The Ups and Downs of Affirmative Action Preferences

Synopsis

In the context of the evolution of affirmative action at the national and state levels, this study offers an empirical account of the citizens' movement in California that successfully resulted in the passage of a constitutional amendment to abolish such preferences in public education, public employment, and public contracting. It describes how the concept of affirmative action was transmuted into quotas and set-asides even in those situations where there was no credible evidence of past discrimination. This process was aided by Presidential Executive Orders as well as by some Supreme Court decisions which, until the late 1980s, failed to provide clear parameters of compensatory versus preferential actions. The California movement arose to reassert the original vision of equality as contained in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Raza, Anderson, and Custred, who have studied the historical development of the phenomenon and have witnessed its actual operation, lift the curtain of secrecy that surrounds such preferences.

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