Set-Asides and Quotas: Fiction or Fact?
Affirmative action and related policies have been a source of growing discontent and division in our society for over two decades now. Arrayed on one side of the debate are those who begin by observing that this country's past treatment of its racial and ethnic minorities and of women is a blight on its history. Advocates of this position maintain that justice requires some kind of systematic policy aimed at remedying the effects of long-standing discrimination against blacks, other minorities, and women. A long struggle led from Dred Scott and Plessy v. Ferguson to Brown v. Board of Education, and to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
But, say affirmative action advocates, full repair of the damage done in the past requires that women and members of minority groups have equal employment opportunities in the present and future. The Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts did not eradicate patterns of discrimination that still concentrate power and influence in the hands of white men of European descent. Thus a long period of sustained government action is needed to counteract these patterns by mandating and enforcing affirmative action.
On the other side are those who contend that affirmative action