The term affirmative action is used to describe various measures to overcome discrimination in „professional and public life“ (Peters/ Birkhäuser 2005, 1).
Origin of Affirmative Action
The origin of affirmative action programs lies in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Affirmative action owes its genesis to Title VI, which states that „no person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance“ (42 U. S. C. 2000 d). Thus, the federal government could threaten businesses, academic institutions, and institutions (see above) with the withholding of financial assistance and the termination of contracts (see Hildebrandt 2005, 475).
Affirmative Action Measures
Affirmative action measures can be divided into three types:
1. training programs are intended to improve professional and academic qualifications of minorities (cf. ibid.).
2. goals and timetables, „which establish relatively flexible time guidelines for hiring or admitting minorities into a business, organization, institution“ (ibid.).
3. fixed quotas, which aim to increase the proportion of minorities in companies, organizations, and institutions and to realize „the equity ideal of proportional representation“ (ibid., 475).
Affirmative action measures apply to academic institutions, businesses, political offices, local, state, and federal administrations, as well as institutions that receive financial support from the federal government (see ibid.).
Reverse discrimination as an extreme form of affirmative action
An extreme form of affirmative action is reverse discrimination. If, for example, a woman and a man with the same qualifications apply for the same position and the woman is given preference due to the women’s quota, the male applicant is at a disadvantage. In this case, gender is the decisive factor in the allocation of jobs, so that reverse discrimination takes place (Peters/ Birkhäuser, 6).
Civil Rights Acts of 1964, Public Law 88–352 (1964), 42 U. S. C. 2000.
Hildebrandt, Mathias (2005): Multikulturalismus und Political Correctness in den USA. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.
Peters, Anne/ Birkhäuser, Noah (2005): Affirmative Action à l’Américaine – Vorbild für Europa? In: Zeitschrift für ausländisches öffentliches Recht und Völkerrecht 65, 1–34.