Expanding the Concept of Affirmative Action to Address Contemporary Conditions


Today’s civil rights program was shaped more than thirty-five years ago by a Presidential Committee report. The social and economic conditions of minorities and women have so improved since then, that a fundamental reexamination of the civil rights program and its handmaiden, affirmative action, is now in order.

The Truman Committee Report of 1947 identified racial discrimination in employment by reference to three socio-economic indicators: relative occupational distribution, relative unemployment rate and relative income level. These indicators changed little from the end of World War II to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Since 1964, one of these indicators – occupational distribution – has improved dramatically. Millions of minorities and women are now in better paying, higher status jobs than they would have held under the pattern of occupational distribution of 1965. This improvement requires that we expand our basic thinking about civil rights and affirmative action and helps to explain the diminution in public, political, and official support for these programs.

The first twenty years under the Civil Rights Act were devoted to opening opportunities. The emphasis in the future may be on making those opportunities meaningful in human terms, assuring minorities and women that they can enjoy the newly won fruits of their labors. To achieve this objective, the civil rights movement will have to join – or rejoin – those who are concerned with the enhancement of individual freedom, dignity, and opportunity in fields which are “new” to the civil rights movement. It will no longer be sufficient to press the traditional concepts of affirmative action. The civil rights movement must become concerned with tax, tariff, antitrust, educational policies and protection by the criminal law

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