Understanding Affirmative Action : Politics, Discrimination, and the Search for Justice

By J. Edward Kellough | Go to book overview

four
Assessing the Argument
A Review of the Case For and
Against Affirmative Action

As has been stressed a number of times in this work, affirmative action encompasses a variety of efforts to benefit members of groups, primarily racial and ethnic minorities and women, who have been historically disadvantaged because of discrimination. Affirmative action includes outreach and recruitment efforts, as well as the establishment of goals for the selection of individuals from underrepresented groups and the preferences that are implicit in those goals. While the purpose has been to counter historical patterns of discrimination and injustice, affirmative action has been immersed in controversy since its inception. To a considerable extent, the debate centers on a conflict between two competing values that are fundamental to American political culture: equality and liberty. All parties in the struggle over affirmative action embrace both values to some degree, but proponents of the policy tend to emphasize equality, or more specifically, equality of opportunity for groups historically disadvantaged, while opponents prefer liberty in the sense that employers and others should be free to select whomever they believe is best suited for available positions without special consideration for or against women or any group defined in terms of race or ethnicity. This chapter will not resolve that debate. The purpose here is to review the underlying rationale for affirmative action,

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