Affirmative Action and Equal Employment Opportunity Reconsidered

AuthorJ. Edward Kellough
Date01 October 1997
Published date01 October 1997
Subject MatterArticles
Affirmative Action and Equal
Employment Opportunity
Introduction to the Symposium
J. Edward Kellough, Editor
University of Georgia
tscrtmtnatton on the basis of race,
programs mvolvmg affirmative ac-
and gender has been one
tion designed to benefit mmorities and
the most enduring social prob-
have faced increasmgly strenuous
lems experienced in the United States. It
opposition. In fact, affirmative action has
has generated a legacy of hardship and di-
a capacity to generate controversy that ap-
minished hopes for innumerable women
pears to be unmatched by most other is-
and minority group members who have
sues in the field of
public personnel admm-
borne the weight of its burden. While it is
istration. Affirmative action arose m
true in many respects that progress has been
1960s from the need to find better ways to
made in the struggle against injustice and
combat discrimmation. Earlier efforts to
prejudice (Tuch & Hughes,
1996), we still
ensure equality of opportunity were largely
periodically encounter blunt reminders that
based on the willingness of individual sic-
the problem of discrimination is yet to be
tims of discrimination to register com-
eliminated. Perhaps the most dramatic ex-
plamts. Affirmative action transcends those
ample to emerge recently was the revela-
efforts because it means that employers will
tion of racial prejudice within the highest
take positive steps to recruit and tram work-
executive levels of the Texaco corporation
ers from groups that have been excluded
in the fall of 1996 (Eichenwald, 1996), but
historically. In some instances, organiza-
the tenacious nature of discriminatory be-
tions set specific numerical goals for minor-
havior has also been documented by vari-
ity and female employment. The establish-
ous government studies, including recent
of specific employment goals implies
reports by the U. S. Merit Systems Protec-
that qualified minorities or women will be
tion Board (1992, 1996) and the compre-

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