Unit 3: Business and its Internal Constituencies Chapter 4: Ethics of job discrimination Lesson 19: Affirmative ActionDear Students, today let us talk about reservations (affirmative action) in educationalinstitutions, government jobs etc.Points to be covered in this lecture:Affirmative action – arguments for and against affirmative action.RacismMolly has just been accepted at Stanford University and calls her friend Terri to tell herthe good news.MOLLY: Hi, Terri! Guess what?TERRI: Hey, Molly! What happened?MOLLY: I got accepted to Stanford!!!!TERRI (surprised and disappointed): Oh. Cool.MOLLY: Thanks, Ter---you sound soo enthused!TERRI: Oh, I am. I have to go---my Moms calling me for dinner.MOLLY: Oh, ok. See ya!TERRI: Bye, Molly.The two girls hang up with each other. Terri picks up the phone and calls her friendMonica.MONICA: Hello?TERRI: Monica? Its Terri.MONICA: Hey, Terri! What’s up?TERRI: Listen to this, Mon. Molly got into Stanford!MONICA: Oh, thats great! Im so happy for her!
TERRI: What? Why?MONICA: Terri, Stanford is like the hardest school to get into in the country! Whyshouldnt I be happy for her?TERRI: Well, I didnt get in.MONICA: Oh, I didnt know---Im sorry.TERRI: I dont understand how she got in, though. I have a higher GPA and SAT scoresthan she does.MONICA: Maybe she had a better application.TERRI: Or maybe its what was on her application.MONICA: What do you mean?TERRI: Oh, come on, Mon! Mollys black!MONICA: Yes, and. . .?TERRI: Dont you see? ITS CALLED AFFIRMATIVE ACTION!MONICA: Terri, give me a break—TERRI: Oh, please. You know it and I know it: She only got in because of her race andbecause shes poor. Her GPA is really low and so are her SAT scores.MONICA: Did you ever stop and think that maybe she had a good essay?TERRI: Yes, but weve both read some of Mollys papers, and we both know she cantwrite. Listen, Monica, if youre Black, Asian, Native American, Mexican, or any otherminority and poor youve got it made. You can be as stupid as Forrest Gump---whichmost of them are---and you can still get into any college. Its not fair at all.MONICA (angry): No, you know what isnt fair? That Im sitting here listening to my so-called "friend" insult my intelligence and my race. How dare you sit here and tell me thatthe only way Ill ever get into college is through my race. Listen, honey, the only way Imgetting to college is through my brains, and from talking to you it looks like I have a lotmore than you!After reading this conversation you must have understood that our focus is onaffirmative action. These two girls were talking about affirmative action, which made one
person happy and one person very sad. So, what is affirmative action? What do we meanby this term? In this lecture we will understand this concept.Affirmative Action: All of the equal opportunity policies discussed are ways of making employmentdecisions blind with respect to sex and race. These policies are all negative: They aim toprevent any further discrimination. They, therefore, ignore the fact that as a result of pastdiscrimination women and minorities do not now have the same skills as their white malecounterparts and that because of past discrimination women and minorities are nowunderrepresented in the more prestigious and desirable job positions. The policiesdiscussed so far do not call for any positive steps to eliminate these effects of pastdiscrimination. First instituted in the 1960s and 1970s by employers and educational institutions inresponse to pressures from civil rights groups, federal legislation, and court rulings,preferential treatment programs or Affirmative Actions seek to rectify the effects of pastand ongoing discrimination against women and racial minorities. These programs aredesigned as temporary measures to increase the employment and educationalopportunities available to qualified women and minorities by giving them preference inhiring, promotion, and admission. Toward this goal, some firms and institutionsaggressively recruit minorities and women, others set numerical targets and timetables toraise the level of minority and female representation, and still others establish quotas tohire or admit a specified number of minority and female candidates. In order to rectify the effects of past discrimination, many employers have institutedaffirmative action programs designed to achieve a more representative distribution ofminorities and women within the firm by giving preference to women and minorities.Affirmative action programs, in fact, are now legally required of all firms that hold agovernment contract. What does an affirmative action program involve? The heart of anaffirmative action program is a detailed study (a "utilization analysis") of all the majorjob classifications in the firm. The purpose of the study is to determine whether there arefewer minorities or women in a particular job classification than could be reasonablyexpected by their availability in the area from which the firm recruits. The utilizationanalysis will compare the percentage of women and minorities in each job classificationwith the percentage of those minority and female workers available in the area from
