Reading the Executive Order 11246 issued by President Johnson, I am unable to find where it states that contractors should give preferential treatment to any group.

It states that contractors must

ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin

While this bans explicit discrimination, it seems to do the opposite of the Affirmative Action we see today, where race is in fact taken into consideration.

Where does the EO suggest to use affirmative action as we know it today, rather than a simple ban on negative discrimination? Executive Order 11246

  • Why are you expecting this E.O. (which was put into action over 50 years ago) to suggest the use of affirmative action as we know it today? – Steve Bird May 18 '17 at 20:13
  • Because it is often referenced as the origin of affirmative action, yet seems to suggest the opposite by stating employees are treated without regard to their race, which suggests a ban on discrimination rather than preferential treatment. – John May 18 '17 at 20:26
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    Like many terms, the meaning of "Affirmative action" has changed over time and the political policies that the term now represents are only possible because of the early steps taken by Kennedy and Johnson. So it seems fair to see these E.O.s as the origin of Affirmative action even if they don't entirely embrace the modern meaning of the term. – Steve Bird May 18 '17 at 20:49
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    This might be a better fit for politics than history. How we implement those policies is still under discussion and revision. Implementation of Executive Orders is still not obvious today, and even less so fifty years ago. – Mark C. Wallace May 19 '17 at 11:34

If we look at the entire passage you indicate:

The contractor will 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. Such action shall include, but not be limited to the following: employment, upgrading, demotion, or transfer; recruitment or recruitment advertising; layoff or termination; rates of pay or other forms of compensation; and selection for training, including apprenticeship. The contractor agrees to post in conspicuous places, available to employees and applicants for employment, notices to be provided by the contracting officer setting forth the provisions of this nondiscrimination clause.

(emphasis mine)

This is calling for direct action to correct the situation, affirmative in that a positive change in the employment ratios was ordered to take place. Look at the list of actions in the rest of the paragraph:

  • employment

  • upgrading, demotion, or transfer

  • recruitment or recruitment advertising

  • layoff or termination

  • rates of pay or other forms of compensation

  • and selection for training, including apprenticeship

These are all listed as actions to take. Compliance and penalties are discussed in other areas of the order, if these actions are not taken. Seems like a pretty good basis for the affirmative action of today. As to why things may seem different, look towards the end of your linked page:

Sec. 403. (a) Executive Orders Nos. 10590 (January 19, 1955), 10722 (August 5, 1957), 10925 (March 6, 1961), 11114 (June 22, 1963), and 11162 (July 28, 1964), are hereby superseded and the President's Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity established by Executive Order No. 10925 is hereby abolished. All records and property in the custody of the Committee shall be transferred to the Civil Service Commission and the Secretary of Labor, as appropriate.

(emphasis mine)

When this order was published it replaced and updated earlier orders, and it is likely that there have been new orders,laws or court actions updating or clarifying provisions and policies started by this order.

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