Affirmative Action Debate Essay, Research Paper
Affirmative Action Debate
Argument 1: backward-looking arguments
+ backward-seeks to compensate women and minorities for employment and education opportunities denied them because of past racist and sexist practices.
For example, President Lyndon Johnson provided the analogy of the “shackled runner.” In this analogy, Johnson presents a situation where one of the runners in a hundred-yard dash has his legs shackled. He was able to run only 10 yards, while his opponent ran 50 yards. How should this situation be rectified? Will it be enough simply to take off the shackles? Affirmative action seeks to start the race all over again, by allowing both runners to begin on equal footing.
Yes, it can be argued that the runner that was at an advantage will be wronged by this new start and will be unfairly paying the price for the shackling of his opponent, even though he may not have been responsible for the shackles themselves.
But, whether he was responsible or not, the unshackled runner gained an advantage because of his opponent’s disadvantage, and he cannot continue to claim that his benefits are strictly merit-based.
In applying this to our present situation, almost all white males have benefited from past and present discrimination, and while it can be argued that they have no responsibility to make reparations for past wrongs, the fact that they still receive an advantage remains.
Is it wrong for some members of our society to continue to benefit from a system that caters to those who are already advantaged while those without benefits continue to be denied those same opportunities? Yes-in a society based on supposed equality of opportunity, it is unfair to see the inequalities that exist and build up over time and simply allow them to continue to fester. Affirmative action seeks to chip away at these unfair advantages that continue to accumulate in order to bring both runners (to continue the analogy) back to equal footing.
Points to consider for rebuttal:
o We are not saying that all white males are prejudiced and purposely seek out their advantage. At the same time, however, there is a basic value associated with justice that strengthens the backward-looking argument.
o We understand that the damage done by racism and prejudice cannot simply be compensated for by measurable means; however, this is not to say that no compensation is deserved whatsoever (i.e. we know we can’t solve the entire problem, but we have to start somewhere).
Argument 2: forward-looking argument
+ forward- seeks to achieve a more equal society by providing preferential treatment to those who are not as advantaged and as a result, benefits all society in the long run.
1. Even without looking at the past, we can see that inequalities of opportunity exist for minorities and women.
2. Denying someone an equal opportunity to achieve is wrong (because it keeps them from achieving their potential).
3. Affirmative action seeks to use preferential treatment to attain equal opportunities for all races and genders.
4. Diversity is a benefit to the labor force and the academic community because it provides role models for all students and increases the different perspectives that will be shared. — stick in statistics that show inequalities that exist now and places where affirmative action has been used successfully.
5. Through preferential treatment, affirmative action will increase the diversity in the labor force and the universities, thereby improving society.
While it might be argued that less qualified applicants will receive positions that could have otherwise gone to better qualified whites or males, this is not necessarily the case. Affirmative action simply allows race to become a qualifying factor in order to rectify some of the existing inequities. Race is most often used in preferential treatment when the applicants are equally qualified in all other aspects.
Because of the injustices that exist, race and gender must be considered in order to achieve justice for minorities and women in our society. –include Onora O’Neill quote from Kant. (p. 442)
Possible Objections and Responses:
1. Affirmative action does not show racial equality toward white males–
Response: the goal is justice, not making everyone happy
2. Affirmative action accepts unqualified applicants under the pretense of diversity
Response: isolated incidents like this may occur, but this is not the majority of the cases. Like in the Bakke case, there may be other reasons that haven’t been exposed (e.g., an age limit for medical school). Even if this were the case, however, the benefit of the diverse perspectives that the person brings to the position will compensate for their seeming lack of qualification.
3. Are role models of one’s race or gender really necessary for success?
Response: diversity alone gives a woman or minority the hope of success for all students. Diversity also allows male and white students to see that success is not limited to a specific group of people and debunks any of their racist or sexist assumptions.