which the firm recruits who have the requisite skills or who are capable of acquiring therequisite skills with training the firm could reasonably supply. If the utilization analysisshows that women or minorities are underutilized in certain job classifications, the firmmust then establish recruiting goals and timetables for correcting these deficiencies.Although the goals and timetables must not be rigid and inflexible quotas, they mustnonetheless be specific, measurable, and designed in good faith to correct the deficienciesuncovered by the utilization analysis within a reasonable length of time. The firmappoints an officer to coordinate and administer the affirmative action program, andundertakes special efforts and programs to increase the recruitment of women andminorities so as to meet the goals and timetables it has established for itself. Supreme Court decisions have not been clear about the legality of affirmative actionprograms. A large number of federal court decisions have agreed that the use ofaffirmative action programs to redress imbalances that are the result of previousdiscriminatory hiring practices is legitimate. Moreover, in 1979 the U.S. Supreme Courtruled that companies legally can use affirmative action programs to remedy a "manifestracial imbalance" whether or not the imbalance resulted from past discriminatory jobpractices. In June 1984, however, the Court ruled that companies may not set aside theseniority of white workers during layoffs in favor of women and minority workers hiredunder affirmative action plans so long as the seniority system was adopted without adiscriminatory motive. Thus, although affirmative action programs that give preferencesto women or minorities as a group were not declared illegal, their effects could disappearduring hard times since the "last hired, first fired" rule of seniority would hit strongest atwomen and minorities recently hired through the programs These programs have brought or accompanied significant gains for women andminorities. In the past 25 years, black participation in the work force has increased 50percent and the percentage of blacks holding managerial positions has jumped fivefold.In 1970, women comprised only 5 percent of lawyers compared to 20 percent today. Affirmative action programs have been attacked mainly on the grounds that, inattempting to correct the effects of past discrimination, these programs themselves havebecome racially or sexually discriminatory. By showing preference to minorities orwomen, the programs institute a form of "reverse discrimination" against white males. Aforty-five-year-old electrical worker at a Westinghouse plant, for example, is quoted assayingWhat does bother me is the colored getting the preference because theyre black. This Iam against. I say, I dont care what his color is. If he has the ability to do the job, heshould get the job-not because of his color. They shouldnt hire 20 percent just becausetheyre black. This is discrimination in reverse as far as Im concerned. . . . If they wantit, they can earn it like I did. I am not saying deprive them of something-not at all Affirmative action programs are said to discriminate against white males by using anon-relevant characteristic-race or sex-to make employment decisions, and this violatesjustice by violating the principles of equality and of equal opportunity.
As civil rights groups press for more aggressive and comprehensive preferentialtreatment programs to eliminate such inequities, opposition to these programs mounts.According to one poll, a majority of whites and one-third of blacks oppose preferentialtreatment for minorities. Opponents have long charged that the programs discriminateagainst white males. Recent critics, including several noted black scholars, argue thatpreferential treatment programs victimize and stigmatize minorities, increasing frictionamong groups. But defenders of the programs hail them as the most expedient and fairestway to overcome racial and sexist barriers in our society. Are preferential treatmentprograms morally justified? The arguments used to justify affirmative action programs in the face of theseobjections tend to fall into two main groups. One group of arguments interprets thepreferential treatment accorded to women and minorities as a form of compensation forpast injuries they have suffered. A second set of arguments interprets preferentialtreatment as an instrument for achieving certain social goals. Whereas compensationarguments for affirmative action are backward looking insofar as they focus on thewrongness of past acts, the instrumentalist arguments are forward looking insofar as theyfocus on the goodness of a future state (and the wrongness of what happened in the pastis irrelevant). We will begin by examining the compensation arguments and then turn tothe instrumentalist arguments.In Defense of Preferential TreatmentAffirmative action as compensation Arguments that defend affirmative action as a form of compensation are based onthe concept of compensatory justice. Compensatory justice, as we noted implies thatpeople have an obligation to compensate those whom they have intentionally and unjustlywronged. Affirmative action programs are then interpreted as a form of reparation bywhich white male majorities now compensate women and minorities for unjustly injuringthem by discriminating against them in the past. One version of this argument holds, for example, that blacks were wronged in thepast by American whites and that consequently blacks should now receive compensationfrom whites. Programs of preferential treatment provide that compensation. The difficulty with arguments that defend affirmative action on the basis of theprinciple of compensation is that the principle of compensation requires thatcompensation should come only from those specific individuals who intentionallyinflicted a wrong, and it requires them to compensate only those specific individualswhom they wronged. Compensatory justice, however, does not require that compensationshould come from all the members of a group that contains some wrongdoers, nor does itrequire that compensation should go to all the members of a group that contains someinjured parties.
