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The dilemma of hiring minorities and conservative resistance: the diversity game.

This paper defines affirmative action in the context of hiring practices in educational institutions and the public sector. It discusses discrimination, gender, equality, and conservative resistance to diversity programs. Cases are cited to illustrate the legal dilemmas of diversity in public and educational institutions. The monograph concludes that an honest debate between each camp would alleviate the fears of white resisters to, and minorities demand for, equality and diversity.


Hiring of the underrepresented groups into higher positions in the public sector continues to present controversy while the same is true in the academia: Racism and discrimination in America are undeniable historical facts; however, these two evils persist, in disguise, to playing a part in hiring and recruiting of minorities including women. But some have argued that racism and discrimination are just allegations that minorities continue to use in securing positions at places where they do not belong. Though these allegations might affect or be a factor in the hiring and recruiting of the underrepresented, the resisters of diversity question the legalities of deliberate attempts or programs by institutions to reach out to minorities.

This monograph posits that programs to attract the underrepresented to the main stream historically white male positions in the public sector and educational institutions do not favor gender and race as resisters to diversity allege but, rather, an attempt to reflect the composition of the American population in the public sector. This paper broadly defines minorities to include blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, and women. The underrepresented groups argue that history has not been kind to them but those who oppose a special treatment for minorities insist that America no more lives in the pre-1960s era therefore all citizens must be protected by the 14th Amendment.

Abel and Sementelli (2004) see discrimination from a historical perspective of subjectivity. That means "oppression and social injustice are often the result of social and historical constructs. All such constructs are addressed to historical and not contemporary conditions ..." (91). So the demand for fairness and equality by minorities is buried in American history and not present conditions while the reverse of this statement is equally true for white resisters. This paper, therefore, attempts to identify the rudiments of both arguments: white resistance to diversity versus minority demand for equality and fairness regarding hiring protocol in the public sector. My interest is in the solution rather than supporting or rejecting each camp's wiles.

Gender, Affirmative Action, and the Politics of Race

Individuals, minorities, and interest groups look to the political process for solutions through gradual (1) and piecemeal remedies. Politics, in such a situation, becomes a means for achieving compromise and coping with social change. But changes in America, over the centuries have come with struggle between minorities and resistance from some whites conservatives. The political process, if properly legislated, works to redress social injustices to improve the atmosphere in which people live and work. For minorities to effect a change in America, they have to go on demonstration to draw political attention. Over the years, especially during the 1960s and 1970s, the federal government paid greater attention to some of the demands of minorities through the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s. These came as a result of legislations, court rulings, and executive orders in an attempt to eliminate discrimination in America.

Historically, a revolutionary act to end discrimination against blacks, which is one of the foremost goals of affirmative action, was the outlawing of slavery in 1865 by the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution. This was a liberal political thought, which is incorporated in the Bill of Rights. It was based on the liberalism of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, as expounded by John Locke and others like Jean Jacques Rousseau and Thomas Jefferson. This liberal thought, however, implicitly accepted discrimination against minorities and women had to question the status quo.

The Thirteenth Amendment initiated the thinking of some Americans and changed how minorities and women were viewed. Minorities, in principle, were to be seen as equals to the dominant group. It could also be argued that, historically, the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments prevented discrimination against blacks. Both the Courts and the Congress reiterated their intent to eliminate discrimination against blacks by passing civil rights laws. Keith Oppenheim (2) argues that there are pockets of groups or individuals who still do not want to accept minorities into mainstream America. Though the policy of affirmative action has faced resistance from conservative ideologists, we must revisit it for proper understanding of the hidden political environment of discrimination and injustices in America, which most people are not prepared to discuss. Failure to openly discuss discrimination and racism not only debunks progress and social development but limits the outcome of critical theory, which "enhances our understanding of the good society and offers a more tenable understanding of what it means to be emancipated" (138). (3) While some have argued that discrimination belongs to the past, this author insist that discrimination in America has not changed but disguised to "satisfy" the current environment of political correctness; hence minorities demand for affirmative action.

