Myth 1: The only way to create a color-blind society is to adopt color-blind policies.
Although this statement sounds intuitively plausible, the reality is that color-blind policies often put racial minorities at a disadvantage. For instance, all else being equal, color-blind seniority systems tend to protect White workers against job layoffs, because senior employees are usually White because of historical discrimination. Likewise, color-blind college admissions favor White students because of their earlier educational advantages. Unless preexisting inequities are corrected or otherwise taken into account, color-blind policies do not correct racial injustice -- they reinforce it.
Myth 2: Affirmative action has not succeeded in increasing female and minority representation.
Several studies have documented important gains in racial and gender equality as a direct result of affirmative action. For example, according to a report from the U.S. Labor Department, affirmative action has helped 5 million minority members and 6 million White and minority women move up in the workforce. Likewise, a study sponsored by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs showed that federal contractors (who were required to adopt affirmative action goals) added Black and White female officials and managers at twice the rate of non-contractors. There have also been a number of well-publicized cases in which large companies (e.g., AT&T, IBM, Sears Roebuck) increased minority employment as a result of adopting affirmative action policies.
Myth 3: Affirmative action may have been necessary 30 years ago, but the playing field is fairly level today.
Despite the progress that has been made, the playing field is far from level. Women continue to earn 76 cents for every male dollar. Black people continue to have twice the unemployment rate of White people, largely due to discrimination, according to data gathered by the EEOC.
Myth 4: The public doesn't support affirmative action anymore.
Public opinion polls suggest that the majority of Americans support affirmative action, especially when the polls avoid an all-or-none choice between affirmative action as it currently exists and no affirmative action whatsoever. For example, a Time/CNN poll found that 80?f the public felt "affirmative action programs for minorities and white women should be continued at some level." What the public opposes are quotas, set-asides, and "reverse discrimination." For instance, when the same poll asked people whether they favored programs "requiring businesses to hire a specific number or quota of minorities and women," 63?pposed such a plan. As these results indicate, most members of the public oppose racial preferences that violate notions of procedural justice -- they do not oppose affirmative action.
Myth 5: A large percentage of White workers will lose out if affirmative action is continued.
Government statistics do not support this myth. According to the U.S. Commerce Department, there are 1.3 million unemployed Black civilians and 112 million employed White civilians (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2000). Thus, even if every unemployed Black worker in the United States were to displace a White worker, only 1?f Whites would be affected. Furthermore, affirmative action pertains only to job-qualified applicants, so the actual percentage of affected Whites would be a fraction of 1?The main sources of job loss among White workers have to do with factory relocations and labor contracting outside the United States, computerization and automation, and corporate downsizing. Two, are all Whites qualified for the jobs they hold?! No.
Myth 6: If Jewish people and Asian Americans can rapidly advance economically, African Americans should be able to do the same.
This comparison ignores the unique history of discrimination against Black people in America. As historian Roger Wilkins has pointed out, Blacks have a 375-year history on this continent: 245 involving slavery, 100 involving legalized discrimination, and only 30 involving anything else. Jews and Asians, on the other hand, are populations that immigrated to North America and included doctors, lawyers, professors, and entrepreneurs among their ranks. Moreover, European Jews are able to function as part of the White majority. To expect Blacks to show the same upward mobility as Jews and Asians is to deny the historical and social reality that Black people face.
Myth 7: You can't cure discrimination with discrimination.
The problem with this myth is that it uses the same word -- discrimination -- to describe two very different things. Job discrimination is grounded in prejudice and exclusion, whereas affirmative action is an effort to overcome prejudicial treatment through inclusion. The most effective way to cure society of exclusionary practices is to make special efforts at inclusion, which is exactly what affirmative action does. The logic of affirmative