Affirmative Action

Every day in our country affirmative action allows for certain people to attain jobs. Who are these people and what is affirmative action? These people are minorities and women, and affirmative action is the nation’s most ambitious attempt to redress its long history of racial and sexual discrimination.
Affirmative action can call for an admissions officer faced with two similarly qualified applicants to choose the minority over the white, or for a manager to recruit and hire a qualified woman for a job instead of a man. Generally, affirmative action decisions are not supposed to be based on quotas, nor are they supposed to give any preference to unqualified candidates. Also, they are not supposed to harm anyone through reverse discrimination.
As with most controversial issues, there are two sides to the debate. The opposing side argues that favoring minorities and women goes against the American way because the battle to guarantee equal rights has already been fought and won. The supporting side’s argument is that although there has been an attempt at equality for all, all are not yet on a level playing field. Granting minorities and women modest advantages is more than fair, given hundreds of yearsof discrimination that benefited whites and men.
These sides were examined in 1973 by Philosophy & Public Affairs. Thomas Nagel’s ;Equal Treatment and Compensatory Justice; and Judith Jarvis Thomson’s "Preferential Hiring" both defended the use of preferences but on different grounds. Thomson defended job preferences for women and blacks as a form of compensation for their past exclusion from the academy and the workplace. Preferential policies, in her view, worked as a kind of justice. Nagel, by contrast, thought that preferences might work a kind of social good, and without doing violence to justice.
The terms of the popular debate over racial and gender preferences were the same as th

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