The likelihood that democratic candidate Barack Obama could win the U.S November presidential election calls attention to the U.S.'s affirmative action policy, which has been a highly controversial topic for 30 years since the term was coined and made mandatory by then U.S. President John F. Kennedy in 1961.
Affirmative Action refers to policies used in the U.S. to increase opportunities for “minorities" by favoring them in employment, college admissions, and awarding them with government contracts. “Minorities" might include groups, especially those defined by race, ethnicity or gender, which are underrepresented. Generally, affirmative action policies have been carried out by governments, businesses, or educational institutions to remedy the effects of past discrimination against a group; whether by a specific entity, such as a corporation, or by society as a whole.
African-Americans have historically directly benefited from the policy. Nevertheless, from its beginnings in the U.S. in the 1960s, Affirmative Action has been highly contentious. Critics charge that affirmative action policies, which give preferential treatment to people based on their membership in a group, violate the principle that all individuals are equal under the law.
One 1978 case best illustrated the arguments and discontent over the policy. A white student was denied admission to the University of California, Davis School of Medicine, simply because the university had to balance the admission rates of all races. The student in question filed a lawsuit against the university on the grounds of committing racial bias and breaching the Constitution.
The case gained forefront media attention that year. Many critics also argued that it was unfair to discriminate against members of one group to compensate for discrimination against other groups. Even today, a considerable number of white American and men, among whom many are Obama's supporters, regard Affirmative Action as a form of reverse discrimination that unfairly prevents whites and men from being hired and promoted. Therefore, calls for a moratorium on the policy have not ceased throughout the years.
On the other hand, supporters and advocates of affirmative action policies contend that these policies are the only way to ensure an integrated society in which all segments of the U.S population have an equal opportunity to share in jobs, education, and other benefits.
The U.S has always been branded as a highly equal democratic society where it said racial bias has a hard time gaining ground, as is reflected in Obama's candidacy. And the Latin motto – E pluribus unum—out of many, one, has been cherished dearly as essential for America's future by the U.S government then and now.
Despite this, a truly equal start in education is still a pipedream for many children from “minority" groups like Hispanics and those with African and Asian origins. Under such circumstance, the abolishment of Affirmative Action would mean an even more dim future for the American “minorities."
By People's Daily Online