Affirmative action has its roots in centuries of old English administrative practice to ensure justice for all (Skrentny, 1996). The literature pins the origin of affirmative action in the United States as understood in popular discourse from 1935. Affirmative action appeared as part of the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (See Dept. of Labor Fact Sheet, 9517). Prior to the 1960s, affirmative action seemed to play well within labor organizations; white America never complained that affirmative action was a bad public policy. It became a controversial policy when the Civil Rights Movement (CRM) in the 1960s used it to demand equal rights and justice for minorities in America.

The CRM period in the 1960s put a new twist and meaning to affirmative action, which came to mean much more than just justice for minorities, but a highly, politically, loaded term that got much attention at the time. The federal government for decades made efforts to diversify American workforce through Executive Orders, which included presidents J.F.Kennedy (10925) and L. B. Johnson (11246). Johnson's order states, in part, that firms that receive money from the federal government must "take Affirmative Action to ensure that applicants are employed and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color or national origin" (Skrentny, 1996:7). These efforts by the presidents are seen as a policy to "rectify the discriminatory and racist practices that for generations have permeated social and economic structure of America ... including employment and promotion" (Tryman 1986: 185). It is sad to note that despite the efforts to encourage diversity in the public sector and institutions "racism within large legislative bodies, such as congress and state legislatures, overrides ... minority lawmakers potentially gain through traditions institutional mechanisms" (Preuhs 2006:585)

Resistance to Diversity Initiatives: A Case Study

Just as affirmative action, arguably, failed to achieve its intended goal, diversity, especially in the academia, "is doomed to failure" so maintains Lori Pierce (2007) who sees the evidence of breakdown in the approach some educational institutions have adopted. Pierce is of the opinion that diversity is not a problem to be solved since higher institutions are not ready to reflect the reality. She maintains that we must value our differences through diversity as critical thinkers instead of using it as an antidote to homogeneity.

It is quiet interesting that some higher institutions and organizations have some programs to promote diversity but very little is seen in terms of actual hiring of the underrepresented. Diversity is now a political issue, which commands market value but supporters of diversity, like Pierce, think it should be about morals. So far the strategies used in the academia to promote diversity in educational institutions are not working. The underrepresented are hired but they are first to be refused tenure for very questionable reasons (www.chronicle. com/weekly/v53/i24/24a01501.htm). Some universities have plans and programs not only to attract minority faculty but programs similar to that of University of Oregon (UO) have faced resistance from within. In the Underrepresented Minority Recruitment Program (UMRP) at UO, those who allegedly oppose the program argue that they reject the approach and unnecessary administrative waste in the system. "My opposition to UO's diversity efforts is that there is huge amount of bureaucratic waste and pointless paper pushing to them. In the case of the UMRP, it's probably well-intentioned, but it's just not legal to pay people differently based on race" argues Bill Harbaugh (4) who questions the legalities of the program using the 14th Amendment to support his position.

The federal and state governments' actions to obliterate discrimination in the public sector are in line to creating a political environment where all citizens are treated equally, without any favoritism by any one particular group within the American populace. But hiring is only done by individuals who are already in an organization, which limits the direct authority of the governments.

For Judith Jarvis Thomson (1973) and Tryman (1986), it is difficult to hire an individual without being biased. Thomson discusses hiring in the academia. She maintains that in the universities, a department where one works is a working unit, not just a collection of individuals. Thomson sees the affirmative action concept as an attempt to bring diversity in civil service but argues that the individuals already in a department have the right to decide who should join that department where they work as a team. Though hiring women and other minorities helps improve academic standards of minority students that should not be a criterion for hiring unqualified minorities in the academia. But Tryman is not optimistic about an all white institution hiring a minority candidate. He says a department could come up with several reasons to deny a minority applicant a position in an all white department (190-196) including tenure.

