to no understanding of the origins of affirmative action, namely that it was developed in an effort to eliminate discriminatory hiring practices. I thought that it was simply a way to compensate for past injustices faced by people of color in the workforce. In regards to admission decisions, it is definitely an example of white fragility in that critics don’t seem to understand that it is simply trying to put everyone on the same playing field. They appear to not be acknowledging their privilege that they already have. I am curious-and rather anxious-to see how affirmative action practices will play out over the next few years…

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