Affirmative Action


Though the issue of affirmative action could indeed be codified on legal grounds, legality nevertheless rests on social mandates that allow for credibility and functionality. Courts cannot operate unless attitudes towards their affairs are favorable. Courts function to legitimize and justify, they have much power but the weight of responsibility does need to be judged.

Courts meter punishments but also relieve accused guilty parties of crimes, their power is immense and the results of their rulings are undeniably important. However, to merely conform to whatever appears to be is dangerous because observations are skewed and sometimes are skewed to extraordinary extents. To focus this paper there will be a detailed exploration of critical issues that build from theory to empirical examples that highlight the aspects of theory which are useful and have been in some way supported.

In the course of this essay I will be discussing clarifying issues like: race as a determinant, definitions and loopholes, the myth of equal opportunity, and last of all, intentions and their limitations. These clarifying issues will allow for a more nuanced exploration of justification in the context of great intentions resulting in great authentic distress.

I. Race and Organization

While we’re supposedly living in a “post-race” society, race as an organizing theory is as much a used category as ever before. When political correctness is an operational codeword but more direct questions provoke responses that are remarkably differentiated upon racial reliance; there is an obvious and unsettling disclosure that discrimination is clearly an issue that does not primarily center around ideology but rather, economy. While we accept that constitutionally every American citizen has rights based on an inherent status that is in a way incorruptible, whether this can be sincerely confirmed is another matter entirely. Rights are good to have but they can be taken away, it is challenging to assess the limitation of rights as abstract things that do not represent actuality.

Repressed confrontations which occur when actuality so contradicts what we believed or even loved to believe can settle to private extremism. This private extremism can create some kind of psychological release as one supposedly rebels against norms by giving race unreasonable command upon one’s capacity for reason and controlled judgment. While political correctness creates a code of discourse that is like a straightjacket for one’s expression, what happens in practice is that verbal hesitance does not tend to spill over to effective, egalitarian action.

This may result because the very concept of political correctness as a series of fair and true ways to think produces such discomfort that all affected do indeed retaliate and frequently do so with results that harm both self and others. When political correctness supposedly repeals group-determination what is ironic is that living with political correctness one is even more dominated by that which we’ve supposedly ‘repealed.’

As no one quite understands how political correctness came into being but yet fail to escape reminders that it is real in that one can be punished for not conforming; This same ideology of sameness creates fissures that split in retaliation while at the same time checking the power of the institutions which define for multitudes. While political correctness centers towards group-biased thinking and an erasure of difference, it is not a norm in a true sense because it is more of a superstition that carries a function but is not checked by people who claim to believe but choose to not believe.

This is drawn more firmly by Leaf Van Boven(2000), who have noted and hypothesized that psychological processes give rise to pluralistic ignorance even amongst college students who are given a great many advantages. What is discovered is how beliefs are more or less superstitions and do not correspond even to what one’s peers really think.

Van Boven(2000) found through a selected sample population of Cornell students, that these same students rarely had correct assessments of other people’s sentiments on affirmative action and continually overestimated peer support while underestimating peer opposition to affirmative action.(273) This goes to provoke the issue of racism being a rather unforgiving internal complication that is inescapably cyclical and always a formulated bind. This is causally internal and does result in a distorted evaluation of environmental actualities that breed a tendency to lie. This lie is so frequently activated that a great many people simply accept the lie as necessary to get by on an individual basis. This dissident behavior is normatively not a minority belief but because discussions are superficial or nonexistent the lie can continue to operate in a punishing way that plays out in ways unpredictable and not entirely understandable.

Ignorance is a falsification of what is the case, and this would be fine if thoughts did not motivate actions but we all know that beliefs do influence behavior. This makes beliefs important because they often times make harmful trends even more challenging to eradicate. However, beliefs are not necessarily intentions, beliefs are non-confirmable, shifting, and often times speculative.

This makes the very presence of laws for they arise from beliefs something that is in itself fragile and very much subject to dispositions, realizations and of course, reactions. Furthermore, there is an increased demand for critical dispositions that are constructive in their aims but America has continually lagged despite its previous surplus of resources. Many students who have been the target of investment but have also invested much in return must contend that a critical attitude is a great challenge while it may be at times inevitably necessary.

To note inefficiencies and even perversities is internally complicated within organizing structures. The very contradiction of an imposed mockery of egalitarianism is far from true attempts towards a more egalitarian society. Sophistication may rest on an mockery amplified with subtlety but it relies upon arbitrary shifts that are sudden and distortive of what one aims towards.

Sophistication as a mark of social status does arise in symptomatic blurring of what is actually normal, reactions like that of anxiety which have been increasingly pathologized.

For Janara(2004), inalienability is itself rooted in “European American anxiety over democracy’s flux.”(777) Flux promotes a centrality of centrality of power that must re-orient towards standards that can save a society from outright chaos. These compliances are often times contradictory with other existing compliances and like the enforcement of intention rely on judgment to promote the eradication of many things for the benefit of a few things or even one thing. Polarities of strict opposition destroy so many cases of similarity and difference that one is ironically judging less and analyzing less as well. In an increasingly skill-obsessed society the adoption of adaptive sentiment is frequently more desirable than what is said to be at fault, skills. Of course skills are critical but one is rarely informed of what skill is and whether one needs to be accepted to acquire it. The hypocrisy of this is not wrong in all ways but still skew efforts to improve economic conditions on a structurally adaptive foundation.