Gribbin and McCain (1999) found that the minority population in America has doubled since the 1950s, and the white population, which constituted 87 percent during this period, is expected to decrease to 53 percent by 2050 if the current population growth rate of the minority population is maintained. Such a shift would not only affect how white America must deal with the reality of the changing face of America, but would have to embrace the changing trend, instead of resisting those transformations.

Admittedly, most Americans have embraced diversity and recognized the need for change but the problem lies with the few pockets of resisters punctuated across the nation. Gribbin and McCain argue that approximately 120 million (5) people would be added to the current American population by 2050, with ethnic and racial minorities possibly comprising over 90 percent of these new Americans. Though their conclusion was based on statistical prediction using population figures, it provides statistical probability of how we must prepare for diversity. Such a projected information, theoretically, helps public administrators to plan ahead to face the reality in a future time. It provides ammunitions for proper planning for both public administrators and institutional heads to adequately prepare for the future in the areas of customer service in the public sector.

Gender and Pay

Social injustices against women are unique given the magnitude of the nature of discrimination against females in every part of the world. The literature on women's rights in America indicates that it took women at least a century before the all male white Congress amended the Constitution, which sent women to the polls (6) for the first time in the early 1920s. One could argue that the United States, which preaches equality and fairness for all races and both genders, would have treated women as equals but study after study, Howell and Day (2000) and Bielby (2000), have shown that women in America on the average still earn relatively less than men: 75 percent (7) of what men make. Women have used the courts for redress but the picture is still dim on this issue for women.

For example, on May 29, 2007, in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court upheld the US Court of Appeal for the 11th Circuit-Atlanta, Georgia, by denying a female worker who had sued her company for pay discrimination based on gender (8). Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the US Supreme Court's only woman, admitted that women are paid less in America. She argued that most people ignore the well-known realities of the workplace, including the "common characteristics of pay discrimination." In this case, Ledbetter vs Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., Inc., Lilly Ledbetter had worked with Goodyear Tire Company for 20 years but as the only female among 17 managers at her level, she did receive 40 percent less pay compared to her male counterparts. While the legal complexities of this case are not discussed in this paper regarding the interpretation of Title VII and Congressional legislation on when one could legally file for pay discrimination, Ledbetter's case presents yet another classical example of how employers use the legal system to discriminate against minorities.

So in remunerations and securing jobs, minorities have little choice but to accept what is available. Strober (1984) is more direct about pay disparities among genders and the races. He argues that minorities work in poorly compensated occupations that whites would not do or have left behind. In another study four years later, Strober and Catanzarite (1988) concluded that minorities move to occupation left behind by whites. Affirmative action and equal employment opportunity policies may not elevate minorities to be at par with their white counterparts, but once the attempt is made to hire minorities, others in that same category may begin to see such a department, which accommodates minorities as a welcome environment to seek job opportunities.

The literature is not very clear on the reasons for the gender gap compared to other minorities, and this inequality toward women remains controversial, according to Ridgeway (1997) and Howell and Day (2000). Though the authors' studies discussed political attitudes among whites, they concluded that the gender gap is a "complex phenomenon produced by variety of social, economic, and psychological factors ... which at [sic] times produce a conservatizing effect[s] on men" (871). Such uncertainty has undeniably, I am inclined to argue, affected women's political and social behavior, but no one variable in the literature tends to support the differences of the female/male dichotomy. Regardless of which variable one tries to use to justify the less pay women receive in a capitalist society like America the bottom line is each one of the variables is just a piece of the conundrum.

Education and Minorities?

The exact meanings of affirmative action depends on the reader (Asagba and Antwi-Boasiako, 2004): Is it a quota solely reserved for unqualified minorities, or spots reserved for qualified minorities whom, historically, political injustices have excluded from the civil service and other higher places in the political system? The answers to these questions may be partly provided by Gilens (1996) who examined white opposition to other races on welfare. He posits that whites' attitudes toward minorities influence the way the former views blacks and others. His article concludes that whites may have preconceived ideas about blacks that the latter is lazy and, therefore, the former opposes any program or policy like affirmative action, which tends, in their minds, to favor minorities. His analysis found that historical stereotype of minorities and media reports tend to influence and shape public policy.

