Affirmative Action

Affirmative Action

Not long ago, perhaps a little more than a decade, perfectly “qualified” women and people of color couldn’t get through the front door when it came to well-paying, prestigious occupations—or, indeed, many less attractive jobs. There were almost no black students and few white women in graduate and professional schools, not to mention in professorial ranks. In the legal profession, it was long difficult for women and blacks to obtain places in law schools, and later, in the best practices. There were no women carpenters, police, or sales-people in big-ticket items. And, of course, there were no male telephone operators.

Some things have changed a lot and some haven’t. In films and on television we see female and black detectives, doctors, explorers, and judges, but most women still work in occupations segregated effectively by sex and 97 percent of managerial posts are held by white men. Blacks generally lag behind, but there have been some significant advances, due especially to affirmative action programs or at least to affirmative action consciousness. As Andrew Hacker points out in his book Two Nations, in the past two decades the number of black police officers rose from 24,000 to 64,000, and black electricians from 14,000 to 43,000. Although the situations of women and blacks differ, they both suffered discrimination that effectively limited access to training and job opportunities. Black women suffered from double discrimination based on sex and race.

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Lima