Introduction: Today’s discriminatory practices
Affirmative action encompasses any undertaking that goes beyond the simple termination of a discriminatory tendency by expanding opportunity to affected groups. It permits the consideration of factors such as national origin, race, disability, sex, and other criteria where discrimination is proven to have existed. In its present form, affirmative action in the US is a product of conglomerated measures laid down through court orders, presidential mandates, and congressional legislation.
Affirmative action in the US may be traced back to the early 1940s, when President Franklin Roosevelt gave a presidential directive requiring all defense contractors to pledge nondiscrimination in their employment-related work on the basis of color, race, creed, or national origin. In 1954, a Supreme Court order was issued that overruled the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’. The court declared that racially segregated public schools were illegal. This court order effectively approved the remedy of integration in relation to race consciousness. Many other instances of affirmative action at work exist, including President Kennedy’s decision in 1961 to form the President’s Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity. In this directive, all federal executive agencies were directed to integrate their workforce.
Yet despite these developments, the race factor remains a big issue in the American society, with minority groups being discriminated against on account of their race, color, and/or national origin. The argument made in this legal memo is that affirmative action programs are beneficial to Asian Pacific Americans and they need to be pursued relentlessly as a way of eradicating racial discrimination among Asian-Pacific Americans.
A historical overview
Today, there are more than 7 million Asian Pacific Americans in the US, and this figure continues to increase rapidly. In fact, it constitutes one of the country’s largest minority groups today. In such a scenario, one would expect a lot to be in the public domain regarding these people’s present circumstances and historical heritage. However, this is not the case; much of what the American public knows about Asian Pacific Americans is shaped largely by stereotypes and myths.
For many Asian Americans, racial discrimination is one of the problems that they have had to learn to live with. It is fortunate that some Americans share in this minority’s group sentiments to the extent of supporting affirmative action programs. The negative beliefs that exist regarding Asian Pacific Americans not only contribute to the growing ignorance about the minority groups’ history, they also put constraints on these people’s progress today.
An analysis of the American contemporary history indicates that Asian Americans have been targets and ultimate victims of institutionalized discrimination (Dong 1035). At worst, this institutionalized discrimination has resulted in incidents of anti-Asian violence. During the World War II, many American citizens of Japanese origin were interned. Further back, almost two centuries earlier, a law had been passed that stated that only ‘free white persons’ could become citizens. Even after changes had been made to the law to include African Americans, a proposed amendment aimed at including African Americans was shot down. The Supreme Court’s ruling that the law could not be amended meant that Asian Americans had to remain ineligible for citizenship.
Reasons supporting my support of affirmative action programs
There is a long-established heritage of racial discrimination against Asian Pacific Americans
There are many reasons for arguing in support of affirmative action programs as a way of eradicating all forms of racial discrimination against Asian Pacific Americans. Focus is on the trial case of Bakke v. University of California. This trial case will be explored in great detail later on when attention shifts to the quota system of university admission as one of the affirmative action programs in existence in the US today.
In the meantime, a reflection on past laws and court rulings bring into sharp focus the thorny issue of racial discrimination and the way Asian Pacific Americans have continued to suffer in the US. One of the draconian laws whose aim was to oppress Asians was the Chinese Exclusion Act 1882. Wu notes that this act was one of America’s first racist immigration laws, since it prohibited Chinese laborers from immigrating into the country (265). Racist anti-Asian sentiments resulted in the creation of the Gentleman’s Agreement of 1907, which limited Japanese immigration. This was followed in 1917 by the Immigration Act. This act banned immigration from virtually all Asia Pacific countries. A follow-up such anti-Asian laws was the Immigration Act of 1924, which banned the immigration of all persons who were ineligible for citizenship. A decade later, the Tydings-McDuffe Act imposed an annual quota of 50 Filipino immigrants only.
Furthermore, those Asia Pacific immigrants who have managed to get citizenship have had to contend with discriminatory policies in employment and business. This discrimination has sometimes been at hands of individual states, which took advantage of the discriminatory nature of the country’s immigration laws to oppress the minorities even further. For example, foreigners were targeted for taxation through the enactment of a law to this effect.
There is lack of diversity in many American universities, with Asian Pacific Americans being discriminated against.
Elsewhere, the American education system continues to discriminate against Asia Pacific Americans. This is where the trial case becomes relevant. In this case, Allan Bakke, a white male American, sued the University of California after he was denied admission two to the UC Davis Medical School. In this trial case, Bakke argued that by putting in place affirmative action program in the form of a quota system, the US administration was simply encouraging reverse discrimination against the white people. Many whites shared in Bakke’s feeling that they were being denied access to educational opportunities arbitrarily.
Although the US Supreme Court declared the quota system of the University of California to be unconstitutional, it emphasized that in general, affirmative action programs are legal and constitutional. The Supreme Court also used the Bakke case to conclude that an individual’s race can be used as one of the factors in making admission decisions, if this will lead to increased diversity within a particular learning institution. Since then, this principle has become a source of guidance on the implementation of nearly all affirmative action programs since the early 1970s.