Studies using critical race theory confirm that minorities experience racism (discrimination) "in their everyday lives and that white elites shape race relations to serve their own interest" (254). Minorities struggle for equality does not rest only with political and social issues, but education has been a significant setback for minorities, especially blacks. Studies confirm the achievements of blacks in education, but the history of black education in America was almost non-existent in the early days of America. According to Humphries (1995), from 1619-1850, it was a crime for a black (slave) to have education.

Lack of education initially limited minorities, especially blacks, who wanted to be part of mainstream America but the public sector excluded them from managerial and supervisory positions. The few well educated minorities usually face an uphill battle in securing a higher position in a predominantly white businesses or institutions. Tryman found that even where a "black candidate appears to be legitimately qualified" (190), an all white interviewing committee is less likely to hire such a candidate for various reasons. Theoretically, this should not be an issue but not until the hiring body identifies and understands the importance of diversity in any organization or institution, minorities would have to excel to break the glass ceiling of white resisters. Because of this limitation, minorities settled for menial jobs as farm hands and industrial workers (laborers).

The Conservative Argument

Issues concerning abortion, immigration, race, welfare, and religion tend to divide Americans into ideological compartments: Conservative/Liberal. Such a divide is sometimes so deep that opponents and supporters of any of the issues mentioned fail to critically analyze each other's arguments.

Conservative resisters to diversity are by no means ignorant of the historical discrimination against minorities. To the conservative resisters school of thought, America is a capitalist society where the individual must be competitive in his or her dealings with society at large. Such individualistic attitudes of capitalist societies help build a prosperous nation. The desire to dichotomize and explain issues on the basis of "we versus them" tends to eclipse the substance and outcome of a genuine debate on issues like discrimination, hiring practices, and policies, which are of national interest.

The argument against hiring preferences for women and other minorities needs a critical examination and in-depth analysis rather than the current assumption that those who resist the hiring protocol of favoring minorities are racists and anti-diversity. The conservatives welcome integrations and diversity, but such a mix should be done on competitive basis. The hiring and diversity debates based on ideological complexities of the political theory-conservative/liberal- tends to debunk any logical reasoning. Miller and Fox (2006) argue that there would be a time where the white resistance to diversity might become self-referential only to few whites whose argument might be narrowed and not shared by most Americans.

The two schools have diverging and parallel arguments, which must have converging point to provide solutions to this century-old argument of diversity and racial integration. To minorities, it is essential that the government state a clear objective of unifying the two groups. The problem with the whiteness argument in civil service is that there is an increasing justification from both sides; therefore, for a pragmatic result, the government should act as a mediator through implementable legislations to ensure acceptance of diversity in the public sector.

For example, in ethic s literature, the frustration with the one-sidedness of deontology and utilitarian ideologies led to a third school called casuistry. The central principle of casuistry theory carefully assesses the principal values of both schools, which "is equipped to mediate systematically between competing sets of values" It further works to cement collective agreement between two factions where "socially agreed-upon values and organizes them within a taxonomy of ... actions" (Heineman, R.A et al., 2002, 74). If the government adopts the casuistry approach, it will essentially eschew the abstract judgments of both schools to provide a pragmatic and acceptable working environment for all in the public sector.


The federal government, on its part, has used the political process through legislations and executive orders to ensure the rights of minorities, but failure to fully achieve the goals of these legislations in lieu of proper implementation of such policies impedes government's efforts to eliminate discrimination. America is politically divided on many issues, including the hiring of minorities in the civil service to higher administrative positions. However, resistance to policies favoring minorities in the hiring format in the civil service should not be construed as a dislike for minorities. A constructive and honest discussions are better options to incorporate the underrepresented in our institutions and in the public sector while legalities of minority programs must be examined in good faith to achieve their original intent.