Since affirmative action programs usually benefit all the members of a racial orsexual group, regardless of whether they specifically were discriminated against in thepast, and since these programs hinder every white male regardless of whether he himselfspecifically discriminated against someone in the past, it follows that such preferentialprograms cannot be justified on the basis of compensatory justice. In short, affirmativeaction programs are unfair because the beneficiaries of affirmative action are not thesame individuals who were injured by past discrimination, and the people who must payfor their injuries are usually not the ones who inflicted those injuries. Various authors have tried to counter this objection to the "affirmative action ascompensation" argument by claiming that actually every black person (or every woman)living today has been injured by discrimination and that every white person (or everymale) has benefited from those injuries. It is unclear whether these arguments succeed in justifying affirmative actionprograms that benefit groups (all blacks and all women) instead of specific injuredindividuals and that penalize groups (white males) instead of specific wrongdoers.Hasevery minority and woman really been injured as Thomson claims, and are all whitemales really beneficiaries of discrimination as Redish implies? And even if a white malehappens (through no fault of his own) to benefit from someone elses injury, does thismake him "liable" for that injury?Affirmative action as an instrument for achieving social goals A second set of justifications advanced in support of affirmative action programs isbased on the idea that these programs are morally legitimate instruments for achievingmorally legitimate ends. Utilitarian, for example, have claimed that affirmative actionprograms are justified because they promote the public welfare. They have argued thatpast discrimination has produced a high degree of correlation between race and poverty.As racial minorities were systematically excluded from better-paying, and more pres-tigious, jobs, their members have become impoverished. Impoverishment in turn has ledto unmet needs, lack of self-respect, resentment, social discontent, and crime. The publicwelfare, therefore, will be promoted if the position of these impoverished persons isimproved by giving them special educational and employment opportunities. Ifopponents object that such affirmative action programs are unjust because they distributebenefits on the basis of an irrelevant criterion such as race, the utilitarian can answer thatneed, not race, is the criterion by which affirmative action programs distribute benefits.Race provides an inexpensive indicator of need because past discrimination has created ahigh correlation between race and need. Need, of course, is a just criterion of distribution.And appealing to the reduction of need is consistent with utilitarian principles sincereducing need will increase total utility. The major difficulties encountered by these utilitarian justifications of affirmativeaction have concerned, • First, the question whether the social costs of affirmative action programs
(such as, the frustrations felt by white males) outweighs their obvious benefits. The utilitarian defender of affirmative action, of course, will reply that the benefits far outweigh the costs. • Second, and more important, opponents of these utilitarian justifications of affirmative action have questioned the assumption that race is an appropriate indicator of need. It may be inconvenient and expensive to identify the needy directly, critics argue, but the costs might be small compared to the gains that would result from having a more accurate way of identifying the needy. Utilitarians answer this criticism by arguing that all minorities (and women) have been impoverished and psychologically harmed by past discrimination. Consequently, race (and sex) provides accurate indicators of need. Although utilitarian arguments in favor of affirmative action programs are quiteconvincing, the most elaborate and persuasive array of arguments advanced in support ofaffirmative action have proceeded in two steps: 1. First, they have argued that the end envisioned by affirmative action programs is equal justice, and 2. Second, they argue that affirmative action programs are morally legitimate means for achieving this end. A third end of affirmative action programs is to neutralize these competitivedisadvantages with which women and minorities are currently burdened when theycompete with white males, and thereby bring women and minorities to the same startingpoint in their competitive race with others. The aim is to ensure an equal ability tocompete with white males. The basic end that affirmative action programs seek is a more just society, a societyin which an individuals opportunities are not limited by his or her race or sex. This goalis morally legitimate insofar as it is morally legitimate to strive for a society with greaterequality of opportunity. The means by which affirmative action programs attempt toachieve a just society is giving qualified minorities and females preference over qualifiedwhite males in hiring and promotion and instituting special training programs forminorities and females that will qualify them for better jobs. By these means, it is hoped,the more just society outlined will eventually be born. Without some form of affirmativeaction, it is argued, this end could not be achieved. But is preferential treatment a morallylegitimate means for attaining this end?Three reasons have been advanced to show that it is not: 1. First, it is often claimed that affirmative action programs "discriminate" against white males. Supporters of affirmative action programs, however, have pointed out that there are crucial differences between the treatment accorded to whites by preferential treatment programs and immoral discriminatory behavior. To discriminate, as we indicated earlier, is to make an adverse decision against the
