Affirmative Action: Who Benefits?

by teejay 9 Replies latest jw friends

  • teejay

    Few social policy issues have served as a better gauge of racial and ethnic divisions among the American electorate than that of affirmative action. Polls indicate that many Americans perceive affirmative action policies to be synonymous with quotas, set-asides, and preferential treatment that benefit minorities and women at the expense of white males. What opinion polls also reveal, however, is that, by and large,voters do not know very much about what affirmative action comprises, the scope of federal affirmative action policies, and who benefits (or is hurt) by these policies. As a result, public opinion is shaped to a greater extent by social attitudes and beliefs about recipients (minorities and women) rather than by solid information about affirmative action policies themselves.

    The American Psychological Association, the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, and the Society for the Psychological Study of Ethnic Minority Issues convened a briefing for members of Congress and their staffs to summarize relevant social science research on affirmative action. Held on September 21, 1995, the briefing brought six distinguished psychologists to the nation's capital to advance a shared mission: promoting the use of the best scientific psychological research as a means of addressing the social policy issues surrounding affirmative action.

    Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Affirmative Action

    What is affirmative action?

    Affirmative action is a catchall phrase referring to laws, customs, and social policies intended to alleviate the types of discrimination that limit opportunities for a variety of demographic groups in various social institutions.

    More specifically, it refers to both voluntary and mandatory efforts undertaken by federal, state, and local governments; private employers; and schools to combat discrimination and to promote equal opportunity in education and employment for all.

    Opinion polls reveal that the general public is sharply divided on the meaning and value of affirmative action (Bruno, 1995). One reason for the heated controversy is related to confusion over how the term is defined and implemented.

    In a general sense, affirmative action occurs when an organization expends energy to make sure there is no discrimination in employment or education and, instead, equal opportunity exists. Two types of affirmative action policies are commonly in use (Crosby and Cordova, 1995).

      Classical. This type derives from White House Executive Order 11246 of 1965 (later amended), which mandates that employers monitor their utilization of individuals from target groups (e.g., women) to ascertain if it reflects the availability of talent in the community.

      New (additional). More recently, some affirmative action laws and regulations have involved the use of preferential treatment, privilege, and set asides to achieve workforce diversity. Some organizations use set-aside programs as an expedient way to address discrimination when better remedies are not available; from a legal standpoint, justifying set asides is much harder than justifying classical affirmative action.

    What are the differences between affirmative action and equal employment opportunity policies?

      Equal employment opportunity (EEO) is best described as a policy of simple nondiscrimination, in compliance with legislation prohibiting all forms of intentional discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, or national origin. It specifically outlaws discrimination in employment in all public and private sector organizations with 15 or more employees, as well as labor organizations and employment agencies.

      Affirmative action goes further by requiring employers to take steps to achieve a balanced representation of workers.

    Thus, affirmative action and EEO policies both strive to maintain justice. Classical affirmative action, however, involves effort. In contrast, equal employment opportunity policies are passive. The table opposite highlights some basic differences between the two concepts.

    Is affirmative action still needed?

    Research indicates that affirmative action is still needed for two related reasons:

      A series of laboratory studies have shown that almost all people have trouble detecting a pattern of discrimination unless they are faced with a flagrant example or have access to aggregated data documenting discrimination (Clayton and Crosby, 1992). This inability to make accurate judgments about discrimination from isolated incidents or comparisons is just as true for fair-minded and intelligent people as it is for others. Aggregated data are needed, therefore, if decision makers are to avoid or correct imbalances before they become flagrant.

      Data indicate that the biases against minorities and women that humans show in laboratory settings are reflected in real-world practices. According to the March 1995 report of the Federal Glass Ceiling Commission, for example, a large proportion of minorities and women are locked into low-wage, low-prestige, and dead-end jobs. Additional data suggest that these two groups have been disproportionately affected by current trends in workforce downsizing; many service-oriented industries, for example, disproportionately employ women and minorities and are likely to continue downsizing through the year 2002. It is likely that the minorities and women who work in these industries will be hardest hit (Murrell and Jones, 1995).

