“Affirmative action” and fairness

“Affirmative action” means that if blacks fall short it’s the fault of whites, so it’s only fair to take the benefits of success from whites and give them to blacks. Our established intellectual, moral and religious leaders—including the bishops—all say that’s just and moral, so one is reluctant to argue the contrary. Still, the system raises some obvious issues:

  • The system works to the benefit of the established leaders who praise it, since it means that the way people run things on their own is in need of radical reordering and continuous close supervision by their betters. That doesn’t prove the system is bad, of course, but it does make you wonder if there’s something other than its sheer goodness that makes it so uniformly popular with our rulers and unpopular with the people.
  • Since no evidence of specific injury is required, there’s no way to limit the principle that how blacks end up is the fault of whites. A consequence is that no matter what a black does it’s always whites who are at fault. Consider Jayson Blair’s book proposal “Burning Down My Master’s House”, which some literary agents say could bring a six-figure advance. In the proposal the middle-class and privileged Blair casts his story as one of “a young black man” told he would never succeed “by everyone from his white second-grade teacher to his editor at the Times, who rose from the fields and got a place in the master’s house and then burned it down the only way he knew how.” He goes so far as to identify with Lee Boyd Malvo, the younger Washington sniper: “The moment I began to see parallels between his life and mine was the moment things began falling apart.” (As well they should have!)
  • Since the complaint against whites is totally non-specific, everything they do is wrong. If they treat blacks differently, that’s racist, and if they treat blacks the same (the “colorblind” ideal), that’s racist too. Absence of “affirmative action” is wrong, but to the extent affirmative action makes it visible that blacks get a special deal, that’s also wrong. Consider the criticism made by the president of an independent advisory group helping the London police diversify with regard to a scheme to pay black officers for getting their friends to apply “It is going to be said they only came because someone got a reward for them.” The police wouldn’t need the scheme, she said, if it became known as a good employer. Why wouldn’t the same criticism apply to all affirmative action programs?
  • And of course, no theory that the problems have anything to do with black qualities or conduct can be taken seriously. If it were, what would happen to the moral imperative of proportionality upon which “affirmative action” depends? Rich, Black, and Flunking: Anthropologist John Ogbu thinks he knows why, but nobody wants to hear it.

We’re told that affirmative action is a requirement of social justice. But shouldn’t “social justice” at least be just? Shouldn’t it be consistent with ordinary truthfulness, fair dealing and charity? Shouldn’t it respect subsidiarity and local institutional autonomy? The complaint against affirmative action is that it violates all those principles. What is the persuasive response?

5 thoughts on ““Affirmative action” and fairness”

  1. Affirmative action is
    Affirmative action is another way that the self appointed leaders of the Black community have of avoiding responsibility for Black social problems. Rather than focusing on improving themselves it is easier to lower the standards for their group to compete with whites for the same job or school position.

    The dropout rate is higher in the Black community, the illegitimate birth rate is higher, the crime rate is higher and unemployment is higher. Yet, rather than taking responsibility for their problems, addressing them and improving themselves, it is much easier to shift the blame on others, push through special benefits to make things unfairly easier for them or changing the subject entirely (like finding a Confederate flag somewhere to tear down).

    None of these problems can even be addressed until people realize that racism does not discriminate, and that not every problem in the Black community is the fault of someone else.

  2. Mr. Crisp,

    Mr. Crisp,
    Affirmative action has little to do with any particular group refusing to accpet responsiblity for shortcomings of any kind. The myth the fuels your warped perception of reality is that since certain ethnic groups migrated to this country and were able to realize the “American Dream,” minority groups simply lack the work ethic, determination, and competancy to do the same. Not too far in the recent past, minority groups, (including white women) have been denied access to quality education, meaningful employment, opportunities for professional advancement, suburban housing and basic civil liberities simply by their classification as part of such groups. With this in mind, it should be obvious to all but the dullest of minds that opportunities available to white males would be inaccessible to those suffering from those social disadvantages. Nepotism afford many whites males positions in universities and in corporate offices. Since qualified minorities have been traditionally been deined these positions, who is able to look out for them as had been done for whites? Qualified minoritities are often passed over for promotions in favor of less qualified whites presently, (cases like the texaco discrimination suit of 94 come to mind). As late as the early 80’s exceptional minority students were discouraged from applying to college by guidance counselors and advised to pursue training in the service sector of our economy. The bottom line is that american society has been traditionally structured to alienate and disenfranchise those of color. As hated as white minority groups were, they were still white, and eventually dilluted their ethnicity through breeding anyway. They could attend schools that actually possessed educational resources. They could attend enrichment functions in the community, (denied to minority groups). They could attend accredited universities. They could obtain employment above the blue collar status. Your anaylsis of American race relations lacks any historical causality.

  3. Is there a law forcing
    Is there a law forcing public and private colleges to use affirmative action? Or do they just do it out of generosity?
    David Bolls

  4. Racial diversity has now
    Racial diversity has now legally become a “compelling state interest”. That means when stacked up against other things in court cases, diversity wins by default. So what the Court did was clearly more, and will have larger long term implications, than merely allowing some programs out of charity; just as _Griswold vs Connecticut_ had implications beyond Griswold being able to buy a pack of condoms in front of your kids.

  5. So colleges use affirmative
    So colleges use affirmative action out of fear they will be challenged in courts, always favorable to affirmative action, if they don’t?


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