Affirmative Action: Crash Course Government and Politics #32

Hi, I’m Craig and this is Crash Course Government
and Politics, and today, I’m gonna finish up our episodes on civil rights by talking about
affirmative action. There’s a few things I’m not gonna do in this episode, though. First.
I’m not gonna try to defend all aspects of affirmative action, I admit it’s a problematic
concept. Second, I’m not gonna say that affirmative action isn’t necessary or that it’s racism,
I’m pretty sure that that debate will go on in the comments. What I am gonna do is define
affirmative action, describe how the courts have dealt with it, and try to explain why
it has existed and continues to exist. [Theme Music] So let’s start with the easy part and define
affirmative action. Affirmative action is a government or private program designed to
redress historic injustices against specific groups by making special efforts to provide
members of these groups with access to educational and employment opportunities. I like this
definition because it also explains why affirmative action exists – to redress historic injustices
which means discrimination. The key aspect of affirmative action is that it provides special
access to opportunities, usually in education and employment, to members of groups that have
been discriminated against. Now, where affirmative action gets controversial is when you look
at the two ideas of access and opportunity. When you poll Americans they generally favor
equality of opportunity although they usually don’t like it when the government tries to
promote equality of outcomes, usually by redistributing wealth, but I’m getting ahead of myself. This
means that Americans generally think that other Americans should have an equal shot at
success even though they don’t imagine that all Americans will be equally successful. Not all of us
can be Donald Trump, although not all of us want to be. Since we tend to believe in the USA that education
and jobs are the keys to success, equality of opportunity is tied up in access to these
two things, and that’s why they are the focus of affirmative action efforts. Here’s where
it gets tricky. In order to increase access to education and job opportunities for members
of groups that are historically discriminated against, affirmative action programs try to
ensure that they get extra special access to jobs and schools, which, to many people,
is not equality of opportunity. Legal types often will use the metaphor of a thumb on
the scale to describe the added benefits that affirmative action programs supposedly provide,
but we could also see it as a head start in a foot race, which is the metaphor I prefer for reasons I’ll explain
in a bit. But first let’s go to the Thought Bubble. So while affirmative action started with LBJ
ordering government agencies to pursue policies that increase the employment of minorities
in their own ranks and in soliciting contracts, the first time it made a splash at the supreme
court was over the issue of university education. Specifically, in the landmark case of Regents
of the University of California versus Bakke in 1973, the court ruled on the issue of racial
set-asides, or quotas, in admissions at the University of California Davis, Medical school.
Of the 100 slots available to incoming med students, 16 were set aside for racial minorities.
Bakke claimed that this meant that some people who were less qualified than he was, at least
he felt so, got into Davis med school and Bakke didn’t. So he sued, claiming that the
quotas discriminated against him because he was white. The supreme court ruled in Bakke’s
favor, saying that racial quotas were not allowed since they didn’t provide equal opportunity,
but they also ruled that affirmative action programs were allowed if they served a compelling
government interest, and were narrowly tailored to meet that interest. In other words, if
they’d passed the test of strict scrutiny. One of the more interesting things about this
decision is the kind of stuff the court said constitutes a compelling government interest.
They rejected the idea that righting historical wrongs was something that the government should
undertake, probably because it opens up all kinds of historical cans of worms, especially
the question of who decides when and if a historical wrong has been redressed. What
they did say was that compelling government interest was ensuring diversity in university
admissions. This is true in general, and as long as we can imagine there being universities,
the state has an interest in seeing that their classes represent diverse viewpoints. Diversity
benefits both the members of the minority and majority groups, at least in the minds
of the court. Thanks, Thought Bubble. This is just a pretty serious video I don’t know when I
was gonna get that eagle punch in so I just did it there. The early 1970’s were the high tide of affirmative
action in the U.S, and ever since then the courts have looked less favorably at affirmative
action claims. Because they apply strict scrutiny, most affirmative action claims are struck
down. This was clarified in the case of Adarand Constructors Inc. versus Peña in 1995 which
dealt with racial preferences in the hiring of subcontractors on government projects.
Although this case meant that the government was not supposed to give preferential treatment
to minority-owned businesses, or those that employed a large number of minorities, a government
report from 2005 found that at least as far as the federal agencies were concerned, the
practice was still widespread. In most of the cases it hears, the court has
struck down affirmative action provisions because they fail one or another of the strict
scrutiny tests, but the basic idea that universities can create programs to build and maintain
a diverse student body has been upheld. Two relatively recent cases involving the University
of Michigan show how complicated it can be. In the 2003 case of Gratz versus Bollinger,
the court ruled that Michigan’s undergraduate admissions policy, which awarded extra points
to people in racial minority groups, was unconstitutional because it was not narrowly tailored to meeting
the goal of student body diversity. In the same year, in the case of Grutter versus Bollinger,
Bollinger just keeps showing up to the supreme court because he was the President of the
University of Michigan at the time, lucky. The court ruled that the admissions policy
of Michigan’s law school was narrowly tailored to meet the goal of promoting diversity although
it said that in 25 years such a program might not be necessary. So at the time we’re making
this episode, the idea that universities can take race into account in their admissions
so that they can create a diverse learning environment for their students is still constitutional,
but the supreme court looks very carefully at the actual policy that the university has
in place, and if it looks anything like a quota, they’ll strike it down. Turns out there
was another place to punch the eagle. Two times! Affirmative action remains controversial and
it looks like eventually it’s going to disappear but maybe not right away. In 1996, Californians
passed a ballot initiative – Proposition 209 – that effectively outlawed affirmative action
in public employment, public contracting, and public education, especially university
admissions. After this initiative, also known as the California Civil Rights Initiative,
passed over vocal and organized opposition, the graduation rate among African Americans
in some California universities went up. On the other hand, the enrolment rate of African
Americans at many UC schools declined, and it only returned to 1996 levels in 2010. Other
states like Michigan had passed laws similar to California’s Proposition 209 making it
harder and harder for affirmative action programs to flourish. But as is often the case in politics,
people’s response to affirmative action differs depending on how you ask the question. When
phrased as an anti-discrimination measure, ballot measure like Prop 209 are quite popular,
but when people are asked if they want to get rid affirmative action their responses
are not always so positive. Support for affirmative action remains, and I suspect that this is
because many people still recognize that some form of support for minority groups is needed
in the U.S. And this brings me back to the reason why
we have affirmative action in the first place. While the courts have ruled that attempting
to correct the historical injustices of slavery and Jim Crow laws are not a compelling enough
interest to justify affirmative action, for many, they are. Minority groups, and in particular
African Americans, have suffered from horrible treatment and legal disability from the time
they began arriving as slaves in 1619. Even after the Civil Rights Act passed in 1964,
full equal opportunity was still not a reality. Opinions vary on whether affirmative action
is still necessary today, and your point of view depends a lot on your personal history
and your politics, which as we’ll see in the next few episodes, are deeply intertwined.
Thanks for watching, see you next week. Crash Course Government and Politics is produced
in association with PBS Digital Studios. Support for Crash Course U.S. Government comes from
Voqal. Voqal supports non-profits that use technology and media to advance social equity.
Learn more about their mission and initiatives at Crash Course was made with the
help of all these nice people. Thanks for watching.

