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Affirmative Action: A Critique

The debate over affirmative action is unique in that it turns upon a philosophical paradox: the goal of affirmative action is, after all, ultimately to make itself unnecessary (The Christian Century 5). In this, affirmative action attempts to level the playing field at early stages (in primary education, in social welfare programs, etc.) so that subsequent affirmative action at later stages (in the workforce, at graduate schools, etc.) is unnecessary. Further, affirmative action aims to bring about its own demise in other ways; even at the earliest stages, it is thought that once the disadvantaged have been guaranteed access to greater opportunities, they can then be left to their own devices to make the most of them. Racial diversity should follow, but it need not. Many feel that it is redundant to continue to correct racial imbalances over and over again, generation upon generation, ad infinitum; this approach, it is argued, is imprecise in targeting the needy and lacks overall efficacy. Others argue that so long as social inequity exists in any form, affirmative action will always fulfill a unique and necessary function in American society. On this view, affirmative action should merely be reformed, never abandoned utterly.

For these reasons, debating affirmative action is difficult to do. At what point can it be argued that affirmative action has achieved its purpose and hence, become unnecessary? Indeed, is it even conceivable that there will be a day when affirmative action will not be useful? What sort of index can accurately measure racial diversity and equality of opportunity? In many regions of the United States, these questions have already been answered, albeit differently. At issue is the very nature of egalitarianism. Opportunity egalitarianism will demand that affirmative action programs ensure that all citizens have access to some basic programs, and will admit that not all individuals will make use of...

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Affirmative Action: A Critique. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 07:04, May 31, 2020, from