    Continued disparities in income and career mobility (Murrell and Jones, 1995)

      In 1994, women were earning 72% of men’s salaries, even after controlling for work experience, education, or merit.

      In 1992, black men with professional degrees earned 79% of the salaries of white men holding jobs at comparable levels. Black women with professional degrees earned 60% of the salaries of white men at comparable levels.

      Based on 1992 data, both white females and black males must work about 8 months to earn a salary equal to what white males earn in 6 months. Black females must work 10 months to earn comparable salaries.

      Fewer women and minorities than white males are promoted to senior levels in organizations.

    Although there have been recent gains in employment participation and income levels among women and black males, the current data suggest that gender and race segregation in employment, as well as discrepancies in earnings, continue to exist even when jobholders hold equivalent qualifications.

    Persistence of gender and race segregation in employment (Murrell and Jones, 1995)

      In 1992, women comprised 60% of service sector jobs and 80% of administrative support.

      In 1992, 90% of black female professionals held jobs in the government sector, suggesting there are limited opportunities in the private sector for this population.

      In 1992, 70% of black male professionals worked in government compared with 56% of white male professionals.

      Women and minorities are more likely to experience job interruptions due to downsizing and restructuring, which, in turn, have a negative impact on lifetime career mobility and earnings.

    Persistence of discrimination in hiring (Wilson, 1995)

      In 1990, an Urban Institute study comparing pairs of black and white job applicants with identical credentials found that 'unequal treatment of black job seekers was entrenched and widespread, contradicting claims that hiring practices today either favor Blacks or are effectively color blind.'

      A study in 1995 of university faculty hiring practices found that, in many instances, once a minority hiring goal was met, departments stopped seeking minority applicants. Many ceased recruiting minorities (e.g., by pulling their ads from minority publications) regardless of the number of vacancies that occurred from then on.

    What has been the impact of affirmative action on society?

    Proponents view affirmative action as one of the most effective ways to address the long-standing problems of racism and sexism in our country, thus serving as a vehicle for reaching the American goal of equality (Pratkanis and Turner, 1995). The following findings by Murrell and Jones (1995) serve as evidence of the perceived success of affirmative action:

      Affirmative action policies have resulted in increases in the representation of women and minorities across all levels of employment in the United States and within organizations that were once exclusively male.

      Affirmative action has led to higher employment participation rates, increased earnings, and gains in educational attainment for women and minorities.

    Does present-day racism justify maintaining affirmative action?

    Psychologists and other social scientists have documented the many forms of racism that continue to mar marketplace employment decisions. Today these forms of racism are more evident in less overt yet widely held beliefs, attitudes, and prejudices than they were in the past. The subtle nature of these forms of racism suggests that passive EEO programs may not be sufficient to prevent discrimination.

    Contemporary, more indirect, forms of prejudice can be divided into two types (Dovidio and Gaertner, 1995).

      Aversive racism refers to negative feelings that lead to avoidance but are likely to be justified by some other reason. For example, a white male television station manager fails to hire a black applicant for the position of news anchor because he fears the audience will not respond to a black news anchor, but he justifies his decision by saying it was based on economics.

      Symbolic racism refers to the development early in life of negative feelings people have toward members of other groups. Such feelings persist into adulthood and are associated with beliefs that are expressed symbolically rather than overtly (e.g., in opposition to busing).

    Aversive racists typically do not evaluate Blacks more negatively than Whites, but they usually rate Blacks less favorably than Whites (Dovidio and Gaertner, 1995).

      Discrimination is more likely to occur when Blacks compete for jobs or promotions with Whites who hold similar qualifications. The same holds true when highly qualified women compete with highly qualified men.

      Aversive racism is more likely to affect minorities adversely when the latter attempt to advance to positions superior in rank to those held by Whites.

