Based on video lessons 5 – 8 and your knowledge of the fourteenth

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It was powerful to watch the videos about the history of racial discrimination in America, and especially about the path of African-Americans from slavery to participation in today’s society.  I would think that the psychological scars of slavery would last for generations.  To be taken out of a society by force, made to be slaves (with the horrors of that system, as in the film 12 YEARS A SLAVE), and then to be “freed” but still to face at least another century of discrimination must be almost unbearable.


This is why the idea of affirmative action came about. That is, to try to remedy some of the past discrimination. It is worth noting that one of the commentators to the video “The Struggle for Equality” also pointed out that there is plenty of present discrimination that may need to be addressed as well. One example of that could be the way that African-Americans are treated by the police and incarcerated at such high rates.  Our textbook points out, at page 166, that African-Americans are one-third of the prison population, and later goes on to say that America has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. It means that there are huge numbers of African-Americans in jail.


Faced with this, there is a national need to address the past discrimination.  One of the methods to remedy the past official discimination is affirmative action, which offers a preference to a group or group for admission to public colleges and universities if that group was the subject of discrimination.  In a totalitarian system, there would be no issue with affirmative action, but in the American democracy it  does bring up Consitutional issues. The 14th Amendment, passed after the Civil War, says that all people must be afforded equal protection of laws…”nor deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”  I don’t think there is any doubt that affirmative action means that people are not going to be treated perfectly equally.  The Supreme Court has said that it is not always unconsitutional to favor one group over another, but if the group being favored or disfavored, that law is going to be “strictly scrutinized.”


Some forms of affirmative action will pass strict scrutiny. Others will not. Back in the 1970s, when the Bakke case was decided, the Supreme Court ruled that a quota system for non-white applicants to a medical school could not stand strict scrutiny because it was too discriminatory. But a different kind of law, which gave a preference or a plus to applicants because they came from a certain group, would be okay under the Consitution.  The idea that there should be a student body that is diverse is a good goal under the Constitution, as long as the laws to get there do not go too far.  What is interesting is that diversity can be read in a lot of ways.  Racial diversity is important, but there may be underserved other groups at colleges and universities, like poor students, who could benefit from a form of affirmative action.


My own sense is that affirmative action is a good thing. It might be more tolerable if therre were an ending date for it.  That is, if the Supreme Court said, say, that all affirmative action will come to an end in the year 2100, or something. I did a little outside reading I know this is what Justice O’Connor wrote in the Grutter decision (2003).  This is one of the ways that America can move to where it actually a society where all races and ethnicities have equal opportunities in society.





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When the fourteenth amendment was ratified post Civil War, it had language referencing denial of life, liberty and property for any person yet it was also meant to safe guard freed slaves. The usage as well as translation of how it is communicated has evolved as time has changed.


Fast forward to the implementation of affirmative action and we now investigate the need for these specific preferences that have been granted to certain groups such as people of color, disabled and women. The opposing side of affirmative action claims that in granting special treatment for specific groups like women and people of color would harm the other group. Also the opposition to the affirmative action claiming it violate the fourteenth amendment by allowing preference to one group over another. Supporters argue that affirmative action allows doors to be opened to them, who have in history always been on the opposite side. It is clear that from the start of the founding of this nation, its laws were created specifically for a restrictive population of property owning white males. Other groups which included people of color and women were not included until much later and affirmative action is a driving force in providing a equal playing field for jobs and higher educations.


I believe that it is important for the government to understand that although we are all equal there are differences as well as inequalities that are heightened for specific groups. It is important that we not only look at affirmative action as a tool in order to help to broaden the workforce and colleges but to provide through education an opportunity to improve these social differences.


The text references the United States as having the most incarcerations than any other country. A further look into each state showed that Maine had the lowest rate and it was linked to education and small minority populations. This example proves that through education much change can be made and with affirmative action it would allow many different groups the ability to enter into environments that were not originally created for them. In turn it would create role models within their communities and open the door for others.



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