Affirmative action has been part of our social and political landscape for over fifty years now, ever since JFK signed an executive order in 1961 that called for "affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin." Four years later, President Johnson took it even further when he stated:
Nothing is more freighted with meaning for our own destiny than the revolution of the Negro American…In far too many ways American Negroes have been another nation: deprived of freedom, crippled by hatred, the doors of opportunity closed to hope…But freedom is not enough. You do not wipe away the scars of centuries by saying: Now you are free to go where you want, and do as you desire, and choose the leaders you please. You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, ‘you are free to compete with all the others,’ and still justly believe that you have been completely fair…This is the next and the more profound stage of the battle for civil rights. We seek not just freedom but opportunity. We seek not just legal equity but human ability, not just equality as a right and a theory but equality as a fact and equality as a result…To this end equal opportunity is essential, but not enough, not enough.So here we are, trudging through another presidential election cycle, and as always, Republicans have begun to talk about the inequality of affirmative action. They call it “preferential treatment.” They inspire students to sue colleges over it. They claim that it’s no longer necessary in an America willing to elect a black president. They say that the United States can never be a country based on equality as long as we continue to offer a leg up to a part of our population.They’re right!
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