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Affirmative Action and Its Strengths and Weaknesses

Unemployment figures, particularly relating to racial minorities and women, have continued to climb in America since the Great Depression, with only a brief reprieve during World War II. Under President Harry Truman, Congress passed the Full Employment Act in 1946 to show government's commitment to providing employment opportunities to all Americans. However, as racial strife began to explode beyond the confines of the rural and urban ghettos in the 1960's and early 1960's, it was apparent that a more strident, encompassing plan was needed. It came in the form of what is called "Affirmative Action." The purpose of this paper will be to discuss this plan and its necessity and weaknesses in light of today's prevailing racial and sexual inequalities.

In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson, as part of his campaign for civil rights that began during the Kennedy Administration, spearheaded the Civil Rights Act of 1964 through Congress. Under the Act, Title VII specifically prohibited discrimination based an race, color, religion, sex or national origin in all employment practices, including hiring, firing, promotion, compensation, and provision of benefits (U.S. Commission on..., 1982, p. 2). Following its Passage came the Equal Pay Act which forbade employers from maintaining different pay scales for men and women who perform "equal work."

These laws were revolutionary in the fact that they challenged longstanding practices which limited employment opportunities for minorities and women. Discrimination in virtually all phases of employment now was illegal. However, studies have shown that in the many decades that have passed since the Act's affirmative action program, listed under Executive Order 112246 in 1965, was implemented, discrimination is still practiced though in a much more sophisticated and subtle manner. Minorities and women still lag behind in the work force.

Affirmative action, in its original concept, was des...

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