The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s had changed the course of American history, breaking extreme racial boundaries of the South for the first time since the end of the Revolutionary War (1783). The Civil Rights Movement created icons known world wide, from Rosa Parks, to the peaceful Martin Luther King Jr., who believed that freedom needed to be “demanded by the oppressed” (Letter From Birmingham Jail 2) to the violent Malcolm X who'd keep African Americans fighting for rights "by any means necessary” (“Malcolm X, By Any Means Necessary: Speeches, Interviews, and a Letter by Malcolm X” 35-67).
These actions by civil rights leaders prompted political change, allowing schools to be integrated, African Americans sharing facilities with whites and living among each other as a close-knit American community, striving for the better. Of the staggering outcomes of the nation’s most racially tense time period, affirmative action stands out as the most imperative of the policies created by the US government for equal opportunity.
In 1965, affirmative action policies actively engaged in efforts to improve opportunities for historically excluded groups in American society. This includes minority groups such as African Americans, Hispanics etc. Women were also included in affirmative action, since most, if not all, did not have equal opportunities in education and employment as did the men (Messerli 2). Minority groups now have an equal opportunity in political elections, education, admission into high institutions, health care, employment, social protection, as well as cultural and historical recognition (Daflon, Feres, Jr. 19).
Affirmative action was used many in Supreme Court cases, in which the highest law of the land, the Constitution, is referred to almost always. Events of the 1960’s and the policy of Affirmative Action had inspired the playwright Lorraine Hansberry to create A Raisin in the Sun, a story about a poor Chicago family trying to follow their dreams, while at the same time trying to keep the dignity of the family name and household.
The issue of affirmative action in the United States really sparked in 1977, when 35-year-old Allan Bakke filed a lawsuit against the Regents of the University of California for wrongly denying him into their medical school by practicing “reverse discrimination," taking race into account for applications to the university. At the time, 16 percent of the medical school spots were reserved strictly for Minorities. ("University of California Regents v. Bakke, United States Supreme Court, 438 U.S. 265).
However, many of the Minority applicants scored lower GPAs and had resumes that were less sturdy than Bakke. Referring back to Hansberry's play A Raisin in the Sun, Beneatha had dreams of one day becoming a doctor, and yet had not worked properly enough to attend a high institution (Hansberry 28), which could've, at the time, caused some controversy to race being a factor in applying to schools.
This "reverse discrimination" prevented Bakke from attending, twice, simply because there were no spots left for white students. In 1978, Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell deemed that racial quotas by universities are unconstitutional under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. However, race remained an important factor in the applications of students (The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law 1).
Not only has affirmative Action affected millions of minorities in America, it has also affected areas around the world. In India, the Confederation of Indian Industry (or CII) have developed a one day development and career guidance program to council Indian students and citizens the physiological and behavioral skills to pursue careers in Engineering, Marketing, Business Management, Pharmacy etc. (India Public Sector News 5). 100 people will take part in the program located at the Government Higher Secondary School in Kancheepuram.
This program will soon be the stepping stone for the the country of over 1.3 billion people, all having equal opportunities for education. Omanisation is another form of Affirmative action introduced in 1992 in Oman, known for being one of the six GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries in the middle east. In Oman today, it is extremely difficult to hire efficient construction workers who have worked hard enough and have the correct skill sets to complete multi-million dollar construction projects, and in turn having almost 300,000 Omanis on an unemployment benefit.
Most construction projects done are completed by migrant workers from countries such as India, which can be much more expensive than hiring a Omani. ‘Omanisation’ in the country can not work unless the education is up to par. More and more Omanis are getting “guaranteed” passings of each skill set class and shows how poor performance can reflect in the real world projects.
The Younger family have faced similar struggles that could’ve easily been through the Affirmative action program. Walter-Lee is stuck with a dead end job as a Chauffeur to an affluent white man, while Ruth must take care of Travis and the rest of the family, cleaning the house (Hansberry 1, 45). Poor and hardly educated, Walter-Lee always dreamed of owning a liquor store, but is always forced to “eat his eggs” (Hansberry 20).
In this case, affirmative action would've been ideal for Walter Lee, giving him an equal opportunity for education and allowing him to earn a much better job opportunity and can do more than just own a liquor store. This can also be of help to Travis, the youngest in the household and the symbol of a bright future for the Younger family, at least if he gets the opportunity to succeed. Although Beneatha has hardly worked her whole life, getting a member of the Younger family into a higher institution would be a monumental achievement for the family.
The $10,000 that the mother is responsible for really determines whose dreams come true and whose doesn’t. Walter in A Raisin in the Sun explains that “Money is life” and is the reason that many people survive in a world judged by how much you make instead of the person you are (Hansberry 58). Affirmative action can make things much more affordable for the Youngers and conflict would not arise for the family, as it did throughout the entire book.
Walter was so angry at his life situation that he took the money that was made “brick by brick” by Walter Sr. to a friend in hopes to finally own the liquor store (Hansberry 125). When his friend runs off with the money, Walter is furious with himself. Six thousand dollars had gone down the drain, and Walter now had to figure out a way to get the money back into his hands. Most importantly, the racial ties between Asagai and Beneatha are very prevalent. Asagai comes from his homeland in search of someone to love and share his African culture with.
Beneatha is amused by his charm and character so she digs down deep into her own roots, dressing up in fine robes and cutting her hair short. George Murchison, a much wealthier, educated black man who dates Beneatha, is appalled by her looks and tells her that African culture is just a bunch of “Straw Huts and Fur," which later infuriates Beneatha (Hansberry 60). George Murchison represents seems to represent the cultural struggle that forced the United States government to apply affirmative action to schools around the country.
Asagai is very proud of his culture, while George is not. Affirmative Action allows people like Asagai an opportunity that someone like George refuses to give.
Affirmative action has forever changed the scope on how we look at race as a whole entity rather than separate color. We see now that if one works hard, one deserves the same amount of opportunity no matter the color of the person or the background of which he or she is from. Affirmative action gives opportunity to all who sees success as a springboard for the future of the United States and the world.