Affirmative action, a series of steps, procedures, policies, and programs designed to overcome the present effects of past discrimination on members of minority groups, is a measure designed to protect the American dream. The American dream is based on the precepts of fairness, honesty, and freedom from prejudice. Adherents of affirmative action maintain that the most effective way to preserve this fragile dream is for hiring agencies to take steps that will ensure that minorities are given an "added boost" in the hiring marketplace.
Statements about what affirmative action is not are in actuality statements about what it should not be. An EEO publication (Equal Employment Opportunity) offers these statements to clarify the issue: "Affirmative action should not be reverse discrimination against non-minorities nor males; it is not an excuse for lowering performance or conduct standards; and it is not a vehicle for hiring minorities in lower-skill jobs and leaving them there" (36). As will be seen, however, affirmative action programs, regardless of intent, do, in fact, discriminate in reverse.
After the U.S. Congress passed the Civil Rights Act in 1964, it became apparent that there existed barriers against full equality in employment. Aptitude tests, for example, were seen as one example of such a barrier. Minorities with a lack of sufficient education argued that such tests posed challenges to them on the basis of prejudice and discrimination.
The entry for affirmative action in the Encyclopedia Americana offers this piece of history regarding the invalidation of entrance tests after Lyndon B. Johnson's executive order for affirmative action in 1965:
Aptitude tests were, in effect, barriers against full equality in employment. Realizing the need for remedial action, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued an executive order on Sept. 24, 1965, that required federal contractors 'to take affirmative action to ensure...