The ambivalent attitude reconciled to most extents is useful whereas distorted and disruptive ambivalence tends to promote disorder for the social body. The maturity of democratic organization against aristocratic conception is a very useful one when one is forcibly aware of one’s weaknesses and dependencies or at least is made aware during uncomfortable moments of insight. Even when delusion is desired and can be most comforting, insight is a cure for many ills.

The ideal of democracy may rest on many delusions because it is one that is ambivalent and is even ambivalent about its very existence. Yet according to Janara’s interpretation of Tocqueville the very ethos of America is “paradoxical” and continually separates in anxiety prone disjuncture.(2004, 778) As a quite striking departure from maternal Europe, America is for Tocqueville an ambivalent separation that is nevertheless one of dependency and even maintained affection. This is something that carries on and maintains itself even in light of other critical assertions that also claim a part of our authentic allegiance.

II. Definition and its Loopholes

Even though data shows that racial definitions seem to have a strong correlation to a group’s ability to gain income, it is uncertain if this may result from diverse races preferring diverse things. As Anderson(2001) summarizes, “gains in income for the African-American and Hispanic top 20% do not match those for whites in the top 20%; the same is true for the top 5%.(189) Consequently, there are less motivations for African Americans and Hispanics to have their life revolve around income and increasing income. In talking about tax concerns many people will argue for lower taxes on the basis of motivation and productivity. It is thought that if one is taxed too strongly then one will be less likely to work harder or sometimes, to even continue being oriented towards the possibilities within professional work. Anderson(2001) concludes from her findings that structural inequality, which is “persistent,” is what is responsible for the very flat income gains that African Americans and Hispanics experience.(190) While structure is certainly a factor in contributing to this, individual agency should be more closely examined because it interacts with structure but is a much easier unit of analysis to work with.

This greater ease allows for more detailed and careful considerations which would be unavailable in the case of sweeping generalizations that lack precision but sometimes offer useful insight that needs to be further refined. Furthermore, attitudes towards affirmative action are strongly influenced by whether affirmative action is framed within a structural or agency context.

“On the one hand, programs seen as promoting preferential treatment (e.g., hiring fixed numerical quotas of minorities) are overwhelmingly opposed by approximately 90 percent of whites. On the other hand, programs to simply help blacks win jobs or gain access to higher education have a much higher level of support-by roughly 70 percent of the white public. Programs that fall in between the extremes of simple help and preferential treatment (e.g., giving special consideration to admitting the best minority applicants to college) obtain intermediate levels of support.”(Kluegel and Smith, 1983, 797-798)

While this may be an issue of framing it also seems to have a lot to do with ambiguity; For example, finding “the best” applicants when recruiting is not adequately funded and when ambiguous standards are used, special considerations can be too special. Affirmative action does not benefit most people and when it is predicated on the basis of equality instead of egalitarianism there is much animosity directed towards it. Opportunity is what people want but affirmative action does not seem to be very good at providing stable opportunities.

When political correctness makes equality a codeword for the day, people are objecting and part of their objections establish increasingly group-centric behavior along with attitudes that fit within the group-context. People are defining themselves more strongly while at the same time objecting to perceived loopholes that make access unfairly available to a chosen group and as is presumed, not to themselves. People are also experiencing structural complications as their own group-affiliations which are often times structural and impossible to exchange for something more preferred, are causing both alarm and anxiety.

There is however within this attitude, “underlying commitments to justice” that are perceived. These perceptions stemming towards a commitment to justice do not center around discussions which place rights in the center but rather orient towards social order terminologies like norms and regulation.(Wagner, 1990, 101) Norms and regulations are critical because when everyone adheres to reasonable norms and regulations then there is more predictable and steady improvement of social and material conditions. However, norm and regulation adherence do differ along demographically classifiable lines.

Affirmative action, by making its basis the cause of de-regulation for easier entry for a very slim minority discriminates considerably. This discrimination is not only against people who are frustrated by the strictures of their race but also against people who have to deal with consequences of the actions put forth by people from within their race.

The tax that was discussed earlier related to why income gains are very minimal amongst even the top 5% of African Americans and Hispanics could have a lot to do with how other people within a group behave. This informal tax has been long addressed by management theorists who place a lot of attention on the effects of shirking and other norm defeating behavior that tax other workers by lowering their salaries. Just as shoplifting results in higher prices, noncompliance to generally accepted norms severely impacts those who are classified in the same category. When others within one’s structural definition engage with loopholes available within the structure to enlarge their own self-interest then the majority within the group who do not rely on such loopholes suffer the cost. In business, reputation is of incredible importance and one is preceded by one’s reputation before one even walks into the room. People make very quick judgments and these judgments can be potent, so much so that it becomes quite critical to attempt to remedy all forms of discrimination as almost every loophole unfairly benefits a minority while they harm the majority by constricting available opportunities and informally taxing productive output.