member of a group because members of that group are considered inferior or less worthy of respect. Preferential treatment programs, however, are not based on invidious contempt for white males. On the contrary, they are based on the judgment that white males are currently in an advantaged position and that others should have an equal opportunity to achieve the same advantages. Moreover, racist or sexist discrimination is aimed at destroying equal opportunity. Preferential treatment programs are aimed at restoring equal opportunity where it is absent. Thus, preferential treatment programs cannot accurately be described as "discriminatory" in the same immoral sense that racist or sexist behavior is discriminatory.2. Second, it is sometimes claimed that preferential treatment violates the principle of equality itself ("Individuals who are equal in all respects relevant to the kind of treatment in question should be treated equally") by allowing a non relevant characteristic (race and sex) to determine employment decisions. But defenders of affirmative action programs have replied that sexual and racial differences are now relevant to making employment decisions. These differences are relevant because when society distributes a scarce resource (such as jobs) it may legitimately choose to allocate it to those groups that will best advance its legitimate ends. Since, in our present society, allocating scarce jobs to women and minorities will best achieve equality of opportunity, race and sex are now relevant characteristics to use for this purpose. Moreover, as we have seen, the reason that we hold that jobs should be allocated on the basis of job-related qualifications is that such an allocation will achieve a socially desirable (utilitarian) end: maximum productivity. When this end (productivity) conflicts with another socially desirable end (a just society), then it is legitimate to pursue the second end even if doing so means that the first end will not be as fully achieved.3. Third, some critics have objected that affirmative action programs actually harm women and minorities because such programs imply that women and minorities are so inferior to white males that they need special help to compete. This attribution of inferiority, critics claim, is debilitating to minorities and women and ultimately inflicts harms that are so great that they far outweigh the benefits provided by such programs. This third objection to affirmative action programs has been met in several ways:• First, while many minorities concede that affirmative action carries some costs for minorities themselves, they also hold that the benefits of such programs still outweigh the costs. A black worker, for example, who won several jobs through affirmative action, is reported as saying, "I had to deal with the grief it brought, but it was well worth it."• Second, proponents of affirmative action programs also argue that these
programs are based not on an assumption of minority or female inferiority but on recognition of the fact that white males, consciously or unconsciously, will bias their decisions in favor of other white males. The only remedy for this, they argue, is some kind of affirmative action program that will force white males to counter this bias by requiring them to accept that proportion of minority applicants that research shows are qualified and willing to work. As studies repeatedly show, even when women and minorities are more qualified, white males are still granted higher salaries and positions by their white male counterparts. Moreover, they claim, the unjustified attributions of inferiority that many minorities experience are the result of lingering racism on the part of coworkers and employees, and such racism is precisely what affirmative action programs are meant to eradicate. • A third response that supporters of affirmative action make is that although a portion of minorities may be made to feel inferior by current affirmative action programs, nevertheless many more minorities were made to feel much more devastatingly inferior by the overt and covert racism that affirmative action is gradually eroding. The overt and covert racism that pervaded the workplace prior to the implementation of affirmative action programs systematically disadvantaged, shamed, and undermined the self esteem of all minorities to a much higher degree than is currently the case. Finally, proponents argue that it is simply false that showing preference toward a group makes members of that group feel inferior: For centuries white males have been the beneficiaries of racial and sexual discrimination without apparent loss of their self-esteem. If minority beneficiaries of affirmative action programs are made to feel inferior, it is because of lingering racism, not because of the preference extended to them and their fellows. Strong arguments can be made in support of affirmative action programs, then, andstrong objections can be lodged against them. Because there are such powerful argumentson both sides of the issue, the debate over the legitimacy of affirmative action programscontinues to rage without resolution. The review of the arguments, however, seems tosuggest that affirmative action programs are at least a morally permissible means forachieving just ends, even if they may not show that they are a morally required means forachieving those endsThe end that affirmative action programs are supposed to achieve is phrased in variousways: (1) In our present society, it is argued; jobs are not distributed justly because they are not distributed according to the relevant criteria of ability, effort, contribution, or need. Statistics show that jobs are in fact still distributed according to race and sex. One end of affirmative action is to bring about a distribution of societys benefits and burdens that is consistent with the principles of distributive justice, and that eliminates the important position race and sex currently have in the assignment of jobs.
