Challenging Racism Within The Workforce Affirmative Action


  The roots of affirmative action can be traced all the way back to the 1950’s with the case Brown vs. Board of Education where the courts overturned the Plessy vs. Ferguson ruling.  The Brown vs. Board case was about an African American girl who sought entry into a white public school, and was originally denied access. The court later ruled that the girls denied access into the school was in fact discrimination, which is a key aspect of racial segregation; this violated the 14th Amendment.  This decision was the beginning of the countries initiatives to promote diversity in schools, the workplace, and other sectors. In 1961 President John F. Kennedy issued the new law which later was referred to as affirmative action this was passed to end discrimination. Three years later in 1964 The Civil Rights Act came to fruition its purpose was to eliminate employment discrimination and discrimination in public accommodations. In 1965 President Lyndon Johnson issued an executive order which mandated federal contractors practice affirmative action to develop diversity within the workplace and end race based discrimination.

African Americans are constantly being looked past when it comes too receiving jobs of high importance and  detailed positions, and even when the small majority make it to a certain point on the social ladder there not getting equal opportunities for advancement ; most notably in the form of  promotions. This social ceiling is a form of systematic racism that has been breed within this country for many years. Once African Americans reach a certain point in their career paths most are denied advancement if their even able to reach as far as they deserve to be; some resistance movements have been in place to attempt to remedy this ongoing situation. One of the biggest forms of resistance movements for the advancement of African American within the work field is the law of affirmative action, in a nut shell this law requires potential bosses to look further at the applications of minorities of equal qualification and requires the hiring of a certain percentage of these minorities seeking work.


For the history of affirmative action I’m going to focus on some of the laws that were put in place over the years to make this movement as affective as possible. Executive Order 1095 was put in place on March 6th, 1961 by President John F. Kennedy, this order included a provision that forced government contractors “take affirmative action to ensure that all applicants are employed, and employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin.” This order intended to affirm the government’s commitment for equal opportunity to any persons that qualified. Four years later on September 24th, 1965 President Lyndon B. Johnson issued Executive Order 11246, this prohibited employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, and national origin by any and all organizations that received federal contracts and subcontracts. This order was amended in 1967 to add sex on the list of attributes; this order requires federal contractors take affirmative action to promote equal opportunity for both women and minorities. The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), under the Department of Labor monitors the requirement for all federal contractors to have developed regulations to which these contractors must follow. Federal contractors that employ more than 50 people and have federal contracts worth more than $50,000 rule compliance means disseminating and enforcement of a non-discriminatory policy, establishing a written plan of affirmative action and goals for women and minorities, and to implement action-oriented programs to accomplish these goals. The following is an excerpt taking from Part 2, Subpart B, and section 202 of Executive Order 11246, “The contractor will not discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The contractor will take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Such action shall include, but not be limited to the following: employment, upgrading, demotion, or transfer; recruitment or recruitment advertising; layoff or termination; rates of pay or other forms of compensation; and selection for training, including apprenticeship.”(

  Another ruling that was affected by affirmative action was the Griggs vs. Duke Power Co. in 1971. “The Supreme Court unanimously ruled against Duke’s requirement of high school diplomas or IQ tests for those applying for unskilled jobs. The decision held that “Title VII forbids not only practices adopted with a discriminatory motive, but also practices which, though adopted without discriminatory intent, have a discriminatory effect on minorities and women.” The ruling provided a legal foundation for cases of “disparate impact,” asserting that employers may not use job requirements that adversely affect women and minorities unless required by what it termed “business necessity.” “The EEOC was strengthened by the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972, which enabled the Commission to file class action suits. Under the Carter administration, the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection established the “four-fifths rule.” This rule was significant in that it provided an explicit benchmark to determine disparate impact, which had been left vague in earlier U.S. Department of Labor regulations. The four-fifths rule held that firms contracting with the federal government should not be allowed to hire any race, sex, or ethnic group at a rate below four-fifths that of any other group.”(

Contemporary Movements/Organizations

One current organization that helps the fight against inequality and segregation especially in regards to the workplace is the AAAA or  The American Association for Affirmative Action’ this is an association of professionals that manage affirmative action, equal opportunity, diversity and other human resource programs. This group was founded in 1974 this is an national non-profit organization dedicated to fighting for the equality of minorities and African Americans, they promote understanding and advocacy of affirmative action to help enhance equality within employment, and educational and economic opportunities. The AAAA has many goals in what they strive for within their organization some of which include, setting up nationwide programs that encourage equal opportunities, Liaison with federal, state and local agencies involved with equal opportunity compliance in employment and education, and sponsor education and training programs. Another organization revolving around affirmative action is the EEOC or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission this is an independent federal law enforcement agency which enforces laws against workplace discrimination. This organization investigates discrimination complaints based on a person’s color, race, religion, sex, age, and disability. This organization has the power to file discrimination law suits against employers accused of breaking these laws.


The United States Commission on Civil Rights is another organization is an independent commission of the U.S. federal government which has the responsibility for investigating, reporting, and making recommendations that regard civil rights infractions within the nation. This organization is made of up 8 commissioners four of which that are appointed by the President of the United States two by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and two by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, this organization with created after the Civil Rights Act of 1957 which was signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. It’s the organizations belief that,” In a democratic society, the systematic, critical review of social needs and public policy is a fundamental necessity. This is especially true of a field like civil rights, where the problems are enduring, and range widely, a temporary, sporadic approach can never fully solve these problems.”  The Leadership Conference is another organization has been around for 25 years, they believe in equal opportunity in the workforce for people of color, they are continuously encouraging diversity within employment, education, and government contracting. This organization was created to educate the public as well as media on how equal opportunity is beneficial to not only those who it directly affects but also the nation as well.

