Affirmative action strikes at the heart of deeply held beliefs about employment and education, about the concepts of justice and fairness, and about the troubled history of race relations in America. Published on the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, this is the only book available that gives readers a balanced, non-polemical, and lucid account of this highly contentious issue. Beginning with the roots of affirmative action, Anderson describes African-American demands for employment in the defense industry--spearheaded by A. Philip Randolph's threatened March on Washington in July 1941--and the desegregation of the armed forces after World War II. He investigates President Kennedy's historic 1961 executive order that introduced the term "affirmative action" during the early years of the civil rights movement and he examines President Johnson's attempts to gain equal opportunities for African Americans. He describes President Nixon's expansion of affirmative action with the Philadelphia Plan--which the Supreme Court upheld--along with President Carter's introduction of "set asides" for minority businesses and the Bakke ruling which allowed the use of race as one factor in college admissions. By the early 1980s many citizens were becoming alarmed by affirmative action, and that feeling was exemplified by the Reagan administration's backlash, which resulted in the demise and revision of affirmative action during the Clinton years. He concludes with a look at the University of Michigan cases of 2003, the current status of the policy, and its impact. Throughout, the author weighs each side of every issue--often finding merit in both arguments--resulting in an eminently fair account of one of America's most heated debates.
A colorful history that brings to life the politicians, legal minds, and ordinary people who have fought for or against affirmative action, The Pursuit of Fairness helps clear the air and calm the emotions, as it illuminates a difficult and critically important issue.
Anderson (The Movement and the Sixties), a history professor at Texas A&M, offers a straightforward political history of affirmative action. He traces the genesis of the policy to the Roosevelt and Truman administrations, which made efforts at nondiscrimination in public works projects and the military. The Civil Rights movement birthed the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as well as lingering questions about how to prove discrimination, how to enforce antidiscrimination orders and whether preferences were needed to overcome past discrimination. The zenith of affirmative action, it turns out, came under Richard Nixon, whose secretary of labor, George Shultz, required federal contractors to set goals and targets for minority employment. The concept soon wound up in the courts, and Anderson provides good summaries of relevant cases, from the 1978 Bakke decision to last year's cases involving the University of Michigan. The backlash began in the 1980s, under Ronald Reagan, as enforcement lagged and the Justice Department sought cases to curtail affirmative action. In the 1990s, the rhetoric shifted to "diversity," an easier concept for politicians to embrace, and university systems in California and Texas were forced to give up preferences. (The winners at select universities: Asians.) Many cities and businesses have institutionalized the policy, and affirmative action has created a very different workplace in 40 years with little damage to firm competitiveness or fair employment practices, says the author. Still, Anderson concludes by acknowledging a host of questions about whom the policy should help. Though Anderson aims at an evenhanded tone, he could have paid more attention to notable polemics on this topic. He omits examination of affirmative action programs in the U.S. military and would have done well to at least note some international experiences. Photos not seen by PW. (May) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.