As American citizens, we are insured equality under the United States Constitution. However, America has not always upheld the belief of universal equality, and not everyone is treated fairly. This is where affirmative action is employed.
Affirmative action is the abolishment of past and present discrimination. This can be discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or ethnicity.
It was first introduced by President John F. Kennedy whose executive order on the issue stated, in part, "the contractor will 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."
The most common instance where affirmative action has been put into place is with black people. Amendments have been made to the Constitution to correct discrimination against blacks, but Jim Crow laws requiring racial segregation in public facilities were in place in the United States less than 60 years ago, so shouldn't more be done to abolish the discrimination that took place until so recently?
The answer is yes because for the first 178 years of our country's existence, we discriminated against black people based on their race. That is significantly more than half the years our country has existed.
President Lyndon B. Johnson described the need for affirmative action, saying, "You do not take a man who for years has been hobbled by chains, liberate him, bring him to the starting line of a race, saying, 'You are free to compete with all the others,' and still justly believe you have been completely fair."
Affirmative action is a relatively new idea that began in the late 1960s. This means that public policies and initiatives against all forms of discrimination are just getting started.
It is important that all Americans have an equal opportunity for success. As President Kennedy stated, the basis of where affirmative action should take place is within the workplace. A perfect example of discrimination in the workplace is United States v. Paradise in 1987.
In this Supreme Court case, it was divulged that Alabama had never once had a black state trooper. Systematic racial discrimination was discovered and broken up by the Supreme Court. A numerical quota was instilled so that 25 percent of the State of Alabama Department of Public Safety would be black.
Of course this type of success for affirmative action has not always been present. Both California and Washington banned all forms of affirmative action in the late 1990s.
California's controversial Proposition 209, passed in 1997, decreed, "The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education or public contracting."
A major reason for affirmative action is to compensate for past behavior in America. Like President Johnson stated, we cannot expect to treat people unfairly for more than a century, and then when we stop, believe that they are suddenly just as capable of success as those of us who have never even seen, let alone experienced, discrimination.
Affirmative action is meant to compensate for past behavior through the presentation of equal opportunities in the workplace. As American citizens, we have the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In the pursuit of happiness, the majority of us want success. How can every one of us equally pursue success if we haven't been given the same opportunities all along?