Plans/Goals of the Movement

Specific strategies of the affirmative action movement itself in a nut shell are the advancement in opportunities for minorities and African Americans within the work field as well as educational and economic advancement opportunities.  When referring to the goals of the American Association for Affirmative Action, theirs are more specific. The AAAA’s goal is the promotion of affirmative action as an instrument to fulfill the nation’s promise of equal opportunity. “The Association is made up of individuals and organizations from the public and private sectors, business, social service, legal, government, and education. Founded in 1974, the Association provides training and educational programs to promote the professional growth and development of its 2,000 individual and corporate members.”( “The purpose of affirmative action is to give our nation a way to finally address the systemic exclusion of individuals of talent on the basis of their gender, or race from opportunities to develop, perform, achieve and contribute. Affirmative action is an effort to develop systematic approach to open the doors of education, employment, and business development opportunities to qualified individuals who happen to be members of groups that have experienced long-standing and persistent discrimination.”(

When you are talking about the movements goals as a whole specifically as related to the workforce it encompasses a wide range of actions ended to give an equal opportunity to all equally qualified Americans; these goals include but are not limited to:

  • Identifying and dismantling discriminatory barriers such as biased testing or recruitment and hiring practices;
  • Conducting outreach to underrepresented women and minorities by targeting colleges, ethnic media, or women and minority organizations;
  • Increasing workplace diversity by allowing factors such as race, ethnicity or gender to be among those considered in evaluating qualified candidates;
  • Instituting and reviewing mentoring and targeted training programs;
  • Addressing hidden biases in recruitment, hiring, promotion, and compensation practices, such as unnecessary job requirements; and
  • Setting flexible goals for managers and supervisors. (

Elements of Systemic Racism Targeted By Affirmative Action

  • Wage Inequality
  • Urban Apartheid
  • Public Disinvestment
  • Labor Market Discrimination
  • Economic Stagnation
  • Inheritance(Of wealth)-accumulation+disaccumulation of wealth

My Views

There are many sociological problems that contribute to the persistent joblessness in the United States especially within inner-city neighborhoods, which are pre dominantly made up of minorities and African Americans. Within these inner-city’s you will find not only profound joblessness but high crime rates, high prison rates, and high female pregnancy rates. Discrimination plays a major role in the joblessness you will find in the inner cities. These minorities are quickly over looked simply because of the color of their skin. They are thought of as less intelligent and not as qualified, even if there resume proves otherwise. A lot of the problem with inner city children and families and their ability for societal success stems from the societal resources they are allowed, most notably being constantly denied jobs they are more than qualified for. A study was done relating formerly incarcerated whites to African Americans who have never been imprisoned, however the whites chance of being hired was 17% and African Americans were at 14% hiring rate, where is the equality in that? African Americans must constantly take jobs that are less than their worth, and barely enough money to support their families because potential employers frankly are hiring them at a vastly lesser rate than their white counterparts. To most of America the issue of inequality when it comes to receiving your worth and getting a job you’re qualified for gets overlooked and pushed aside, because as a whole our society doesn’t view this as a problem. The issue is this is a problem that doesn’t affect most of America and that’s why it’s a hidden issue within our society. The problem with our society today is unless a problem affects the majority of the population it isn’t deemed important enough to be fixed which in turn alienates these people who struggle with these problems. When discussing the issue of inequality in regards to life chances and opportunities for these people living in the inner cities there are many possible solutions to these problems. The continuance of affirmative action is the most important of the solutions to the issue of inequality in regards to the workforce. Racism is still alive some of it covert while most of it is overt, or colorblind. African Americans face many difficulties when looking for a job and affirmative action is a necessary means that begins to even out the inequalities within society. A big problem that negates any progress made by affirmative action is suburbanization. Suburbanization is when jobs leave major cities and are re located to the suburbs; this is taking jobs away from qualified people within the inner cities close to the cities that once had these job opportunities. Most people living in these inner cities don’t have the means of transportation to leave the city to find employment in the suburbs. Money is a big struggle for these people most don’t own a car and can’t afford bus and or train fare on a weekly basis to get to the jobs. I believe there are many possible solutions to fix such a serious problem. First and foremost I believe we need to start an organization within these inner cities that get a group of people together to discuss the issues of the inner cities and resolutions for them. This board of people should be made up of mostly people living within these inner cities and a few members of the city council. There should be an organization developed to help fund means of transportation for these people to get to their jobs in the suburbs. Another solution to this problem could be a startup company which the government pays to transport these people to and from their jobs. The last and possibly most difficult solution to implement would be starting groups of carpools within these companies which would buddy up employees with means of transportation that live close by their coworkers in the inner city to bring them to and from work, with some kind of incentives for these volunteers. Affirmative action is a giant step forward but not the only fix to the giant problem; it’s merely a band aid. For affirmative action to be successful the world as a whole must open its eyes to these inequalities that continue to face minorities that are trying to find work in well-paying jobs that they are qualified for, because at the end of the day everyone deserves a fighting chance to be successful in life.

Scholarly References





Authored By: Antonio Magaletta

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