Affirmative Action and Strategies of Conservative Discourse


Edward Chaidez

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My research this summer focused on examining the shifts in affirmative action discourse since the policy was enacted in the mid 1960s. By analyzing the discourse of positions for and against affirmative action, I was able to detect general trends on both sides of the argument. I was primarily concerned with the role of conservative discourse in garnering opposition to affirmative action policies. Attacks against affirmative action are framed as violating the fundamental American ideals of individualism and meritocracy. These ideals serve as the rationale for opposition to the use of affirmative action quotas and claims of 'reverse discrimination' that became widespread throughout the 1970s. This culminated with the Supreme Court decision in University of California Regents v. Bakke (1978), which prohibited the use of quotas in university admissions policies. Furthermore, I examined the success of the conservative agenda throughout the Reagan administration and how opposition to affirmative action gained widespread support, particularly among, but not limited to, white males. Proponents of affirmative action have responded in their discourse by arguing for the benefits of diversity. This rationale was used to uphold the use of affirmative action in Gratz & Hamacher v. Michigan in May, 2002.


M. Taylor




Ford Fellowship

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