Abel, F. C. & Sementelli, A. J. (2004). Evolutionary critical theory and its role in public affairs. New York, M.E. Sharpe.

Asagba, J. & Antwi-Boasiako, K. (2004). A preliminary Analysis of African American college students perception of racial preference and affirmative action in making admission decisions at a predominately white university. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 31(4), 269-279.

Bielby, W. (2000). Minimizing workplace gender and racial bias. Contemporary Sociology, 29(1), 120-129.

Gilen, M. (1996). "Race Coding" and White Oppposition to Welfare. The American Political Science Review, 90 (3), 593-604.

Gribbin, A. & McCain, R.S. (1999). Polls dance to Latin beat--includes article on minorities in America- Insight on the News, Nov 15. Retrieved from is_42_15/ai_57770436 on June 1, 2007

Heineman, R.A et al. (2002). The world of the policy analyst: Rationality, values, and politics. New York, Chatham House Publishers-Seven Bridges Press.

Howell, S.E. & Day, C.L. (2000). Complexities of the gender gap. The Journal of Politics, 62(3), 853-874.

Humphries, F. S. (1995). A short history of Blacks in higher education. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, 6, 57.

Miller, H. T. & Fox, C.J. (2006). Postmodern public administration (revised ed.) Armonk, New York: M.E. Sharp.

Ridgeway, C. L. (1997). Interaction and the conservation of gender inequality: Considering employment. American Sociological Review, 62(2), 218-235.

Pierce, L. (2007). It's about moral, not market, values: Academe's approach to diversity is doomed to failure; the evidence is all around us. The Chronicle of Higher Education Section: Chronicle Careers: 53 (32) p. C4.

Preuhs, R. R. (2006). The conditional effects of minority descriptive representation: Black legislators and policy influence in the American states. Journal of Politics, 68(3), 585-599.

Skrentny, J.D. (1996). The Ironies of Affirmative Action: Politics, Culture, and Justice in America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Thomson, J. J. (1973). Preferential hiring. Philosophy and Public Affairs, 2(4), 364-384.

Tryman, M. D. (1986). Reversing affirmative action: A theoretical construct. The Journal of Negro Education, 55(2), 185-199.


(1) Social change could also be achieved through legal decisions but it is the acceptance of those decisions by society at large to implement and abide by those decisions that make legal decisions effective.

(2) He is a CNN reporter and has covered many issues that divide America. See his report on Vidor for example, a small town in Texas "Texas city haunted by 'no blacks after dark' past" Retrieved from US/12/08/ on May 29, 2007.

(3) See also chapter 7 Abel and Sementelli (2004). It discusses thoroughly critical theory and good society from a public administration perspective.

(4) See the Oregon Daily Emerald (Issued on 6/6/07). "Hiring program under fire University administrators are defending a minority faculty recruiting program as a professor questions its legality"

(5) See more statistics on minority population growth inAmerica from a Washington-based Population Reference Bureau (PRB), or go to Insight on the News ( Retrieved December 31, 2006).

(6) There are some states that allowed women to vote before 1920 but it was impossible for women to run for federal office before the 1900s.

(7) Some studies state that women make 81 cents per a dollar a man makes. While various studies come up with different figures they collectively agree that women in America make less than their male counterparts.

(8) See a slip opinion "the Syllabus" on this case and others involving the difficulties women have to go through in fighting for equal pay in America http://www.supremecourtus. gov/opinions/06pdf/05-1074.pdf. Retrieved on June 3, 2007.

Kwame Badu Antwi-Boasiako, PhD, Assistant Professor, Stephen F. Austin State University, Department of Government Political Science, CJ, and Public Administration.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Dr. Kwame Antwi-Boasiako at
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Author:Antwi-Boasiako, Kwame Badu
Publication:Journal of Instructional Psychology
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2008
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