    Affirmative action is essential for combating the effects of subtle forms of racism for a number of reasons (Dovidio and Gaertner, 1995).

      Affirmative action is outcome-based; issues of intention are not central to the issue.

      Affirmative action involves systematic monitoring of disparities in employment practices toward different groups.

      When they are successful, affirmative action programs lead to the establishment of clear norms by organizations and institutions regarding the importance of full equality for everyone in the workplace.

    What are the major criticisms of affirmative action?

    Many people argue that affirmative action has caused reverse discrimination against Whites.

    However, a 1995 analysis by the U.S. Department of Labor found that affirmative action programs do not lead to widespread reverse discrimination claims by Whites. In fact, a high proportion of such claims filed were found to lack merit. The analysis found that fewer than 100 out of 3,000 discrimination cases filed actually involved reverse discrimination, and in only six cases were such claims substantiated (Wilson, 1995).

    Critics of affirmative action usually believe that people should be selected for positions based on merit alone.

    The reality is that most, if not all, hiring decisions involve some sort of unspoken preferential treatment. Sometimes the decision is based on a personal connection or relationship; sometimes it is based on likability or comfort level (Wilson, 1995). In fact, the Federal Glass Ceiling Commission (1995) confirmed that white men tend to be more comfortable with, and therefore more likely to hire and promote, other white men, thus revealing the prevalence of racial- and gender-based preferential treatment.

    Opponents of affirmative action argue that these policies move America away from the goal of achieving a color-blind society.

    Yet, as Justice Harry Blackmun noted in the Bakke case, 'In order to get beyond racism, we must first take account of race.' A color-blind society cannot exist in the face of racism or prejudice that continues in the workplace.

    Some critics state that young minorities joining the workforce expect that affirmative action will get them promotions.

    This charge is one of the most serious, but there are no data to support this notion.

    Many people argue that affirmative action stigmatizes recipients.

    Although the data support this contention, it should be acknowledged that stigma and negative stereotypes associated with race and gender existed in this country long before affirmative action was implemented. This does not mean that stigma and negative stereotypes are acceptable, but rather that they exist independently of affirmative action.


  • Amazing

    Fair Housing laws, initiated by the Civil Rights act of 1964-5 and enforced with greater vigor since the 1970s, are a cousin to "Affirmative Action" in that they are designed to allow minorities to qualify for home loans, and buy in the area they choose instead of being steered into areas of the same racial make-up.

    Reality: Though banks, title companies, lawfirms, mortgage brokers, and realtors are heavily monitored and tested for compliance by HUD sting operators, the truth is that minorities CHOOSE to buy in areas where the racial make-up matches their own. While the caucasion-white majority tend to do the same, the percentage that a non-white will will do this are greater.

    So, in spite of Fair Housing laws and the great expense of time and enforcement, it is mostly a waste because minorities are not taking advantage of the opportunity to blend in with the majority.

    Fair Housing Expansion: Since the mid-1970s, most States and counties have expanded on the Federal Fair Housing by adding protected classes, such as military, homeless, Gay, Lesbian, seniors, etc. Yet, the same holds true for these additional protected classes, they tend to move into an area where they can be close to those who share their same social preferences.

    As long as minorities and protected classes continue to make these choices, there never will be full intergration ... and various areas of large metropolitan populations will always have divisions along racial lines.

    The Blame? No one is to blame for Fair Housing not working as intended. Majority whites have done all they can ... the cause of continued racial division with respect to choice in housing rest squarely with the choices that minorities make - choices that they could just as easily change if they really wanted to.

  • teejay
    ... the truth is that minorities CHOOSE to buy in areas where the racial make-up matches their own. While the caucasion-white majority tend to do the same, the percentage that a non-white will will do this are greater.

    Hello, Amazing.

    There is little need to “blame” majority whites, the government, or minorities that fair housing laws have failed to make residential areas more reflective of the population as a whole. Personally, I understand a person – particularly a minority – preferring to live among their own kind. I suspect that most people feel the same.

