The Best Affirmative Action Essay Prompts
Decades after it was introduced by President Kennedy in 1961, affirmative action is still one of the most controversial issues in US history. Naturally this makes it a popular subject for essays at all levels of education. If you’re planning an essay on this topic it’s best to make sure you cover a few key points.
- Why it was introduced - Racial inequality in the United States, especially in the former Confederate South, remained entrenched in law for nearly a hundred years after the end of the Civil War. Discrimination against black Americans and other ethnic groups denied them the chance to be as successful as whites, and led to widespread poverty. By introducing affirmative action Kennedy hoped to give minorities the opportunity to become better educated and wealthier.
- What it involved - In the UK, similar programmes are known as positive discrimination, and this gives a good idea of what is involved. Instead of simply making previously victimised minorities equal in law, affirmative action aimed to give them preferential treatment with the intention of reversing the effects of decades of discrimination. The basis of the law was an executive order prohibiting discrimination on grounds of race, religion or national origin when it came to hiring people for government-contacted jobs. Over time it expanded to cover discrimination on grounds of gender.
- Who has to comply - In employment law, affirmative action laws now cover all U.S: federal agencies and any company which makes significant income from federal government contracts. Laws and policies have also been introduced to impose race (and sometimes gender) based quotas on university admissions.
- Where it applies - Although affirmative action is mandated by federal law, some states have laws that specifically ban positive discrimination and quotas. These include California, Washington and Michigan. It is often alleged that some universities unofficially apply quotas.
- Who opposes it - The positive discrimination aspects of affirmative action have met widespread opposition. Although the programme was developed mostly to assist black Americans, the only black judge in the Supreme Court - Clarence Thomas - is a vocal opponent. Thomas argues that affirmative action harms black Americans because they are seen as having achieved success through being treated favourably rather than on their own merits. There have also been numerous lawsuits brought by whites who claimed that they had been denied employment or a university place that they believed they had earned, in favour of a less qualified black candidate.
Affirmative action is obviously a large and complex subject. Even more than 50 years after it was first introduced it can generate a very heated debate. By discussing and expanding on the points above you’ll be able to explain why.