Affirmative Action Under Attack

In my younger years, affirmative action, defined by Britannica as “an active effort to improve employment or educational opportunities for members of minority groups and for women,” was universally accepted as good policy. The only people opposed to it were those who, openly or secretly, supported segregation or White supremacy. The administration of President Lyndon Johnson (1963–69) worked to improve opportunities for African Americans while civil rights legislation was dismantling the legal basis for discrimination. The federal government instituted affirmative action policies under the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 and an executive order in 1965. The Office of Federal Contract Compliance and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) monitored affirmative action programs. Subsequently, affirmative action was broadened to cover women and Native Americans, Hispanics, and other minorities and was extended to colleges and universities and state and federal agencies.

Then came President Donald Trump. His Department of Justice moved against universities and colleges using affirmative action arguing that they were prejudiced against Asian Americans. Employing a maneuver used successfully for years, Trump and his administration pitted Blacks and Asian Americans against each other as a means of favoring Whites over all others.

Even before he took office, President Biden fought to restore affirmative action. In December 2021, he urged the U.S. Supreme Court to decline to hear a case against Harvard University challenging the ability of it and other schools to consider race as a factor in student admissions to boost diversity. On the last day of 2021, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, an appeal of a decision that Harvard University’s use of affirmative action in college admissions is legal. The court will also hear an appeal of a ruling that the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill’s use of affirmative action was legal.

More next time.

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