    I live in a predominantly white neighborhood, and while I enjoy the peace and quiet and relative security, from a cultural/social perspective I have serious reservations for the quality of life my daughter will experience as she enters school. Considered one of the best school systems in this area of the U.S., most of the students she will encounter are of a different race – with all that entails.

    Beyond that reality, I see one’s housing preference something to be considered apart from one’s exclusion from a job for which one is qualified. Where I choose to live is one thing, especially if the door has been opened by fair housing laws. The choice is still MINE; the options more fair; alternatives more extensive.

    Being denied a job because of my skin color (or in the case of women, my sex) is an entirely different issue.


    Btw, I wanted to post this for the record at as a direct extension of a discussion in another thread in which several erroneous viewpoints relative to affirmative action were espoused. Those that know what I’m talking about know what I’m talking about.

    Hello, funkyd!
  • Francois

    Someone is going to tell me what all this is about?

    I'll tell you this. In Decatur, GA, I lived on what they called "the frontier." I bought my home from a black man. A black person lived next door to me. On the other side of her, two whites. Across the street, all white. On the next street out, 98% black. Next street, 100%. That was 1998. When I bought my house from the black guy, he said to me, "This neighborhood is going back white. I'm gone."

    He was a nice guy, too. Had two Caddies. His kids used to play with my kids (I used to rent across the street). But when the complexion was really going to change, he split.

    I went back last week. The real estate agent said the neighborhood was "gentrifying." Interesting word. And damn if she wasn't right.

    The black folk want to live with themselves and the whites want the same thing. And the blacks do the same as the whites do, maintain the stratification in their societies. And you graduate between these strata when your income goes up.

    So, what is your point in the posts above?

    Oh, by the way. I closed a business once rather than hire according to government guidlines. I hire whom I wish, when I wish, based on qualification, not skin color.


  • teejay


    In my response to Amazing, I’ve tried to make plain that this has nothing to do with one’s choice of residence. How can I make it clearer? Let me try this:


    How’s that? Help any??

    In another thread ( ), someone said:

    If you're sick and you go to a hospital that practices "affirmative action" the only way to get the best medical treatment is to request a white doctor, i.e. one you know has got his job based on merit. The problem with so-called "positive discrimination" and "affirmative action" is that they are discriminatory. There's nothing positive about them.
    I could be wrong but I’m fairly certain that the author of those words exhibited a nearly total ignorance of what affirmative action in the U.S. is all about.

    I thought I’d clear it up – if not for him, perhaps for others.

  • sunscapes

    I'll make it even clearer.

    Reverse discrimination is still discrimination.

  • JT

    amazing sys:As long as minorities and protected classes continue to make these choices, there never will be full intergration ... and various areas of large metropolitan populations will always have divisions along racial lines.

    The Blame? No one is to blame for Fair Housing not working as intended. Majority whites have done all they can ... the cause of continued racial division with respect to choice in housing rest squarely with the choices that minorities make - choices that they could just as easily change if they really wanted to.


    I have to disagree with you on this one= one of the most important thing that some white persons seem to forget is that LAWS ON THE BOOKs
    have very little if anything to do with the hearts and minds of men.

    If a white area legally must allow a black person to move in, it has nothing to do with them WELCOMING THE PERSON-

    I KNOW OF so many blacks who have achived the american dream in terms of making big bucks and can afford to move into the $800,000 homes in Mclean, VA and Potamac, MD only to have thier neighbors welcome them by ASKING HOW DID YOU AFFORD THIS HOUSE?OR IN some case not even speaking at all

    so true, a black person can move to wherever he or she can afford it will have nothing to do with how one is treated

    to walk to your mailbox and folks drive by, you wave and they don't even acknowledge your presence does little to make one recommend to their fellow black friends:

    "hey man this is a warm and welcoming "HOOD"

    the bottom line is you can't legislate or pass laws that will make folks change their minds and hearts

    racism exist on both sides of the table -the only difference is when you are in charge- of making the decision of :

    do we use a black acct firm, pr firm, hire a black investment firm to handle the firms investments, do we extend this small biz loan, ect

    in most cases in my exp the person sitting on the other side of the table making the decision is a white person,

    so despite what the law may say and even the ability to seek out Legal suits against him or his company, his or her racial views sad to say many times will shade their decisions esp where a judgement call is needed to be made.

    so until folks can look at others as human the attitude will stay many times

    ust my 2

  • JT

    I had this discussion with a white Biz man about a year ago.

    we were talking about set asides

    here in the Washington, dc area almost all the work is Gov.

    so we were discussion SET ASIDES

    HE WAS making the argument i have heard many times. so i asked him what procentage of many of the projects were set aside for minorities and it came to about 15% on many of the projects here in washington

    so i asked him did he know the breakdown of who could get this setaside

    well i started to list it for him , black, asians, indians, latinos,etc, etc etc. and women (now this is a real kicker cause i have personally sat down with whites GUYS and they have laughed at how they have put thier wives and daugthers name as owners so that they could bid on minorities contracts even though they have absolutely NOTHING TO DO WITH THE COMPANY- SMILE)

    So I asked him since 15% is set aside for minorities who gets the OTHER 85% smile

    and he just smiled as well

    just my 2

  • Yerusalyim

    Who benefits from affirmative action? The Democrats! Perhaps the individual who gets the job they aren't as qualified for as some other applicants. No particular ethinic group benefits, nor do companies and corporations benefit.

    "Vanity! It's my favorite sin!"
    [Al Pacino as Satan, in "DEVIL'S ADVOCATE"]

  • teejay

    Reverse discrimination is still discrimination.


    All too true. Whether upside-down, rightside-up, backward, forward, white, black or green, discrimination is wrong. The thing is... affirmative action *isn’t* discrimination but its antithesis. Affirmative action is meant to PUT AND END to discrimination.



    Thanks for your input here. You said:

    LAWS ON THE BOOKs have very little if anything to do with the hearts and minds of men.

    Most people in the majority culture have had so many unspoken advantages EVERY STEP OF THE way throughout their lives that they have come to take them as much for granted as they take air for granted. Whether it’s housing, school, clothes and grocery shopping, making business contacts, getting business contracts, dealing with the authorities (e.g., the police) – these advantages have greased their lives so much it ain’t even funny... and nearly all of it based on nothing but race, not merit. It amazes me sometimes to see a minority rise to any level of success.

    Yes, you may change the laws and force people to do what their hearts should have moved them to do at the start, but where the laws can’t touch them – whether it’s in the area of welcoming minorities to their upscale HOOD or bumping up the percentage of set asides from 15% to 17% – they will continue doing business as usual.

    If it weren’t for the law forcing businesses to do so, would 15% of their contracts be set aside for all minorities to divvy up? Not bloody likely!! People would favor their buddies, their uncles and nephews, their former classmates, their neighbors and golf buddies, even MORE than they do already!!

    As the conference members revealed, white men tend to be more comfortable with, and therefore more likely to hire and promote, other white men, thus revealing the prevalence of racial- and gender-based preferential treatment. To be fair, if they could, blacks would probably show the same preferential treatment. So would Hispanics, Asians and people of every other ethnic group. The problem with drawing that analogy is that these minorities aren’t in power - don't hold the reigns on who gets hired, who gets the promotion, etc. White males, generally speaking, do.

    Btw, your real-life example of the treatment that minorities receive in white neighborhoods is the exact reason why blacks, Hispanics and other minorities would much rather not fool with that aspect of the 'American dream' and just live with their own. You can legally force communities to allow people of all cultures to buy homes wherever they can afford them but you cannot force people to get past their rudimentary and racist biases and treat people as THEY would want to be treated. Folks hafta do that for themselves.

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