2 minute Responses to the anti-A.A. side
Their argument: AA causes reverse discrimination, compensation for past
actions is unjustified, and AA perpetuates the victimization syndrome.
We agree that AA is reverse discrimination. This discrimination is justified, however, in that our society there is a set amount of burdens and benefits to be shared. If one side has all the benefits while the other carries the majority of the burden, in order to shift the disparity between the two sides, the advantaged side must accept some of the burdens and lose some of the benefits. In the case of AA, this takes place in the form of reverse discrimination. It is important to note, though, that even with the reverse discrimination, the advantaged side is still at a large advantage. Add statistics. As was mentioned in our lecture, sometimes a certain group will be heavily recruited, but once you look at the racial profile of the school, it is apparent that the under-recruited group still makes up the majority of the enrollment. Discrimination, as defined by Pojman, is judging one thing to differ from another on the basis of some criterion. An example of such discrimination that is rarely seen as such is UNC undergraduate admissions. The criteria to have 84% in-state enrollment is justified by the University’s goal to provide an affordable education for the residents of North Carolina. However, an out-of-state student can view this decision as discrimination against the 16% from outside of N.C. If this form of discrimination against out-of-state students were eliminated, we would find a higher undergraduate retention rate. Despite this benefit, the goals of the university clearly state that North Carolina residents are the targeted group, and the enrollment reflects this goal and justifies the discrimination.
Moreover, you argue that compensation for past actions is not justified. However, when the repercussions of those past actions still provide a benefit for the advantaged group and continue to keep the other group at a disadvantage, then the situation must be rectified and compensation is necessary. Why should those not directly responsible for this disparity of advantages be the ones to compensate for these past actions? Because even though they are not directly responsible, they still reap the benefits from the past. Returning to the shackled runner analogy, how can you expect the newly unshackled group to be able to compete against the unshackled side that has benefited from years of coaching and practice without providing resources that will help them not only catch up but also become competitive. In this case, compensation is more than justified.
In addressing the victimization syndrome that may or may not be caused by AA, it must be understood that some people are always going to feel like victims. However, there is a more positive way to view this situation. Think back to when you were a child learning to ride a bike. You may have started out with training wheels or your parents may have held on to the back of your bike but they did not let you go until they felt that you were adequately prepared to ride on your own without training wheels. In this situation, most children did not feel like victims but instead appreciated the guidance they were given until they could achieve on their own. Similarly, your parents probably gave you a head start in races, knowing that over time you would be able to compete against them and win races on your own. Giving you the head start gave you the incentive to want to win the races on your own and provided more opportunities to improve your skills. In getting back to the victimization argument, it is necessary to understand that racism and past discrimination did occur and still impact our society today. However, there is no need to emphasize the suffering at the expense of overshadowing positive future outcomes.
Their argument (#2):
AA encourages mediocrity and incompetence and the merit argument.
You claim that AA encourages mediocrity and incompetent applicants to receive positions that more qualified individuals should receive. Louis Pojman says, “Merit is not an absolute value. There are times when it may be overridden for social goals .” In the case of AA, it is not the goal of employers to choose mediocre and incompetent employees, but it is their goal to diversify the applicant pool, thereby diversifying their labor force. “We cannot just define who is qualified in the most narrow, vertical, academic terms,” Jesse Jackson says. There are many aspects to qualification that need to be considered when choosing an employee or a university student. What one lacks in one area can be more than overcompensated for in another area. It depends on the goals of the individual employer. Recipients of AA offer a diversity of qualities that may not be found in a homogenous applicant pool, and thereby improve the overall quality of the labor force or university. Even if an AA recipient appears to be somewhat less qualified initially, over time this same person can achieve just as much as or more than a “more qualified” person because of the opportunities presented to them. In order to reach our goal of diversity for the benefit of society, we may need to adjust some qualifications for some period of time in order to gain an increased, more diverse applicant pool that will be stronger in the long run. You might ask why some people should have to sacrifice in order to attain diversity in the work force. The
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