Tag Archives: affirmative action

Is Bias Ever OK?

Many nations over the past twenty or thirty years have instituted affirmative action programs in order to assist women securing an even playing field when seeking entry to colleges. At present in Sweden, about 60 percent of students are women which has resulted in the strange situation in which many Swedish colleges have affirmative action programs to ensure there is an equal ratio of men and women in academic programs. Tobias Krantz, minister of higher education has called for an end to affirmative action and a return to the concept that a higher grade counts regardless of whether the person is male or female.

Reality is that women tend to score higher grades than men in many aspects of the academic world. Ironically, affirmative action was a desired goal when women faced discrimination, but apparently, when males are the underdog, affirmative action is regarded as unfair to those with higher grades. Sorry, there is always room for some aspects of affirmative action because in the real world there is never an even playing field.

What Is An Effective Affirmative Action Policy?

South Africa struggles with issues of affirmative action because it is emerging from a hundred years or so of bigotry which prevented black skinned people from succeeding in universities and other key positions in society. The Trade Union Solidarity has taken the police to court over failure to promote Captain Renate Bernard who twice performed at the highest level and twice was denied promotion even though the position was never filled. Dirk Hermann of Solidarity argues, “the case will test whether affirmative action and representivity could be more important than service delivery.”

An effective affirmative action program has to focus on two facets: ensuring quality performance and ensuring there is a plan to equalize opportunities for those who have been denied in the past. Most affirmative action programs operate on the principle that a pie only has so many pieces. Perhaps, one could look at the concept of baking a larger pie. Captain Bernard could have been promoted and one or two of black skinned forensic candidates could have been hired to work with Bernard in order to improve their skills.

In the real work, there are many who qualify for most positions. A forensic position requires a specialist. Captain Bernard could have performed the position even while educating others to gain a similar expertise. Think big, not small.

Do White South African Women Need Job Protection?

A debate among South African women has arisen over whether white women are entitled to protection under affirmative action programs. Black Management Forum president Jimmy Manyi said white women should not be covered under provisions of South African affirmative action laws. Carrie Shelver of People Opposing Women Abuse argues affirmative action is not achieving the desired effect because it is not addressing black women’s needs. She argues black women are m ore disadvantaged than whites and including white women allows companies to hire white females and thus get around being accused of not adhering to affirmative action guidelines. Theresa Oaklley, CEO of Absolute Ndaba, a human resource company, says “I have never understood why white women were placed in BEE in the first place because white women were not disenfranchised by apartheid. They may have had tough times bt they are not previously disadvantaged.”

Kelebohile Lekoape, consultant for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Resarch, argues to the contrary. “Surely, affirmative action was meant to provide additional opportunity for the previously disadvantaged. Even though white women were not totally disadvantaged, they had limited opportunities, thefore, more opportunities should be opened to them.”

To the extent each group of women, regardless of skin color or ethnicity, is allowed to achieve the full potential of her skills and knowledge, to that extent will all women attain such goals.

Racism Issues Plague South African Government

Nations throughout the world are confronting issues raised as societies attempt to overcome histories of racism by creating a new system in which people formerly oppressed now assume leadership positions. South Africans are attempting to overturn hundreds of years in which black skinned people were treated as inferior. Staff in the Department of Western Cape Premier Ebrahim Rasool are angry at what they term a “dismissive” attitude to their concerns about “systematic racism.” A formal complaint has been lodged which claims managers treat those of African heritage as inferior and insist the only reason they hold current positions is due to affirmative action programs.

An investigation was undertaken by the Rasool under the direction of Virginia Petersen who essentially dismissed the complaints. She says “people come to the West Cape and they find it is so different from where they came from.” Ms. Petersen’s conclusion is that African leave because they receive “better offers” elsewhere.

Affirmative action programs invariably encounter these complaints as people formerly viewed as inferior assume roles of responsibilities. The history of government is highly characterized by incredible success on the part of those who govern, but, for some reason individuals hired through affirmative action do not reach the levels of incompetence that characterizes modern government.

South African Chinese Now Termed Black

The apartheid era in South African history is characterized by laws that strictly delineated the place in society of people based on their skin color. Although Chinese immigrants to South Africa date back to the 1660s, the Chinese were hard to define so South African authorities threw them into the category of “coloured” which theoretically meant a mixture of black and white. The Chinese Association of South Africa(CASA) has sued for redress of the situation because by being classified as “coloured” people of Chinese heritage are not eligible for affirmative action programs. As Patrick Chong of CASA, “under the apartheid rule, we were classified as colored– a term used to describe a mixture of black and white races. After the democracy came to power, our status was no longer recognized as coloured so we were in between.” This meant people of Chinese heritage were not eligible for gaining jobs as part of affirmative action programs.

A Pretoria high court responded to the CASA petition by deciding that South Africans of Chinese heritage will now be classified as being “black” and thus eligible for affirmative action program. Once societies begin classifying people on the basis of skin, they invariably wind up with confusion and a bit of madness in trying to determine who is who.

Congressional Black Caucus Feel Insulted By Military

The integration of the armed forces of the United States following World War II was among the most significant success stories of reaching affirmative action goals. However, in recent years there has been a noticeable decline in the number of top ranking officers who are of African American backgrounds. Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Fla., believes minorities are less inclined to pursue the long road to promotion than other people resulting in more leaving the service to enter the private sector. Two weeks ago, members of the Black Caucus went to the Pentagon expecting to meet with the Joint Chiefs of Staff only to discover they were meeting with assistants to the top leaders. The Congressmen left in anger. Apparently, there had been a miscommunication which was finally resolved this week with meeting members of the Joint Chiefs.

Congressional Black Caucus members are attempting to walk the thin line between appearing to force promotions and ensuring that promotions meet affirmative action guidelines. They are urging creation of mentors to assist young black American officers in obtaining promotions. They also are urging a faster track to higher ranks in order to persuade members of the military to remain rather than seek private sector jobs. An important issue being raised is whether the entire promotion process requires extensive review in light of current conditions.

Congressional Black Leaders Blast Military Discrimination

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus expressed their growing anger at failures of the military to implement affirmative action programs. According to Rep. Robert Scott, “there has been a disturbing levelling off among the upper ranks in the last few years” so that today there is only one four star African American general, General William Ward, who was recently named head of the African command. At present, African Americans constitute about 17% of the United States army, but only 5.8% of them are found in top level officers. Of the 929 flag officers in the U.S. military, 818 are white males which means only 12% are African American, female or from other ethnic groups. Rep. Sheila Jackson said: “There is a sense of outrage at the lack of opportunity in the military today” among African Americans.

The integration plans of the US military have been widely praised as among the most successful affirmative action efforts in American society. Colin Powell rose to the position of leading the entire American armed forces, but there apparently has been a notable drop in the desire for integration within the past few years. As of now, no one knows the reason for the failure to ensure African Americans or females or other ethnic groups are represented in the ranks of top level officers. Is there a connection between the lack of affirmative action progress and a Bush administration which opposes the very concept of affirmative action?