100 thoughts on “Affirmative Action: Crash Course Government and Politics #32

  • Affirmative Action is discrimination to make up for discrimination, two wrongs don’t make a right.

  • In a country where one group of minorities blacks, which make up just 13% of the population, and have been historical subjected to practices sought to keep poor folks regardless of color in their respective class. I find it hard to believe that people dont even understand the continued need for a law such as affirmative action. Tuskegee experiments, Tulsa Oklahoma 1921, Jim crow, MOVE bombing and the list goes on. Affirmative action just says that universities and employers should hold seats to make their instituation more reflective of the current population not lower the bar for those seats.

  • Affirmative action hurts those who are qualified to begin with why give them jobs and put them in schools that they aren't qualified to go into

  • As an Armenian American, I do not qualify to be in the affirmative action program. So much for being a minority…

  • I think it is very thoughtful and good intent to have diverse universities in opinion. Yet that will never be the reality? Because opinions that are far different than one basic encounter in university will never go there, because they have different opinion on university in general, so what you do if you have to have this diversity? You forced them into school? The learning would be only one sided thou. What would be and totally is beneficial is diversity of cultural background which with race you can kind of assign, you never know what kind of individuals from that group you accept….in either way, it is very complicated topic, and the one who makes these kind of decision should be very aware, educated and causes…which I dont think is the case…

  • To all you white people complaining about AA did you know that you benefit from AA more than anyone… Asians have to score a whopping 140 points higher than white counterparts. look it up… how bout them apples.

