Affirmative action | Civil liberties and civil rights | US government and civics | Khan Academy
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Affirmative action | Civil liberties and civil rights | US government and civics | Khan Academy

January 10, 2020


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  1. The comment section will be hell, but let's get this. Affirmative action is needed in one or the other. That's one of the few ways we can have people succeed from different backgrounds. I grew up in Ghana were women enjoy some form of affirmative action when they apply for public universities. This has increased the rate of women in the formal workforce. I do understand the point made by Justice Thomas but if we want to have a balanced workforce there must be some form of affirmative action

  2. I am more supportive of Justice Thomas's opinion for a couple of reasons. First, defining people's opportunity by a group to which they belong, is arbitrary and racist to begin with. Not all people of any ethnic background or either gender have had the same struggles, disadvantages, or privileges, so to attempt to presume a stereotype for each is nonsensical, as well as racist by definition.
    Also, to believe that a proper balance of opportunities is given to those worthy, and that the most capable members of society are being prepared for the contributions they will make, simply because of a certain proportion of superficially identifiable groups is represented, is doing a disservice to society, and is objectively bankrupt.
    Second, the idea of "Diversity" has devolved into looking for demographic parity in all outcomes, at least if those outcomes seem desirable to whomever is concerned. This assumes not only that all groups have equal abilities and potential in every area, but also that they have equal interest. This is rarely the case. Even if it were generally true, even random chance would make some disparities in individual areas. So there would be de facto unequal merit, trying to fit the same demographic proportions to all professions, courses of study, etc.
    Case in point: In the early 1980's, there was great concern among administrators at California Polytechnic State University that no women were represented in their Mechanical Engineering Department. At first, they believed of course, that it must be male sexism, discouraging women, or creating a hostile environment.
    They tried to solve this, and did extensive outreach. Still no success. So they increased incentives, eventually giving free ride scholarships to any women who would enroll. Finally, they just had to conclude that not many women were interested in mechanical engineering careers.
    But during this time, slots were held open, and scholarship money was set aside, no matter how well qualified beyond basic admissions level requirements, while for men, it was highly competitive.
    Another case was during that same era, I was interested in a job with the US Forest Service. The responsible employee told me frankly that there were large numbers of white male applicants, but very little chance of getting hired without a 10 year wait, as they were attempting to create a more diverse workforce, so were hiring mostly women and minorities. I asked if there had been a policy of discouraging or not hiring women or minorities in the past, and he said, no, it's just that they get few applicants, so they almost all get hired, but 95% of the applicants are white males, so… waiting list.
    In my opinion, remedies to actual discrimination are proper, if based on ensuring opportunity, not just screwing over some other innocent person for "balance", but to achieve some demographic representation is false affirmation, just to make one seem virtuous.
    When I was a child, and saw the solution to unequal school quality was to bus kids an hour away, I thought, "Really? They're saying some schools suck, so as long as an equal number of white, black, or Hispanic kids go to the bad schools, it's ok? Why not work on making the school better instead?"
    I know that's a simplification, but it does represent the idea.

  3. It is absolutely helpful in cases to bring those that need aid to stand on their own feet, but when the subject is competant and successful in their own right they no longer need that boost. I think an analogy would be Food Stamps, they can do a lot of good when the family is in need, but there is a point where it is no longer appropriate.

  4. both sides are wrong and start from false axioms, when dealing with complex system you need to reduce complexity – segregation is the right way.

  5. So basically, Justice Thomas decided to do his job and follow the constitution, which the majority just ignored because "diversity" is sooo great that nothing else (even the 14 th amendment) matters. Reminds me a lot of the Jim Crow era decisions…

  6. There really are no races. We could still have a 1/4th black, 1/4th white, 1/4th mestizo, and 1/4th Indian baby. What the hell group does that belong to is it entitled to all affirmative action programs within those ethnicities or none? Does it apply to none because he is white. Or does he choose which race he is?

  7. A race between two individuals.
    One person free to run , another chained to the starting line.
    Few hundred metres later, that another guy is unchained and free to run.

    How to end the cumulative difference between them?

  8. Remember that diversity is our strength and as Abraham Lincoln once said, "a house divided stands stronger than a house that doesn't have a subversive 5th column"

  9. University admissions shouldn’t look at race but rather where the student is coming from and how well they did based on their circumstances. If you came from an under funded school district and still managed to achieve good grades while working and looking after your younger siblings, that counts for a whole lot more than a couple of SAT points. I applied and was accepted to both the University of Michigan and UC Berkeley, and I hated hearing from classmates I was accepted to UofM only because I was able to check a diversity box. I was so relieved to learn that the UC system has no such consideration and it’s difficult to get in as an out of stater, otherwise, I’d keep thinking I didn’t earn my admission.

    Instead of looking only at race during admissions or job interviews, let’s support our school systems and help at risk kids early in the process so they are able to flourish at the higher levels of education. Of course, it’s more complicated than that, with home life situations and whatnot, but we got to start somewhere. A free quality education should be a human right and accessible to everyone.

  10. We have to fight Racism! And Sexism!
    Discriminates against other people to solve it.
    Wow.

  11. this is a tough one! i wholeheartedly acknowledge justice thomas' opinion especially "every time the gov't places citizens on racial registers and makes race relevant to the provisions of burdens or benefits, it demeans us all.' I believe he could very well be right, but the other justice brings up a good point in that diversity is an education tool and can honestly help progress humanity further. The only way to find out is by doing it, or doing both (which just won't socially happen in this day). I'd rather have certain quotas (that change based on datasets of race/gender/etc). by private institutions and reach potentially for a higher education – if it doesn't show significant data, then a different plan much along what thomas is saying makes sense. it does demean us, which is a drag down on society – we need to measure both the positives and negatives with proof and then make a decision. both sides have valid points.

  12. I understand how it can be unfair but I believe we are still unraveling the effects of slavery.

    I grew up in a neighborhood where ~98% of students in that school district were black and Latino.

    Because of property taxes, our school district did not have the same resources (i.e. Teachers, Exposure to Opportunity, Information) as the neighboring school district with higher valued homes and higher property taxes, making for significantly better resources and better success rates years later. These school literally were ~98% white. You can fact check me. Research differences in schools in LI, NY.

    I believe affirmative action should be revoked when and only when, there is equal or significantly better access to resources among K-12 schools.

    Competition is only fair if the opponents start at the same starting line.

  13. Race should not be considered, period! I'm on the side of Powell and Thomas, a statement I never thought I'd ever make!!

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