(2) In our present society, women and minorities do not have the equal opportunities that white males have and that justice demands. Statistics prove this. This lack of equal opportunity is because of subtle racist and sexist attitudes that bias the judgments of those (usually white males) who evaluate job applicants and that are so deeply entrenched that they are virtually ineradicable by good faith measures in any reasonable period of time. A second end of affirmative action programs is to neutralize such conscious and unconscious bias in order to ensure equal opportunity to women and minorities. (3) The lack of equal opportunity under which women and minorities currently labor has also been attributed to the privations they suffered as children. Economic privation hindered minorities from acquiring the skills, experience, training, and education they needed to compete equally with white males. Furthermore, since women and minorities have not been represented in societys prestigious positions, young men and women have had no role models to motivate them to compete for such positions as young white males have.Arguments Against Preferential Treatment• Opponents of preferential treatment programs argue that when distributing social benefits such as jobs or educational opportunities, recipients should be treated as equals unless there are morally relevant reasons for treating them different. In deciding who should be hired for a job or admitted to a college or university, the relevant criteria are an individuals qualifications and skills, not race or sex. To award or deny benefits on the basis of race or sex is as unjust as traditional discriminatory practices. Moreover, preferential treatment programs unjustly ignore the claim of need, denying benefits to disadvantaged white males while lavishing benefits on minorities who arent in need of them.• Those who oppose preferential treatment programs also claim that if the purpose of the programs is to compensate for past discrimination or present disadvantages, then only persons who have been discriminated against should be given preference. Current preferential treatment programs, however, favor members of selected groups regardless of whether an individual member has ever suffered discrimination. In fact, most of the victims of past discrimination are no longer living, so the issue of just compensation is moot.• Critics of preferential policies further argue that societys burdens ought to be distributed fairly among its members. Preferential treatment programs are unfair because they impose the burden of compensation on white males who seek jobs or
higher education. These individuals are no more responsible for past injustices or for rectifying present inequalities than any other individuals. It is unfair that they should bear the full burden of compensation.Programs awarding preference according to race or sex are also opposed on the groundsthat they cause much more harm than good: 1. First, with these programs in force, those who may be more qualified are overlooked while others only minimally qualified are chosen. The inevitable result is reduced productivity and efficiency in the work place and the lowering of academic standards in colleges and universities. 2. Second, preferential treatment programs harm minorities and women by stigmatizing them and devaluing their achievements. They encourage the belief that all minorities and women gain entry to jobs or universities primarily because they are members of under represented groups and not because they are qualified. Minority individuals may question whether the rules were bent in their case, leading to feelings of inferiority, self-doubt, and incompetence. 3. Third, preferential treatment programs encourage dependency and reward people for identifying themselves as victims providing them no incentives to become self-reliant or to develop the skills necessary to succeed in the work place or classroom. 4. Fourth, as white males are denied positions going to less-qualified minorities and women, they will become increasingly resentful, heightening animosity and tension among groups. 5. Finally, preferential treatment will spur claims from all groups who feel they have been victims of injustice. And members of groups excluded by preferential treatment programs today will demand tomorrow to be compensated for opportunities denied them. Already the nation is witnessing a barrage of allegations and lawsuits filed by non-minorities charging employers and universities with reverse discrimination due to quotas and other formulas used for hiring, promotion, and admission.
While the harms resulting from preferential treatment are considerable, critics charge, thebenefits are questionable. Giving preference to women and minorities fails to benefit theindividuals within these groups who are most likely to have suffered the effects ofdiscrimination and thus most deserving of compensation; the most disadvantagedindividuals often lack, the qualifications and skills even to be considered for employmentpositions or college placement. This is borne out in reports that cite a growing gapbetween poor blacks with little education and job skills and affluent blacks able to takeadvantage of a wide variety of employment and educational opportunities.Nor is it clear that even those minorities and women qualifying for preferential treatmentbenefit from such special consideration. Recent studies reveal a high dropout rate amongminority college students admitted under affirmative action programs. At U. C. Berkeley,for example, only 45 percent of black students admitted in 1984 had graduated by 1989compared to 73 percent of Anglos. The high rate of failure that follows the award ofemployment and educational opportunities to minority individuals unprepared to meet thechallenges of higher education reinforces feelings of inferiority among members of thesegroups.Overview: First instituted in the 1960s and 1970s by employers and educational institutions in response to pressures from civil rights groups, federal legislation, and court rulings, preferential treatment programs or Affirmative Actions seek to rectify the effects of past and ongoing discrimination against women and racial minorities. Affirmative action can be viewed as compensation for past injustices, and to achieve social objectives. However, critics of affirmative action say that preferential treatment considers race and sex, and not merit, of the individual.ActivityWhy is affirmative action practised in society?