The only difference with the earlier times is that in the 19th century, discrimination was more covert than today. In the 1860s, for example, Asian Pacific Americans were entirely barred from attending from California’s public schools. Lew points out that during the 1970s, covert discrimination manifested itself in areas such as failure by many School Districts to establish programs aimed at addressing the limited English proficiency of Asian Pacific American students. Another form of discrimination experienced during the 1980s was the imposition of charges in universities such as University of California Berkeley and Harvard (Bell 365). Moreover, in such universities, Asian Pacific students had to score higher points in admission tests compared to white Americans so as to win admission into these prestigious institutions.
There are ongoing affirmative action efforts, especially in the employment field. The best example is the outreach efforts that entail advertisement in ethnic media. Efforts have also been made entailing additional search efforts of ensuring that qualified Asian Pacific Americans become an integral part of the American public service. Reviews on hiring requirement and recruitment policies continue to be seen to be done, and it is for this reason that requirements that appear unnecessary for certain job categories continue to be removed.
In education, affirmative action programs have enabled many Asian Pacific Americans access higher education. The programs have been in the form of graduate fellowship programs and grants geared towards enabling this minority population access college and university education more readily. In some instances, these programs have been extended to fields that require apprenticeship training. However, despite these efforts, representation of this population in the education remains largely disproportionate to number of Asian Pacific Americans who make up the country’s population.
In the business circles, affirmative action efforts have been of great help. These efforts take the form of laws that obligate government agencies to consider companies owned by Asian Pacific Americans whenever they are entering into public-private sector partnerships. Moreover, there are some programs that offer management and financial assistance to the minority groups, largely to make up for the opportunities lost during the provision of mainstream financial and advisory services.
Reliance on anti-discrimination laws is wrong since there is no guarantee that the laws will be enforced wholly
Affirmative action is so beneficial that those who enthusiastically oppose must mistakenly be holding the belief that there is no discrimination in existence today or that better alternatives exist of dealing with Asian Pacific Americans’ present predicament. Regarding viable alternatives, the most commonly cited alternatives include stringent of anti-discrimination laws and focusing on all those who face economic disadvantage as opposed to gender- and race-centered focus. As shown in the case of EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores Inc, although anti-discrimination laws are necessary, they need to be supplemented with affirmative action programs to be effective. In this case, Abercrombie was accused of racial discrimination against Asian Americans in hiring, recruitment, promotion, and discharge. In this trial case, affirmative action programs were recognized as constituting a core element in dealing with racial discrimination.
The reality is that the fact that there is need for enactment of anti-discrimination laws does not mean that affirmative action programs are not necessary. There is no guarantee that the laws enacted would be enforced wholly. This is because in a situation of gross economic and social disadvantage, it would be impossible for majority of this minority group to afford litigation charges so as to get legal redress whenever they feel that they have been discriminated against. Moreover, those who seek legal redress may sometimes be branded as activists. Indeed, many hitherto employed Asian Pacific Americans have in the past have opted to resign from the companies they were working for instead of litigating. It should be borne in mind that owing to lack of educational opportunities, some of these employees may be unaware of their rights. Additionally, the few who are aware of these rights may face insurmountable barriers in their quest for justice. Any lucky, persistent litigant may go back to work with a thoroughly hurt reputation, which may make his continued stay at the company untenable.
Affirmative action programs are considered to be more efficient channels of addressing violations through discriminatory practices. The programs are easier to operationalize compared to government agencies that normally have a backlog of thousands of cases at any given time. The programs are less costly both the complainants and the companies that they work for. These programs are normally designed to help everyone in a certain line of employment, profession or career, whereas damages awarded after litigation only go towards helping the individual who has sued the employer.
If focus was to be put only on economic advantage, this would lead to little or no attention being put on solving problems such as sexism and racism, which will most likely be found to have been the main causes of this economic disadvantage in the first place. Moreover, it is common to find people of high economic and social standing who are being discriminated against on account of their race, color, or national origin. As a rejoinder, affirmative programs, if properly implemented, would be of help to not just those who are economically disadvantaged but also increase the possibility of government services reaching out to all communities in a non-discriminatory manner.
Many communities in the US have experienced their needs being met more successfully when the diversity of these communities is reflected in the law enforcement activities. By bringing on board women and minority groups, more success has been achieved in key fields such as academic and medical research. Moreover, many Asian Americans are able to compete in the business circles. This is mainly because affirmative action brings on board everyone, notably people with diverse backgrounds, experiences, skills, and knowledge of many market segments.
As the trial case of Bekke v. University of California shows, there is no doubt that affirmative action presents an excellent opportunity of building a better American society. The overarching tenet here is that racial consciousness is not the same as racism or reverse discrimination. In affirmative action, the aim of raising racial consciousness is to raise awareness about its negative effects, with the hope that the appropriate affirmative action-related measures will be put in place to remedy the situation. Instead of talking about reverse discrimination, white supremacists should get used to terms such as preferential treatment. Indeed, the quota system was promptly replaced with the so-called ‘preferential treatment programs’. Despite the change of name, the underlying aim remains to ensure diversity in the allocation of admission slots in institutions of learning in the US.
