An Ethical And Practical Defense Of Affirmative Action

1626 words - 7 pages

An Ethical and Practical Defense of Affirmative ActionAffirmative action has been the subject of increasing debate and tension in American society.However, the debate over affirmative action has become ensnared in rhetoric that pits equality ofopportunity against the equality of results. The debate has been more emotional than intellectual, andhas generated more tension than shed light on the issue. Participants in the debate have overexamined the ethical and moral issues that affirmative action raises while forgetting to scrutinize thesystem that has created the need for them. Too often, affirmative action is looked upon as thepanacea for a nation once ill with, but now cured of, the virulent disease of racial discrimination.Affirmative action is, and should be seen as, a temporary, partial, and perhaps even flawed remedyfor past and continuing discrimination against historically marginalized and disenfranchised groups inAmerican society. Working as it should, it affords groups greater equality of opportunity in a socialcontext marked by substantial inequalities and structural forces that impede a fair assessment of theircapabilities.In this essay I will expose what I see as the shortcomings of the current ethical attacks on affirmativeaction (1), the main one being, that these attacks are devoid of proper historical context andshrouded in white male hegemony and privilege. Then, I will discuss the moral and ethical issuesraised by continuing to function within a system that systematically disadvantages historicallymarginalized groups. With that as a backdrop, I will make a positive case for continuing affirmativeaction programs and discuss the practical concerns that continuing such programs may raise.Perhaps the biggest complaint that one hears about affirmative action policies aimed at helping BlackAmericans is that they violate the 14th Amendment of the Constitution and the Civil Rights laws. Theclaim is that these programs distort what is now a level playing field and bestow preferentialtreatment on undeserving minorities because of the color of their skin. While this view seems verylogical on the surface, I contend that it lacks any historical support and is aimed more at preservingexisting white (2) privilege than establishing equality of opportunity for all. Any cursory look at thehistory of this country should provide a serious critique to the idea of a level playing field. Since thebirth of this nation, Blacks have been an enslaved, oppressed, and exploited people. Until 1954,when the Supreme Court handed down Brown v. Board, Blacks were legally pushed to the marginof society where many were left to dwell in poverty and powerlessness. The Brown decisionremoved the legal impediments that had so long kept Blacks in the impoverished peripheral. Despitethis long awaited victory for Black Americans, the historic decision failed to provide adequate meansfor the deconstruction of white dominance and privilege. It merely allowed Blacks to...

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