From Bakke to Grutter: The Supreme Court and the Struggle over Affirmative Action in the Era of Globalization

Article excerpt

Introduction:

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 has been heralded as one of the most important pieces of legislation geared toward bringing about full equality for blacks in America. It made it unlawful to discriminate or segregate persons on the basis of race and color. It is a biproduct of the Supreme Court ruling in the Brown V. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, on May 17, 1991 declaring null and void segregation in public facilities. It should be noted that this was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States reversed its earlier stand in its decision in the Plessy V. Ferguson case in 1896. In this case, the Jim Crow laws of "separate but equal won constitutional approval with the court ruling that "equal protection" of the laws clause as provided by the Fourteenth Amendment did not prevent state-enforced separation of the races.

The passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 did not bring about significant relative equality among the races, nor did it significantly eliminate discrimination against blacks; guarantee equality of opportunity for blacks in pursuit of a utopian concept of "color blind" society.

Hence, the government relied on affirmative action as an equalization criterion. It is a series of measures designed to correct past discrimination and unequal treatment of blacks and other minorities. These measures also have goals and timetable requirement attached to them. It calls for special consideration on the part of employers in recruitment, training and promotion of minorities--Blacks, Women and Hispanics. Members of groups not protected by this instrument of social policy have complained of inequality. They have demanded attention, as well as redress of their grievance. They think they have been deprived of equal opportunity. Many also worry about prospects of what they call "compensatory or reverse discrimination"

But, the drive by government to establish equal employment opportunity in no way discriminates because it conformed to government's original goal not to institute a program designed or operated to offer special privileges to any one group of persons because of their race, sex, religion, ethnicity or nationality.

Affirmative action programs, which are products of public bureaucracies, were required to measure progress by virtue of the number of blacks and other minorities hired, employed and promoted. The non-beneficiaries of the affirmative action are nonetheless, willing philosophically to see justice done; they resist all attempts to implement the program on the rationale that it denies them the opportunity to advance. The consequence has been the polarization of the races in public institutions.

In this global village, where the cars we drive contain parts built in other parts of the world; world-wide web provides us with information superhighway that creates a virtual address where economic, political, social and cultural exchanges occur outside the limitations of time and space, affirmative action means many things to different people.

The technological, economic and cultural dimensions of globalization drive economic integration as well as enable companies based in one country to operate around the globe. This brings their products and services to consumers regardless of cultural differentiation. As cultural exchanges take place, we tend to gain greater appreciation of multiculturalism and diversity in both the work place and our educational institutions.

In order to cope with growing global challenge: global terrorism, drug and currency trafficking, labor and refugee migration, outsourcing and overseas business ventures, American colleges and universities have begun to pay special attention to strengthening curricula in social studies and languages to provide students the opportunity to develop into global citizens. Also, students will be enabled to acquire knowledge of international relations, foreign language competency, understanding of inter-cultural values and techniques in conflict management. …