Race specific programs and policies (for example the equal opportunity employment act) have come under attack by those who perceive that the white-collar job market has succeeded in becoming...

Race specific programs and policies (for example the equal opportunity employment act) have come under attack by those who perceive that the white-collar job market has succeeded in becoming color-blind. Submit a well reasoned argument against this perception. It is important to maintain an objective approach to this question.

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are a number of reasons one might argue that affirmative action programs are still necessary and justified in the white collar labor market.  These arguments have to do with the continuing effects of past discrimination and the likelihood that there will continue to be prejudice, whether conscious or not, against non-white people.

One major argument for affirmative action programs is that they are still needed to make up for the impact of past discrimination.  Of course, it is true that discrimination has not been legal for just over 50 years at this time.  However, even if we are to assume that discrimination disappeared with the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, we can still say that its effects continue to be felt.  As one example of this, we can argue that the effects of centuries of discrimination cannot be wiped away in 50 years.  African Americans were enslaved as early as the 1620s and were then discriminated against after they became free in the 1860s.  That means African Americans were mistreated to some extent or other for more than 300 years.  The impact of that mistreatment cannot have disappeared in the past 50 years. 

We can also say that 50 years is not a very long time and that effects of what happened 50 years ago can still be felt today.  For example, I am 45 years old and my parents got married in 1964 at which point my mother was in college and my father in graduate school.  My grandfather (the only one I had in the US) was a professor at that time.  Because my parents and grandparents had all these advantages in 1964, I enjoyed advantages as well.  It was easy for me to succeed in high school and get into college because I had been prepared for that all my life by my family.  My grandfather paid off all my college loans.  These things made my life relatively easy.  Now imagine that I had been African American and my grandparents and parents had had minimal education in 1964 because of discrimination.  I would not have had the life opportunities that I have had.  We can argue that African Americans deserve preferential treatment in some areas as a way to make up for the ways in which past discrimination has affected their life opportunities.

A second major argument is that prejudice against African Americans (and other non-whites) continues to exist and to be important.  This prejudice is not necessarily conscious.  However, even if prejudice is unconscious, it is still real.  Studies have shown that when researchers send out identical resumes to companies, those with names that sound stereotypically African American get fewer calls for interviews than those with more “white-sounding” names.  Unconscious bias may also affect those who are interviewing candidates for white collar jobs.  White interviewers may feel, at a subconscious level, that white applicants are more “like them.”  This sort of prejudice might make them less likely to hire African Americans.

Although discrimination has been illegal since 1964, its effects can still be felt.  In addition, it is unlikely that the ending of legal discrimination has completely done away with prejudice that can affect hiring decisions.  For these reasons, we can at least argue that affirmative action programs should continue to exist.