With preferential treatment programs in place, people tend to become more justice-conscious and racially motivated violations are less likely to be meted out against Asian Pacific Americans. Signs of such prosperity undoubtedly begin to present themselves through increased social interaction among people of diverse cultures, races, and backgrounds. This leads to increased contact in workplaces and schools.
It is important to emphasize the fact that affirmative action programs are constitutional in the US. In come up with this judgment in the Bekke v. University of California case, the Supreme Court judge must have considered the fact that although affirmative action programs continue to play a key role in creating opportunities for minority groups, full equal opportunity is yet to be realized. In light of this turn of events, it is true that for some Asian Pacific Americans, measures such as outreach, training, and recruitment can open and have continued to open many windows of opportunity.
However, there are many statistics indicating persistent barriers that threaten derail the realization of an equal-opportunity platform going into the future. A case in point is in the construction union, where this minority group is grossly underrepresented. Kidder notes that less than 1% of the union membership is made up of the Asian Pacific population (57). This problem is particularly persistent in New York, where there is only 0.2% membership despite this minority group constituting 5% of the state’s population (Kidder, 58). The same negative image is painted by statistics regarding representation in senior managerial positions. American-born citizens of Asian Pacific origin are more likely to miss out on senior executive positions within the country compared to white Americans with the same experience, education, marital status, English proficiency, industry work, and competence. The presence of Asian Pacific Americans in the public sector is not being felt today as it should, even in those areas where this minority group forms a significant portion of the population.
Away from the trial case, it is imperative to gather evidence from an article that relates to the issue of racial discrimination and the need for affirmative action programs for Asia Pacific Americans. The article considered here is titled: Beyond self-interest: Asian Pacific Americans toward a Community of Justice. In this article, the authors are categorical about the need for affirmative action among Asia Pacific Americans. In this regard, the subject of affirmative action is analyzed by four Asian Pacific Americans, all of them law professors, Chin, Cho, Kang, and Wu, from a policy perspective, and special emphasis is on Asian Pacific Americans. The view of Chin, Cho, Kang, and Wu is that affirmative action has the power to bring about many benefits, including mitigation of harms relating to racism, promotion of equal opportunity, and advancement of racial justice. The authors, however, note that affirmative action comes at a cost. Nevertheless, they point out that some of these costs have been exaggerated or misconceived. They argue for the position that all the genuine costs that come with such an effort are the ones that every American should be ready to bear as a way of contributing towards moving the country forward and creating a more just society.
The targeted audience for this article is first the Asian Pacific Americans, notably political leaders, activists, ethnic media, academics, and even interested members of the community. The authors admit that Asian Pacific Americans, just like everybody else in America today, want to understand the strenuous debate that rages on regarding affirmative action. The second audience is the general public. Focus on this audience is a response to the commonly acknowledged reality of Asian Pacific Americans becoming increasingly visible in the American political sphere. The main problem with this visibility is that it has largely been passive. As pointed out even in the article, Asian Pacific Americans have been referred to mainly whenever people want to make debating points, mainly in opposition of affirmative action. The authors point out, and rightly so, that there is need to endeavor to convert this passive visibility into active, sector-wide participation.
My thought about Preposition 209
Proposition 209, also known as the California Civil Rights Initiative, was meant to prohibit all public institutions from giving consideration to race, ethnicity, and sex. In other words, this initiative’s main aim to stop affirmative action programs in all their manifestations. My view regarding Proposition 209 is that by virtue of the US Supreme Court in the Bekke v. University of California case, proposition 209 should be abandoned because it is irrelevant before the law.
Those who campaign for this proposition are motivated by sentiments of reverse racial discrimination. Yet the Supreme Court ruling clearly set the record straight: it is constitutional for the question of race to be considered in areas of opportunities such as admission to learning institutions if at all such consideration will increase diversity.
By prohibiting local, state governments, public universities, districts, colleges and schools from giving preferential treatment to people on the basis of sex, color, race, national origin, or ethnicity, Proposition 209 harms equal opportunity for minorities such as Asian Pacific Americans. The proposition’s language is unnecessarily broad and misleading; it eliminates many equal opportunity programs, including those relating to outreach and recruitment programs targeted at minority groups as well as tutoring and mentorships. The measures described in this proposition could only increase division among diverse American communities by creating loopholes for continued racial discrimination.
In summary, many Asian Pacific Americans continue to suffer because of racial discrimination. It is imperative that affirmative action plans are put in place so as to level out the playground for these minority groups. It is unfair for opponents of affirmative action to point out that focus should only be on economic disadvantage that is faced by Asian Pacific Americans because such a measure can be pursued side by side with affirmative action. Moreover, racial discrimination affects both the Asian Americans who are economically advantaged and those who are not. Similarly, anti-discrimination laws should be enforced in a manner that complements affirmative action programs.
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