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President John F. Kennedy used the phrase "affirmative action" in March of 1961, when he put into effect Executive Order 10925. The order required every federal contract to include the pledge that "The Contractor will not discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, creed, color, 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, creed, color, or national origin."
However, in 1965 President Lyndon B. Johnson felt that in order to achieve fairness more was need than just a commitment to impartial treatment. Months later, President Johnson issued Executive Order 11246, which stated that "It is the policy of the Government of the United States to provide equal opportunity in federal employment for all qualified persons, to prohibit discrimination in employment because or race, creed, color or national origin, and to promote the full realization of equal employment opportunity through a positive, continuing program in each department and agency." Two years later, the order was amended to prohibit discrimination based on sex.
Today, it is argued that the affirmative action policy has resulted in reverse discrimination, as well as an increase in racial tension. Those in opposition feel that it is undemocratic to give one class of citizens advantages at the expense of other citizens. They feel this policy promotes quotas rather than qualifications. They believe that discrimination on some level is a part of everyone's life and is an inescapable part of forming preferences and taste.
Those in favor of affirmative action state that it is not about preferential treatment for certain racial, gender, or ethnic groups, but rather about promoting equality and equal opportunities for everyone. Defenders feel this policy helps level the field for women and minorities that historically have been overlooked and discriminated against.
The issue of affirmative action is a sore subject in society. I have mixed feelings on the policy; it can be beneficial as well as harmful to those affected by it. As a woman in the workforce, it is reality to me that segregation based on sex does exist, as well as a wage gap. I feel that women will benefit more from a free market system rather than one controlled by government regulation. In order to meet their quota, employers will promote women and minorities too quickly or into positions, they are not qualified for.
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Human nature causes us to draw conclusions, judge and categorize others based on their outside appearance on a daily basis. Generally, you associate with those you favor and avoid those who you feel are objectionable or unpleasant.
Affirmative action if viewed in a broader historical context, is primarily about equal opportunity in American society.