Monday, September 5, 2011

Affirmative Action

A favorite target of conservative panderers is affirmative action. They condemn affirmative action as “reverse discrimination” and argue two wrongs don’t make a right. Some argue it is restitution for discrimination in the past paid to those who never personally suffered discrimination. Both of these arguments are specious and demonstrably false. 

Affirmative Action or Reverse Discrimination

According to the U.S. Supreme Court affirmative action is appropriate when illegal discrimination has led to continuing harmful inequities and when no other remedy is available. If there is another practical solution, the law requires it be used instead of affirmative action. Actions taken are required to be narrowly tailored to resolve the existing inequity and to cease when that disparity is eliminated.

Affirmative action is only employed when the alternative is to do nothing. Our choice is either to allow the harmful effects of intolerance-driven discrimination to persist indefinitely or to correct an egregious situation via judicial due process carefully weighing the interests and rights of all parties. The “two-wrongs-don’t-make-a-right” argument implicitly assumes a moral equivalence between these two options which does not exist. The choice isn't whether or not to perpetrate a second wrong; it is whether to resolve an existing inequity or permit it to continue. Affirmative actions are taken not as restitution for past wrongs, but to prevent unfair, hurtful effects of illegal discrimination from propagating into the future. Not taking affirmative action in such cases is clearly the greater error and is morally dubious.

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