  • I feel like some white people are not understanding the core point of affirmative action, a concept hard to swallow in a society as individualistic ours. For many people it's difficult for them to see how they as an individual benefited from the collective work of others. Many people feel because they didn't have anything to do with the discrimination back then when it was happening, they therefore, feel that they're not entitled to sacrifice even an inkling for the injustices that they're ancestors committed. But I got news for you poor, poor, poor souls, by your very existence you've benefited from the injustices that your ancestors did for you. Kicking native Americans, off land they've inhabited for generations were done for you. Making sure that blacks didn't get the same education and job opportunities that whites got, in order to make space for more white people, were all made for you their offspring and so on so forth. People never can understand how other people's actions, either past or present, can affect them in certain outcomes in life. In the end, no one likes to accept the wrongs there ancestors made, only the rights. We as Americans need to stop being so proud of our damn past and learn to deal with the shame and guilt that is also in it, into a positive and constructive outcome.

  • Inspite of affirmative action still 13% of graduates are Indian in US. If you don't believe me, you can look it up. US sucks almost our whole brain-power. Smart students go to US via scholarships and never comes back. Such a shame. When India really needs them.

  • so please explain to me why Asian Americans are one of the groups that bear the burden of redressing historic injustices, while IT IS one of the groups that have suffered from historic injustices?

  • How do you not give people your owned, enslaved and created redlining and Jim Crowan opportunity. But you gave it to white women as if they were a different race or minority group our government has always figured out a way to remove black American descendants of slaves out of the equation. They even gave more education to Indian and Asians. We were told Pull yourself up by own bootstraps.

  • Those who cry asking affirmative action in college admission and jobs are the same group that are against affirmative action in sports and film industry, because it doesn't serve their interests. This is why other developed countries give opportunities based on their region, not race. Why don't we see Asians in lucrative NFL, NBA and Hollywood? No one is asking that. Yet they get to score more than Blacks, Hispanics and Whites to get college admission. Seems very fair to me.

  • Let's fight race based discrimination we've already criminalized with more race based discrimination. I'm sure that will be peachy.

  • Well, the New Leftist Socialist movement has their motto; "Kill Whitey and Only Black Lives Matter." On the bright side, we are "WOKE TOO!"

  • "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." – Martin Luther King, Jr.

  • I would rather be called a slew of racial slurs by my right-wing brethren than have a democrat pretend to be my friend and say that he/she represents minorities.

  • If the affirmative action is to help black people because historical reason, I can agree with it.
    But why punish Asian (SAT cases) for their success?
    It ridiculous

  • Some people in minority groups seem to think that they have a right to be racist because their ancestors were oppressed.

    These people are fascists.

  • Affirmative Action was suppose to be lineage-based for American Descendants of Slaves not White Women and Immigrants.

  • i have to do a group presentation and my chapter is THIS VID SUMMARIZED AHHAHAH CANT WAIT TO JUST UPLOAD THE VID

  • Affirmative Action is yet another nail in the coffin for USA. As an Asian, I support Affirmative Action. USA will fall, the East will rise.

  • This policy got me rejected from universities. I'm Asian let me tell you that, a person of color. Why do you let Asians suffer when we already suffered so much? We don't ask much, we were taught not to demand from our parents, to work hard and prove to people that we deserve it but why do you have to make our lives harder to benefit others who can get it much easier than us? It does not make sense, no matter much we work we are hardly appreciated. It's time for us to speak out. This has to end.

  • Affirmative action is stupid… Righting historical wrongs is a cop out that makes no real logical sense, instead affirmative action is seen as an emotional appeal likened to people that use history to justify a cause and action.

