At the Crossroads

By Wagner, David | The World and I, June 1998 | Go to article overview

At the Crossroads


Wagner, David, The World and I


Job disparities still exist, but an increasing number of minority Americans want to turn away from race-conscious hiring.

Affirmative action appears to have reached a crossroads. The critique of racial preferences, first advanced by conservatives in the 1970s, resonated with enough African Americans during the '80s that, by the mid-'90s, black activists such as California's Ward Connerly were interested in taking up the fight.

The term affirmative action is not all of a piece. Originally it meant only that the institutions practicing discrimination would do more than simply stop discriminating.

One example of nonquota affirmative action is aggressive advertising to let people in minority communities know that opportunities previously dosed to them are now available. This is "affirmative" in the sense that it constitutes a concrete way for employers to add minority members to their applicant pool. In the late '60s, advertising was seen as an important step that employers, clubs, and lenders could take beyond merely ceasing to discriminate against minority members who applied.

But the decline into quotas was precipitous. While hiring by the numbers is theoretically illegal under the 1964 Civil Rights Act, quotas come through the back door of enforcement. How could the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission--the regulatory agency instituted by President Kennedy in 1961 and empowered by the Civil Rights Act in 1964 to handle complaints and monitor compliance--know if discrimination persists in a given workplace, except by comparing its workforce with the relevant applicant group?

Quotas became a necessary defensive measure for employers. Additionally, in 1970, President Nixon began requiring quotas in federal contracting. In United Steelworkers v. Webber, in 1975, the Supreme Court held that achieving the Civil Rights Act's goal of discrimination-free workplaces may require doing exactly what the statute prohibits: taking race into account in hiring.

That year also saw what has long stood as the Supreme Court's key case concerning race-conscious hiring: Regents of the University of California v. Bakke. The result was that no college or university admissions slot could be reserved by race, but, on the other hand, race could be a "plus factor" for acceptance where reasonably necessary to remedy the effects of past discrimination. Unfortunately, the Bakke opinion was so splintered that, in practice, it gave little legal guidance.

Since Bakke, the Court has grown increasingly doubtful about the propriety of race as a category in hiring. In Richmond v. Croson (1989), it struck down a municipal set-aside program that had relied on past bias as justification. The Court stressed that, to be constitutional, race-conscious actions by governments have to be narrowly tailored to remedy specific past bias.

Quotas threatened

Then in 1995, in Adarand Constructors v. Pena, the Court struck down a set-aside program in municipal contracting that had led to the rejection of a white-owned firm's low bid and acceptance of a higher bid from a Hispanic-owned firm on affirmative action grounds. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote on behalf of a majority of the Court: "We have long held that equal protection of the law is a personal right, not a group right. Laws classifying citizens by race pose a great threat to that right."

A direct threat to quotas comes from a decision of the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (whose jurisdiction covers Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi), called Hopwood v. Texas. This was a challenge to the University of Texas' race-conscious admissions policy. The university argued that, even in the absence of a history of discrimination, achieving a "diverse" student body was a "compelling state interest," sufficient to justify a violation of the plaintiff's right to under the Fourteenth Amendment.

The appeals court found that Bakke had not decided whether "diversity" is a compelling state interest and held that it was not. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

At the Crossroads
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.