Affirmative Action and Equality

December 13, 2011

Political Theory

I think about every other time I walk across the diag or through mason hall I see a guy (and sometimes a girl) holding out a flyer just waiting for me to make that awkward eye contact with them so they can get me to sign some petition about fairness and equal opportunity. Which I do because believe until things are actually equal then affirmative action should be in place. But that’s beside that point. 

In class we talked about what Rousseau would think about when it came to Affirmative action and if it was good or bad and better yet fair. While he believes in liberty and equality we talked about if this would be the right way to go about it in his eyes.

After long talks about fairness and unfairness and opportunity and more fairness we finally settled on the idea that Rousseau would be on board with affirmative action because it is the “general will” of the people. And the general will of the people as it happens to be in align with affirmative action is to promote equal opportunity.

Furthermore ,In his theory about social contract, Rousseau believes that the primary function of social contract is to make up for the inequalities that exist in our society.  By doing this, the  voices of the disadvantaged and less fortunate would be recognized, and they will eventually be able to enjoy the same opportunities. 


In this sense, Rousseau would support affirmative action because its intention is to provide the less advantaged with the same opportunities and access to a good education, careers, and brighter futures. What do you think? How do you think others that we have read about would react to affirmative action? And better yet do you think it actually is promoting equal opportunity?



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5 Comments on “Affirmative Action and Equality”

  1. ceabee Says:

    I don’t support affirmative action at all. While I do believe in equality, I think affirmative action is the wrong way to go about it. In relation to college admissions, and other comparable situations, I think that those most qualified should be admitted, regardless of their race. I think the easiest way to combat the problem of affirmative action in college admissions would be to get rid of the part of the application where one fills out their race and ethnicity. I think this would make it so everyone would be on a level playing field, and in a sense, have an equal opportunity.

    • Michael Zanger Says:

      Well, if you look at the income inequality gap and then look within the gap at race, African-Americans and other minority groups are very much at a disadvantage.

      We, the white privileged people, claim that America is a land of opportunity, and get scared the second a minority gets one step ahead and blame affirmative action.

      I’m a white male, and I believe Affirmative Action is the answer to achieving equality. Generally, everyone who is against Affirmative Action is white. Am I wrong?

  2. verlong Says:

    I personally disagree with Affirmative Action based on race and ethnicity. I think that if it were based on socio-economic background I would have less of a problem with it. I remember in high school one of my friends turned to me and said “Whooo! I’m getting into college!” when we were talking about Affirmative Action. She is African American, and is extremely well off. She is like an “average” caucasian person. I have another friend who pays for college by herself, gets amazing grades, and is the first in her family to go to college. Yet, she does not reap any benefits unlike my other friend. It’s hard to figure out what is “fair” and what is “just” in these situations. I think everyone should be able to do what they want, but obviously this is not feasible. I just believe that we need to look at our ways of evaluating people and placing a higher weight on some things compared to others. I think it would be more fair to only see GPA, essays, and whatever else you’re evaluating someone on. There is no need to look at the race of someone, the gender of someone, etc. when making a decision about admission. I do not believe that this is for the good of all people. It is making broad and general assumptions that don’t always work. Diversity is a good thing, but diversity for the sake of diversity can only lead to backwards ideas. Qualifications are the most important factors going into whether or not someone should receive the opportunity they want, not something that is out of their control.

  3. ethankurtzman Says:

    I’m gonna have to go out on a limb here and say that Affirmative Action is somewhat necessary for Universities to manage the makeup of their student populations. By incredibly vast numbers, Caucasian’s rule the market of kids applying to schools. If we let nature take its course, college campuses would be undoubtedly overrun with this caucasian population. Personally, I don’t like the idea of Affirmative Action due to the fact that it creates an unbalanced playing field for populations not effected by it; however, you can’t deny that it has served a vital role in adding diversity to our campuses. You bring up an interesting point by adding Roseau’s perspective to this issue. However, I believe that Rosseau would only promote the concept of Affirmative Action and not the manner in which it has been executed. As stated above, Affirmative Action doesn’t only target lower socioeconomic groups; instead, it has become more of a diversifying tool. Ultimately, I think AA would serve a higher purpose if it were altered to follow a more Rousseauian ideology like you stated in your post.

  4. drainey323 Says:

    As an African American student, while I believe that affirmative action programs were founded on very worthy goals, our nation cannot achieve social equality, or even harmony, by granting privileges to one group over another. In the end, the only way we can end discrimination in the work place is by ending discrimination in our nation as a whole. We form our beliefs and opinions as children, and it is with our youth that we need to begin fighting racism and prejudice, If Americans are taught from a young age to cherish diversity, to judge people by their characters, then they will retain these ideals as adults when it is they who run the workplace. In addition, the effects of education are long term, whereas the programs of affirmative action provide only a very temporary solution.

    But as important as eliminating discrimination is breaking the cycle of poverty. Minorities often become trapped in America’s inner cities, where an impoverished school system leaves children unprepared to compete for quality employment. By improving the educational opportunities offered to these children, we will improve their employment opportunities as adults, and this, combined with a focused effort to eliminate racism, will do more to create diversity in the American workplace than affirmative action ever could.

    Affirmative action must not be left as it is, but with a little reform, I believe that it can begin working for equality instead of against it.

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