  • The movie ( and book ) Harisson Bergeron is where Affirmative Action ends.
    Ridiculas concept than milks ''White Guilt'' with dire consequences

  • Affirmative Action gave away the much qualified Asians and gave the spots to less qualified blacks. Doesnt matter—- Asians in general do not care for handouts anyway. they will get it themselves by sheer hard work.

  • Affirmative action is absolutely insane…How about we raise our children to get good grades, stay in school, and do well in life so they don’t have to use their race as a pass. You earn what you earn. I am a strong believer in equal opportunity not equal outcome. Stay in school and work hard for what you want…don’t get pity points for your race. If someone had a better score than you and they are a certain race they are more qualified for the position. Those are just facts.

  • most Asians are very good at studying… they will have high score n stuff.. but I guess being book smart is just not enough.

  • This might be an open-ended question, but…. I wasn't aware that white kids struggle to get a college acceptance letter. Is there data to support that claim? Everyone keeps debating the college admissions side in selective/highly competitive Universities, instead of comparing the number of white high school seniors who're offered ANY college admission vs admission offered to minority high school seniors.

  • AA was intended for descendants of slaves. Expanding it to "minorities" undermined that. It was redress specifically for slavery and Jim Crow.

  • "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Affirmative action for the Whites bred affirmative action for the 'others.' Sure, two wrongs don't make a right, but let's look at AA as a lesson well earned to not discriminate.

  • I’d like to think that affirmative action would be good but it just seams kinda broken in principle, like I get what their trying to accomplish with it and it’s a great goal but it can’t really work without also excluding others

  • The reality of the matter is that diversity is good, but also that we need to have a system where the smarter you are, the better uni you go to.

    How do we accomplish both of these goals?

    We get more people to become smart before they apply to unis by investing in K-12 schools.

    University education isn't a right, it's a privilege. K-12 schools are a right.

    All people must go to them, no matter how dumb or smart, so if we get all people, not only minorities, smarter in school, we won't need Affirmative Action because we will see minority groups get into college because they are smart, not because they are minorities.

  • Why I don’t like AA, I am a high school student in an area that includes mainly upper middle families (mainly millionaires) and if a black student who also went to my (public) high school and I were both applying for the same college with similar sat scores and extra curricular activity points and their was only one spot left he would be chosen, even if my sat was higher. I think this is unfair. What I believe should be considered in the eyes of colleges is socioeconomic status, if me and a student who lives in poverty both had the same sat and other values colleges look for then he should get the upper hand in acceptance as he made more of less then what I did with lots, that to me is to a certain extent very fair.

  • Well, the white people get more opportunities and for example, get maybe a tutor. Collages are just leveling the playing field.

  • It’s very rude to assume that black and Hispanic people are “stupider” or “less intelligent” than white or Asian people. There are definitely black people who are smarter than Asians and Whites (like the winner of the Mathcounts National Countdown Round 2018, a black student. Lower grades does not necessarily mean a lower IQ. It could be the other student worked harder than the student, or maybe they were more prepared for the test. I feel like everyone has an equal opportunity to obtain the same grades, and it doesn’t take a boost up to get into a school. Affirmative action is just a way for the government to ease their guilt for the way they treated others in the past by dragging down other hardworking students.

  • Love how you presented the facts and did not get politically involved. Get video. I say left get rid of Affirmative Action. I am really tired of people a person of color that is being used a scapegoat for someone else's fail. Or having my achievements questioned.

  • Asians have to score 450 points higher than blks.whites have to score 250 higher. Who will be better for America smart workers or lower. I. Q workers. And what does it tell the blk kids. It says your stuped but we're going to take care of you. Make the score equal then blk kids will work harder and have self pride.

  • I'm sorry but I want my doctor or lawyer to be the Individual who is most qualified, regardless of race. The remedy to previous racism is not more state funded racism

  • So the guy was mad because he didn't make the cut of 53 slots so he got mad about tbe 16 slots set aside for minority….soooo non minority has 53 chances and minority people only havr 16….my god people are greedy…

  • Plot twist …found out it wasn't affirmative action …it was rich people paying their kids way and taking spaces from worthy people of ANY race, or financial status

  • I don't really agree with affirmative action. Maybe it should be based on socioeconomic standards instead since poorer kids have worse chances at higher education. Or instead of having quotas, there can be incentives for companies or schools to not have discrimination.

