An Ethical and Practical Defense of Affirmative Action

Essay by Anonymous UserCollege, UndergraduateA+, December 1996

download word file, 6 pages 4.3

An Ethical and Practical Defense of Affirmative Action

Affirmative 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 of

opportunity against the equality of results. The debate has been more emotional than intellectual, and

has generated more tension than shed light on the issue. Participants in the debate have over

examined the ethical and moral issues that affirmative action raises while forgetting to scrutinize the

system that has created the need for them. Too often, affirmative action is looked upon as the

panacea 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 remedy

for past and continuing discrimination against historically marginalized and disenfranchised groups in

American society. Working as it should, it affords groups greater equality of opportunity in a social

context marked by substantial inequalities and structural forces that impede a fair assessment of their


In this essay I will expose what I see as the shortcomings of the current ethical attacks on affirmative

action (1), the main one being, that these attacks are devoid of proper historical context and

shrouded in white male hegemony and privilege. Then, I will discuss the moral and ethical issues

raised by continuing to function within a system that systematically disadvantages historically

marginalized groups. With that as a backdrop, I will make a positive case for continuing affirmative

action 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 Black

Americans is that they violate the 14th Amendment of the Constitution and the Civil Rights laws.