What is Affirmative Action?

Reference: Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Affirmative action is commonly referred to as the backbone of the civil rights movement. It is the great equalizer, leveling the playing field for women and minorities. Over the years, the Reform Movement has opposed a number of legislative proposals aimed at dismantling federal affirmative action programs. As long as negative racial and gender stereotypes are real and persistent, so must be our efforts to neutralize prejudice and discrimination.

In recent years, the fight to preserve affirmative action programs has largely moved from the halls of Congress to the state level. With many states considering anti-affirmative action measures in state legislatures or through ballot initiatives, it will become increasingly important to garner support at the local level to preserve affirmative action. At the same time, the federal courts continue to play an important role in deciding the future of affirmative action. Recently, affirmative action has been more active at the judicial level than the legislative level, centering around two cases involving the University of Michigan that were heard and decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Definition of Affirmative Action
Affirmative action means taking positive steps to end discrimination, to prevent its recurrence, and to create new opportunities that were previously denied qualified minorities and women. As President Lyndon Johnson explained the rationale behind the contemporary use of affirmative action to achieve equal opportunity in a 1965 speech, “You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say you are free to compete with all the others, and still just believe that you have been completely fair.”

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