  • Past description doesn’t justify present discrimination, particularly, as in the case of Asian Americans, when the same group was subject to discrimination in both instances.

  • THERE NEED TO BE SEPERATE GOVT FUNDED REHABILITATION SCHEMES TO BRING MARGINALIZED PEOPLE OUT OF THEIR MISERY NOT AN AFFIRMATIVE ACTION..Like eg free mentoring, career councelling, drug support, corrections services for criminals should prepare them to take on the world once released, domestic violence support disability & orphan support groups. in addition to free 1 room housing & free food & basic free medical & 30% quotas in public administration

  • i am certain that eventually the supreme court will rule affirmative action unconstiutional because it is by definition discrimination based on race which is against the fourteenth amendment and many civil rights acts.

  • so um why do I have to score 140 SAT points higher than average to get the same chance in admission?

  • The notion that less qualified people are getting into schools and jobs they are unqualufied for is bigoted. Affimative Action wouldn't be neccessary if access was based on qualifications alone and not the personal preferences of people entrusted to give oppurtunities fairly.

  • This is only to keep people in a victim mentality instead of working hard to get success. It keeps people enslaved because they think they have a boot on their chest that the government will lift from them when in reality it is the government keeping the pressure on you.

  • I think we need to redefine affirmative action as trying to adjust for the discrimination that currently exists. Ex: In many studies, resumes that have names that aren't typically associated with white people have a higher chance of being turned down, even when controlling for all other variables. The people reviewing the resumes may be able to give a race neutral justification for each resume, but the pattern exists broadly. In this example, affirmative action can be seen as an attempt to combat subconscious discrimination.

  • I'm an African-American who won the competitive Gates Millennium Scholarship for financially underprivileged, academically promising minorities. As a child, I briefly attended an inner city day care, which was run by a proper, middle-class white woman. One time, the children were taken golfing in 100 degree heat, and no water was provided for us. The situation was fraught with other unnecessary dangers, as well.

    When people are deprived of their most basic, immediate survival needs, nothing else matters, including Affirmative Action. These ubiquitous attempts at genocide have turned civil rights laws on their head, and have made them just another tool for divide and conquer.

  • AA is a joke. The whole ivy-league school situation where they deny Asians because they already make up majority of the students there is racist. UT getting judicial permission to accept based on race (in favor of minorities) is also racist. College apps shouldn't even allow you to put your race, acceptance should be solely based on GPA, test scores, extracurricular activities etc.

  • Hmm…equal opportunity isn't just: Give white student B and black student A the same chance at getting into Harvard if they both work hard in school and get 4.0 gpa's. That's very surface level and is already a thing in theory.

    The problem comes when white student B had grandparents who were given government grants for being white and wanting to farm. That unequal opportunity was not afforded to black student A's grandparents who also wanted to farm but couldn't afford to and were given no grants because they're black and no other reason.

    While white student B's grandparents built wealth and black student A's grandparents continued to struggle in poverty because they were denied any employment that would allow them to build wealth, white student B was able to have parents who came with the money to not only afford to pay for an Ivy league education if they wanted to but able to have access to the best schools or private tutoring (both cost money) in order to set white student B up for the best chance. Not to mention, white student B's grandfathers were both Ivy league grads as well (legacies tend to get special treatment)….this was all able to happen because of grants given to white farmers 60 years ago while black student A's family were far behind and barely above the poverty line.

    It's these injustices that Affirmative Action attempted to correct. By giving QUALIFIED black students who have the credentials to be in Ivy league schools (or other programs) the opportunity to get in and go for free so that their success can help build wealth for their generations. It was an attempt to even the playing field.

    Now, however, it has become a way for employers to fill diversity quotas and later fire the same people who were not qualified when they hired them, just so they have a good reputation in public and the government while churning minorities in and out of their company behind the scenes because they don't want them there.

  • It's disgusting and quite frankly terrifying to see how easily people can be ok with the blatant racism against Asian Americans that affirmative action is being used for.

  • In India it is called as reservation. it provides opportunity for depressed classes(untouchables ) who are socially and educatinally backward in education ,jobs and politics. but recently its diameter has been incresed to include economically backward sections.

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