The Potency of Affirmative Action

In an interview with the Associated Press on July 2, President Obama commented on affirmative action. He said, "I've always believed that affirmative action was less of an issue, or should be less than an issue, than it's been made out to be in news reports. It's not, it hasn't been as potent a force for racial progress as advocates would claim, and it hasn't been as bad on white students seeking admissions or seeking a job as its critics has been."

Dennis Parker, Director of the ACLU's Racial Justice Program, offers his view on President Obama's comments and on the importance of equal opportunity programs, such as affirmative action in this podcast:

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Dennis says:

I was disappointed by the comments that he made in the interview. First, because I think it understates the value of affirmative action in the past, and secondly, because I think it leaves out of the equation existing current discrimination.

In reaction to President Obama's suggestion that affirmative action has not been a strong force in the struggle for racial equality, Dennis says:

When you're talking about how potent [affirmative action has] been, in fact, much of the rise of the black middle class over the past 20 or 30 years is the result of affirmative action.

Dennis goes on to draw attention to Colin Powell's support of affirmative action because of the important role it played in offering him opportunities that would have otherwise been closed to him.


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President Obama is wrong if he thinks that Affirmative action has not hurt caucasian citizens of this United States of America. I am a buisness woman here in Fort Worth Texas. I received information regarding special government programs for minority and woman owned contractors in our area. Upon responding to these invitaions to attend all of these minority and woman owned vendor workshops, my comapny has been told no less than 4 times in the last month alone, and I quote"under the law you qualify as a minority, but we are giving preferential treatment to who are african american, hispanic, asian or of another minority. That we have been instructed to hold their bids with a much higher weight of consideration then yours so my suggestion would be to not waste your time. There are several local, state, and federal government agencies working here in North Texas that are refusing to accept HUB (Hisotrically Under Utilized Business) certifications and only accepting certification by the North Texas Central Regional Certification Agency. Upon applying with them for certification, I produced all of the paperwork required but one. Because I am a woman (caucasian)married to a non-minority spouce (caucasian male) I will be required to enter into a "Separate Marital Agreement" or my application will be withdrawn and denied. They were asking just in case, maybe it might happen some day, that if i ever got divorced. I asked both the case worker and the agency director that if I and my spouce were minority, would this be required of me. They told me the "Separate Marital Agreement" were not be an issue. They even state that in their own policy book on their website. And it only applies to those married to non-minority spouces. This is basically a pre-divorce agreement. I have been with my husband for 25 years, and due to his health, he is more likely to pass away, rather then us ever getting a divorce.
They denied my application certification because I will not ask my husband to give up his legal rights under the State of Texas, I will not be eligable to be placed on the minority vendor list of at least 16 different public organizations are tax dollars pay for. I will also be left out of being able to bid on projects that the stimulous money has allocated for minority contracts. Affirmative action hurst everyone, espeically the people it was made to protect, because even in the agencies set up to prevent discrimination their is discrimination against, sex, race,and religous belief. Because I will refuse to have the sanctatiy of my marriage violated by a government agency, I will not bend on my principals as a Christian, and I will not give in to clear reverse discrimination against me as a woman or my husband.


I'm an ACLU member and regular contributor. I believe in equality for ALL people. Where was the ACLU in defending the New Haven firefighters? This was clearly a case of racial descrimination.

Conor McCartney

I think it is interesting that now that women are out performing men in college that affirmative action is now benefiting men at the expense of women.

So 50 years ago before affirmative action women couldn't get into college because of less qualified men, now because of affirmative action a lot of women can't get into college because of less qualified men.


While the Supreme Court is challenging Affirmative Action, they might as well revisit the entire body of discrimination, harassment, and adverse action laws that essentially make 'ALL MEN GUILTY until proven innoncent.' Much like the new Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013.

The laws beyond basic Civil Rights are truly a violation of one's Individual Liberties, regardless of color or gender. (Many of these laws may violate State's Rights too.)

This would be a great opportunity to repeal or outlaw 'favoritism' in the law. Currently, the laws favor women and give women legal hegemony on the workplace and elsewhere.

Sorry men...we need to fix this.


When 'affirmative action' was first implemented, I was on a roofing crew of about 30. We were asked to try to get as many blacks to apply because the company was REQUIRED to hire at least 12 blacks asap. Forget that not many people wanted to work as hard as was necessary to be a roofer; we had to actively recruit blacks to meet the quota.
Now I'm living in Kansas City MO. There is a security force that works the downtown library on 10th and Main as well as the bus depot and downtown area. THEY ARE ALL BLACK, no other race is represented. Where is the equality? Where is the outrage you'd see from al sharpton and jessie jackson if they were all white?
Is it only RACISM if blacks are being discriminated against but not the other way whereas they are discriminating against all other races? Judging by eric holder's lack of action against the black panthers intimidating voters, and other cases where there is no prosecution if the person is black that violates common decency and uses racial discrimination.
Where are you in this matter ACLU?

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