affirmative action


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Related to affirmative action: Affirmative Action Plan

affirmative action,

in the United States, programs to overcome the effects of past societal discrimination by allocating jobs and resources to members of specific groups, such as minorities and women. The policy was implemented by federal agencies enforcing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and two executive orders, which provided that government contractors and educational institutions receiving federal funds develop such programs. The Equal Employment Opportunities Act (1972) set up a commission to enforce such plans.

The establishment of racial quotas in the name of affirmative action brought charges of so-called reverse discrimination in the late 1970s. Although the U.S. Supreme Court accepted such an argument in Regents of the University of California v. BakkeRegents of the University of California v. Bakke,
case decided in 1978 by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court held in a closely divided decision that race could be one of the factors considered in choosing a diverse student body in university admissions decisions.
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 (1978), it let existing programs stand and approved the use of quotas in 1979 in a case involving voluntary affirmative-action programs in unions and private businesses. In the 1980s, the federal government's role in affirmative action was considerably diluted. In three cases in 1989, the Supreme Court undercut court-approved affirmative action plans by giving greater standing to claims of reverse discrimination, voiding the use of minority set-asides where past discrimination against minority contractors was unproven, and restricting the use of statistics to prove discrimination, since statistics did not prove intent.

The Civil Rights Act of 1991 reaffirmed a federal government's commitment to affirmative action, but a 1995 Supreme Court decision placed limits on the use of race in awarding government contracts; the affected government programs were revamped in the late 1990s to encompass any person who was "socially disadvantaged." Since the mid-1990s, in a public backlash against perceived reverse discrimination, California and a number of other states have banned the use of race- and sex-based preferences in state and local programs and contracting, and public education. A 2003 Supreme Court decision concerning affirmative action in universities allowed educational institutions to consider race as a factor in admitting students as long as it was not used in a mechanical, formulaic manner. This requirement was tightened by the Court in 2013, which said that courts that approve of the consideration of race in university admissions must be sure that the diversity achieved could not have been accomplished using other means.

In Europe, the European Court of Justice has upheld (1997) the use in the public sector of affirmative-action programs for women, establishing a legal precedent for the nations of the European UnionEuropean Union
(EU), name given since the ratification (Nov., 1993) of the Treaty of European Union, or Maastricht Treaty, to the European Community (EC), an economic and political confederation of European nations, and other organizations (with the same member nations)
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.

affirmative action

see POSITIVE DISCRIMINATION.
References in periodicals archive ?
Yuill writes from the perspective of one who believes that scholars focusing on the implementation and expansion of affirmative action programs have emphasized the civil rights movement, the presidency of Lyndon B.
Critics of affirmative action keep the focus on universities'
That Connerly's advocacy for eliminating race-conscious affirmative action in higher education finds deep and abiding support among groups, such as NAS, practically ensures colleges and universities should expect new challenges to their pro-diversity programs in the coming years.
A number of different explanations have been offered for this ambivalent opposition to affirmative action among whites.
When affirmative action was banned in California in 1996, admission rates among black freshmen to the University of California at Berkeley, Los Angeles, and San Diego plummeted.
Gay affirmative action is a [hopeful] idea, but realistically, it would be pointless," Ford argues.
Underlying the affirmative action cases is the question: to what extent should the widening scope for choice be regulated on racial grounds?
On that last point, in other words, I think there may be good reasons for me to engage in race-conscious affirmative action.
On the other hand, author Jamillah Moore (Race and College Admissions: A Case for Affirmative Action, McFarland & Company, May 2005) would have none of this, and has no such qualms about diversity as Professor Carter.
Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at The Century Foundation, is author of The Remedy: Class, Race and Affirmative Action (1996) and the editor of America's Untapped Resource: Low-Income Students in Higher Education (2004).
Sowell complains that The Shape of the River, which discusses the results of affirmative action in twenty-eight selective schools in the United States, and takes four hundred pages to do it, is too narrow in scope.