Argument: Affirmative action justly compensates groups for past wrongs

Issue Report: Affirmative action

Extended argument and supporting evidence

  • Mary Anne Warren, “Secondary Sexism and Quota Hiring,” Philosophy & Public Affairs, 6 (Spring 1977), 256. She argued that in a context of entrenched gender discrimination, gender preferences might improve the “overall fairness” of job selections. Justice and individual desert need not be violated.

    • “If individual men’s careers are temporarily set back because of…[job preferences given to women], the odds are good that these same men will have benefited in the past and/or will benefit in the future—not necessarily in the job competition, but in some ways—from sexist discrimination against women. Conversely, if individual women receive apparently unearned bonuses [through preferential selection], it is highly likely that these same women will have suffered in the past and/or will suffer in the future from…sexist attitudes.”[1]
  • “James Rachels defended racial preferences as devices to neutralize unearned advantages by whites: Given the pervasiveness of racial discrimination, it is likely, he argued, that the superior credentials offered by white applicants do not reflect their greater effort, desert, or even ability. Rather, the credentials reflect their mere luck at being born white. “Some white…[applicants] have better qualifications…only because they have not had to contend with the obstacles faced by their black competitors.”[19] Rachels was less confident than Warren that preferences worked uniformly accurate offsets. Reverse discrimination might do injustice to some whites; yet its absence would result in injustices to blacks who have been unfairly handicapped by their lesser advantages.” – From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Affirmative Action. Retrieved 9.29.07