Set Aside Programs

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In 1964, President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, declaring that "You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race, and then say, 'You are free to compete...' and still justly believe that you have been completely fair."

President Johnson was referring to compensatory justice, the idea that people who have been treated unjustly deserve to be compensated for that injustice. Since 1964, there have been other numerous acts passed in an effort to ensure that women and minorities are compensated, many of which have resulted in Set-Aside Programs - programs that emerged as a remedy to for past discrimination suffered.

Many states have, in the past, adopted Set-Aside Programs to benefit businesses owned by minorities and women and ensure those businesses an equal opportunity to bid on portions of the state's purchases.

However, in recent years, many of these programs have been declared unconstitutional by federal judges claiming that these programs are morally faulty.

In December a federal judge ruled that Chicago's 14 year old "set aside law to remedy discrimination against minority and women owned businesses in the construction industry" was a flawed program that was in desperate need of change (Swanson, p.1). The program, put into place in 1989 reserved 25 percent of city contracts to be set aside for minority owned businesses and 5 percent for women owned businesses. However, in the last year, women and minorities in Chicago have received over $619 million in city projects, equal to about 41 percent of all the city business (Swanson, p.2). In spite of the ill-fated ruling, Mara Georges, the city's chief lawyer explains that "if you look at what could have happened, following a national trend, [the judge]...