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Affirmative Action: An Aid or an Obstruction to Equality? Part Two

Sam Taylor

Posted on February 9, 2021 04:22

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In part one, I summarized some of the less controversial effects of affirmative action. But the question is: do these effects justify a policy which elicits social divide, germinates prejudice, and fails to aid those it most intends to?

On nearly every issue, people trade objective complexity for superficial dogma — a fact I've already stressed in previous writings, but one in need of repetition. Unfortunately, affirmative action is no different an issue. Entrenched in a partisan view of the debate, wherein positive discrimination is either an ineffective evil in due of eradication or a just tool in need of use, most people side with the agendas of their preferred politic and take an all or nothing view on affirmative action. Either you're an ignorant bigot or a naive SJW: for as with many things, the loud voices of polarized extremism leave little room for moderation. 

Yet, many take such moderate positions (albeit, less avidly than their factitious peers). In fact, I'll take such a position in this TLT. 

Though affirmative action benefits the advantaged members of disadvantaged minorities, it almost always fails to fulfill the needs of those lowest on the socioeconomic ladder. Certainly, African-Americans, Māori New Zealanders, and Telanganan Indians with less resources than their peers will benefit from educational quotas and more lenient admission criteria — assuming they have enough resources to take advantage of such systems in the first place. Well documented research demonstrates that affirmative action often fails to reach impoverished minorities (i.e., those most in need of it). This has led to calls for "quotas within quotas" in India, which have yet to be implemented effectively. In the United States, this issue has yet to receive much publicity — let alone proper policy analysis. 

Moreover, affirmative action almost universally induces prejudice. Whether this amounts to unconscious bias, as with patients being weary of minority doctors, or overt violence, as with the skirmishes between the Andhras and Telanganans in India, it incontrovertibly occurs — something that only a gradual, cultural shift could alter. Still, there's more that’s concerning about positive discrimination. 

A tenable argument holds that affirmative action focuses on the wrong attribute of individuals in need of scholastic lenience and opportunity. Instead of granting such on the basis of race, it may be better distributed by economic status. It’s evident that, despite the potential existence of pervasive prejudice, an African-American living in the avenues of suburbia has far more in the way of academic opportunity than the same in inner-city Chicago — and further obvious that the former would have a much easier time attending a university than an impoverished white in Appalachia. Aren't these latter individuals in greater need of educational latitude than their more lucrative fellows? — irrespective of race.  

None of this is to say there isn't some benefit to affirmative action. In principle, I can't say I'm wholly against the practice: if people are denied academic opportunity on the basis of race, some level of positive discrimination seems a just rectification to the inequity they face. But when such discrimination only helps the relatively advantaged and exacerbates racial prejudice, all the while providing only constrained benefits to its recipients, I must resolutely decry it: in practice if not in theory. 

Sam Taylor

Posted on February 9, 2021 04:22

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Proposition 16, a ballot measure reinstating affirmative action, was rejected by California voters earlier last month....

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