French law allows no recognition of collective versus individual rights. The rule of color-blindness is enshrined in article one of the Constitution which rejects the notion of minority status. Under current law only individuals can seek redress for discrimination. Claims cannot be based on one’s origin or membership within a race or ethnic group because these are not recognized legal categories. State representatives do not collect data on ethnic, racial, religious or cultural origin nor do they use “statistiques ethniques” (ethnic statistical data) to assess discrimination in public institutions or the workplace.
But the French universalist color-blind model and the American differentialist or color-conscious model, are fundamentally opposed.
The US has not always been a “land of opportunity” as it seems to be today. Hardly 50 years ago, it wasn’t a land of opportunity for even its own citizens. Minorities and women were prohibited from applying to universities or for higher-level jobs in their own country. Discrimination was legal and masqueraded as state policy. “Affirmative action” in the US is conceptually somewhat similar to the reservation system in India, but with a major difference: there are no quotas in the US. The US system seeks to provide justice to groups that faced discrimination historically, by ensuring fair representation for them in education and jobs.
In the US, affirmative action was launched in the early 1960s, and initially covered racial discrimination at the workplace. President J. F. Kennedy, who coined the term, issued an executive order in 1961, prohibiting discrimination by government employers on the basis of race, creed, color, or national origin. The order also established the organization now known as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. President Lyndon Johnson introduced “equal employment opportunity through a positive, continuing program.” In 1967, affirmative action, which was also inspired by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, was extended to protect women employees’ rights.
In the first decade of the 21st century, the gap between caucasien and minorities enrolling for college decreased