Affirmative action


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Since the inception of affirmative action in the United States inthe 1960s, the topic has been hotly contested. Whereas the policy wasadopted to ensure that people are not discriminated due to theirgender, color, race or nationality in employment positions, thepolicy has been viewed as a way of favoring some people over others. has largely been known as an avenue for offeringpreferential treatment in hiring processes rather than a commitmentto non-discrimination and impartiality (Katznelson, 2011). is aimed at providing employment opportunities forand favoring disadvantaged groups who are believed to suffer fromdiscrimination. The justification of affirmative action both morallyand legally has been hotly contested.

, or what has come to be known as the preferentialtreatment, has been described in terms of backward looking or thecompensatory argument. Backward looking argues that there are peoplewho have been subjects of injustices in the past and are thereforeentitled to preferential treatment as a compensation. For instance,the compensatory argument will point that blacks in America have beendiscriminated historically in terms of employment opportunities,education, promotions and contracts. However, the main problem withbackward looking is that the compensation does not always reach theright people. For instance, it is no all black people who have beensubjects of discrimination. However, when such people are beingcompensated, they are normally compensated as a group. It is alsoevident that there are people who are excluded in the preferentialtreatment groups and yet they are disadvantaged. Such people mayinclude the old, disabled and the certain genders.

In addition, compensatory programs also face the challenge of whoshould bear the burden of compensating the historical subjects ofdiscrimination. It is clear that the people responsible for theinjustices should bear the cost of the special treatment programs. Onthe contrary, the people who bear the burden of compensation areindeed the one disadvantaged by the preferential treatment programs.For instance, a white person may be denied a job opportunity becauseof the color of his skin or race (Skrentny, 2008).

is aimed at bringing people from different races,countries and genders into a level playing field. The motive ofaffirmative action is to ensure that the disadvantaged groups aregiven preferential treatment in areas of employment, education,promotion and others. Historically, there are certain groups thathave been discriminated against due to their skin color, gender, age,disability or country of origin. Black Africans have for long beendiscriminated against in the United States (Skrentny, 2008). aims to alienate such forms of discrimination.This is contrary to what racism and sexism aims to achieve. Racism islargely the discrimination of people based on their skin color. Ithas been believed that the white people have been favored over theother races in the United States. This form of discrimination fallssquarely under the subject of racism.

Sexism on the other hand has been said to be the discrimination ofpeople on the basis their sexual orientation. For instance, gays andlesbians continue to be discriminated against. People with sexualorientations which do not conform to the social norms suffer fromstigmatization. Sexism is also the discrimination of an individual onthe basis of his or her gender. It is common knowledge that womenwere denied the right to vote and hold public offices in Americauntil the early 1900 (Skrentny, 2008). It is clear that such peoplewere discriminated based on their gender. does nottarget to discriminate any group of people, but it aims at bringing asense of equal opportunity for all people regardless of the race,gender, age or country of origin. However, some critics have arguedthat affirmative action programs discriminate against the people whoare construed as being favored. For instance, a white man beingdenied a job for the sake of a lesser qualified woman or African manappears as discrimination.

Hettinger argues that affirmative action accentuates the elements ofrace and sexism. White males who are believed to have been favoredhistorically are said to be discriminated on the basis of their race.Hiring people from disadvantaged groups with lower qualificationsthan the white males has been regarded as a reverse discrimination(Katznelson, 2011). It is ethical and logical to argue that peoplewho are qualified should be hired. However, affirmative action inthis case favors disadvantaged groups who have lower qualificationsthan the white males. In this regard, affirmative action can be saidto be unjust.

Although affirmative action seems to be disadvantageous to the whitemales, Hettinger is quick to defend the AA programs. In regard to thenumerous benefits and achievements that the AA programs haveachieved, Hettinger supports the utilitarian approach that the whitemales must pay a small price. has also been saidto be oppression the white males. This is because the white males arenot compensated for the sacrifices they make for the disadvantagedgroups such as women and people of color (Katznelson, 2011). Thewhite males view affirmative action programs as a punishment to them,yet they are not liable for the discrimination that the disadvantagedgroups have faced historically. According to Hettinger, the whitemales must conform to the utilitarian approach and admit that theymust pay a small price for the benefits of affirmative action to berealized.

Pojman has been vocal is his argument that merit should be the basisupon which people are hired. Whereas affirmative action may havenumerous benefits, Pojman argues that the desirability to breakstereotypes should not trump upon merit. According to Pojman, weakaffirmative action that seeks to establish equal opportunities forall people is acceptable. However, the strong affirmative actionwhich has largely been known as the preferential treatment isregarded as discriminatory and ethically unacceptable. Whenaffirmative action is used to hire people who are of lowqualifications, it promotes mediocrity and incompetence. According toPojman, affirmative action must put into consideration the issue ofmerit (Skrentny, 2008). Less qualified people should not be hired onthe basis of their race or sex when other white males with therequired qualifications are present.

Unequal representation at the workplace must not necessarily emanatefrom racism and sexism. programs view unequalrepresentation at the workplace as a result of racism and sexism.However, Pojman argues that unequal representation at the workplaceis not a result of racism and sexism (Katznelson, 2011). People arehired based on merit and therefore when there is unequalrepresentation at the workplace, it is not because of racism orsexism. Diversity should also not be used as a way of discriminatingqualified individuals against benefiting from opportunities. Meritshould always come before race and sexism. Whereas we live indiversity and must accommodate each other, diversity should not beused as a way of discriminating against the qualified white males. shifts the burden of preferential treatment to thewhite males. The white males suffer at the expense of the minoritygroups who are given preferential treatment. Pojman argues that thewhite males must not carry the burden of suffering at the expense ofthe minority groups such as the people of color and women. Therefore,it can be conclusively be said that weak affirmative action is justand fair. However, strong affirmative action which trumps upon meritis illogical and unethical, and therefore unjustified.


Katznelson, I. (2011). When affirmative action was white: Anuntold history of racial inequality in twentieth-century America.New York, NY: Norton.

Skrentny, J. D. (2008). The ironies of affirmative action:Politics, culture, and justice in America. Chicago: Univ. ofChicago Press.