Affirmative Action1

Affirmative Action: A Contradiction In Itself
Affirmative action is a term of general application referring to government
policies that directly or indirectly award jobs, admission to universities and professional
schools, and other social goods and resources to individuals on the basis of membership in
designated protected groups in order to compensate those groups for past discrimation
caused by society as awhole.For political, as well as prudential reasons reflecting racial
sensitivities, public justification of affirmative action has tended to describe it as alogical
extension of equality of opportunity for individuals.In fact, affirmative action embodies
ideas that are philosophically anti-ethicalto the principle of equal protection of the laws
that are the basisof equality of opportunity.The essential difference is thataffirmative
action policies are designed to benefit persons on the basis ofmembership in a group,
ratherthan according to individual qualifications and experience.
Affirmative action focuses on the results of the procedures usedby public and
private organization measured with respect to racial balance, rather than on the existence
of procedures that assure equal treatmentof individuals irrespective of race, ethinicity or
sex.It can therefore be described as a civil rights policy, promised on the concept of
group rather than individual rights, which seeks equality of result rather than equality of
As a general description of civil rights policy, affirmative action comprehends such
matters as school desegregation, voting rights, housing sales and rentals, university
admissions, the activities of federally funded agencies, and public and private employment.
In each of these areas, there have been judicial decisions asserting the principles of

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