Affirmative Action

I. We didnt land on Plymouth Rock, my brothers and sisters Plymouth
Rock landed on us! Malcolm Xs observation is brought out by the facts of
American History. Snatched from their native land, transported thousands of
miles in a nightmare of disease and death and sold into slavery, blacks
were reduced to the legal status of farm animals. Even after emancipation,
blacks were segregated from whites in some states by law, and by social
practice almost everywhere. American apartheid continued for another century. In
1954 the Supreme Court declared state-compelled segregation in schools
unconstitutional, and it followed up that decision with others that struck down
many forms of official segregation. Still, discrimination survived, and in most
southern states blacks were either discouraged or prohibited from exercising
their right to vote. Not until the 1960s was compulsory segregation finally
and effectively challenged. Between 1964 and 1968 Congress passed the most
sweeping civil rights legislation since the end of the Civil War. It banned
discrimination in employment, public accommodations (hotels, motels,
restaurants, etc.), and housing; it also guaranteed voting rights for blacks in
areas suspected of disenfranchising blacks. Today, several agencies in the
federal government exercise sweeping powers to enforce these civil rights
measures. But is that enough? Equality of condition between blacks and whites
seems as elusive as ever. The black unemployment rate is double that of whites,
and the percentage of black families living in poverty is nearly four times that
of whites. Only a small percentage of blacks ever make it into medical school or
law schools. Advocates of affirmative action have focused upon these differences
to support their argument that it is no longer enough just to stop
discrimination. Liberal Democrats feel that the damage done by three centuries
of racism now has to be remedied, they argue, and effective remediation requires
a policy of affirmative action. At the heart of affirmative action is the
use of numerical goals. Opponents call them racial quotas. Whatever
the name, what they imply is the setting aside of a certain number of jobs or
positions for blacks or other historically oppressed groups. Conservative
Republicans charge that affirmative action really amounts to reverse
discrimination, that it penalizes innocent people simply because they are white,
that it often results in unqualified appointments, and that it ends up harming
instead of helping blacks. The issue of preferences to address historical
patterns of racial, ethnic, and gender discrimination has received a great deal
of attention nationally. Whether in government contracts, private sector hiring,
college admissions, or state hiring practices, opponents in the issue have
engaged in often-heated debates. In Michigan, legislation to limit or eliminate
affirmative action has been introduced this session. A good example of this
legislation was proposed on March 18,1998 and it is called SJR N (S-2). This
resolution proposed an amendment to the Michigan Constitution to prohibit
discrimination based on sex or ethnicity and to prohibit the state and its
political subdivisions from using religion, sex, color, ethnicity, or national
origin as a basis for discriminating against or giving preferential treatment to
any individual or group in employment, public education, or public contracting.

The present system violates the fundamental principle of equal protection of the
law against discrimination on the basis of immutable characteristics of race,
sex, color, ethnicity, and national origin. SJR N (S-2) was intended to end this
practice and return Michigan to the goal of a colorblind society. II. SJR N
(S-2) is on the Conservative side of things, in that, the legislation is trying
to stop reverse racism. There really is no moderate way to look at
affirmative action; you can either be for it or against it. Sen. Bill Bullard
Jr. was the chair and sponsor of this bill, but when he met with the other
members of this committee it was stated in the minutes of the meeting that
the issue will not be voted on today, nor does he (Bill Bullard) intend
to press for a vote in the Legislature this year. There will be future
opportunities for all who wish to contribute to this dialogue to have their
views heard. The committee then had a long list of testimony from those who
opposed SJR N (S-2). It was then stated that this constitutional amendment if
approved by a two-thirds vote of the Senate and House of Representatives, would
be submitted to the voters at the next general election. The bill was never
brought before senate, it was basically killed in committee. III. Bill Bullard
the Republican State Senator from District 15 stated his views on affirmative
action from this statement. Indicate the principles you support (if any)
concerning affirmative action. State government agencies should take race and
sex into account in the following sectors: a) College and university admissions
Yes X No Undecided b) Public employment Yes X No
Undecided c) State contracting Yes X No Undecided Senator Bullard
opposed all the affirmative action questions because he is a Republican, and if
one has a viewpoint against affirmative action it is considered a conservative
one. How does presidential candidate George W. Bush feel about affirmative
action? He Opposes quotas and racial preferences, supports affirmative
“access” to open the doors of opportunity through programs such as the
Texas 10 percent plan, where those who graduate in the top 10 percent of their
class are automatically admitted to any state college or university, and
advocates needs-based contracting and breaking down government contracts to
smaller sizes to encourage entrepreneurship in all communities.

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