III. The Myth of Equal Opportunity

The myth of equal opportunity is very possibly dead. Few people believe in it anymore though most believe that things should be done to create more opportunity. A general tendency is to look towards institutions but what is perhaps more important are the unintended effects of regulation. Regulation always benefits a select group but makes it harder for people to do businesses as transactions are more scrutinized and existing laws make it hard to give people opportunities because employers are liable to be sued and defense is expensive. Networking and corporate culture have risen in importance because costs associated with hiring a person have risen. When hiring a person is so costly an outsider applicant is discriminated against and far more scrutinized than applicants who are verified by managers within the company or by individuals or even institutions that decision-makers within an organization rely upon with often disproportionate advantage.

Even when a potential applicant is informed that they lack skills, they may ironically be more skilled than people within the company based on past performance and even added experience. However, with many companies hiring with the intent to train thoroughly and also retain, “long-term employment arrangements” are more attractive and this gives an often grossly unfair advantage to people who more or less entered the labor market during an advantageous time. This coupled with a greater pool of available workers for professional positions only increases the level of demand for the few openings that may be available to outsiders.

A more elaborate system developed to supplement hiring and this system supports certain individuals at the cost of others because every individual makes mistakes and when their income is derived from something they will act indiscriminately so as to preserve their position. When self-interest rises paramount because one truly cannot acquire the necessary skills and pretends to work, then there is a major problem of inadequacy in the workplace a certain amount of de-skilling occurs to career individuals who stay to get promoted but realize that their work ethic gets worse and worse.

Affirmative action because it is vague and hyped to the point that people begin to mistrust all individuals who may have benefited from affirmative action, what is acquired begins to be tarnished. If indeed all individuals are more or less equal then it is the environment that shapes a person and talent matters far less in the hiring process. Company culture start to become important as it is believed by many in HR that compliance with training strategies is more important than self-initiative. Work is far more inflexible than it should be and only after extreme economic pressure do most companies begin to be much more sympathetic to outsiders and allow them a true opportunity during the interview.

Furthermore, during the 1970s, discrimination and discrimination suits reached such a level that employers became even more reluctant to hire minorities; While a few profited the majority suffered great long-term effects of individually rational behavior channeled through existing legal loopholes. These loopholes frequently served to effectually discriminate against people with a more social conscience with true concern for the social rather than the individual. While those who were individually oriented may have experienced more income growth on a comparative basis the question of sustainability really comes to crisis at a point.

The myth of equal opportunity is not a dead one and such commitment should still exist as it feeds fundamental yearnings within the majority of people. Affirmative action, by cheapening the perceived worth of degrees that many people sacrificed even to extremes for, only retaliates against institutions that unabashedly promote it and individuals who unabashedly benefit by playing the game and using system apparatus in such a way that their original intention is corrupted. The ripple effect of greater corruption seems to be increasing levels of discrimination and because Affirmative Action allows for corruption by making it easier to cheat without consequences, it indirectly promotes more discrimination. A kind of discrimination that it never intended and layers of consequence that result in severe economic crises like the variety we are today experiencing.

IV. Intentions and their Limitations

While the intention of affirmative action in most specific reference to educational institutions is aimed at helping students learn from each other through cross-group interchange. The tendency that tends to be seen is one where schools that benefit initially from setting forth in motion a conscious and open clarity towards encouraging diversity can also make many mistakes in later stages. A renaissance rarely preserves itself and it too often relies on charismatic figures who leave and never work on building systems that are maintainable.

An example of intentions and unexpected consequences that builds on ideas already introduced and explicated in this paper is that of Boalt Hall and its dependency on affirmative action that created also, its own demise:

“For two and a half decades Boalt Hall had been on the front lines of the struggle for equality. Its student body was among the nation’s most diverse. But more than that, Boalt Hall was a place where stduetsn were engaged. They challenged each other to learn about their different worldsa dnd cultures. …They learned the skills of advocacy and problem solving-as often in the hallways as in the classroom-as much from their peers as from their professors. Brilliant, creative, idealistic students applied to Boalt Hall, and chose to study there, because they wanted to learn with and from their fellow students. The law school’s prestige in academic and professional circles grew as it became more diverse. Affirmative action hardly diminished its stature. Rather, Boalt Hall was a great law school because of affirmative action.”(Lawrence, 2001, 928)

In order to piece together something explanatory that makes this example useful for understanding affirmative action as a process that does not live up to its intentions, what will be focused on is the issue of prestige. To be prestigious is to be well-regarded but societies centered around prestige tend to become vastly dysfunctional and pursue ornamental ends that during drastic stages can cause an entire society to disappear. Because economic health is to an extent cyclical this only goes to confirm that if it’s going great it will become worse. Societies like businesses can go bankrupt and social disorganization becomes a focal issue when there are fewer resources available. When fewer resources are available people have less to waste and do scale back, if they fail to scale back this may be due to massively illegitimate choices that have become a mass phenomenon.

In short, something eminently destructive and yet unmanageable arises. This destructive force is often overlaid with internal chaos and when authentic competition is inflicted, the force is often times shattered formally and chaos of the most direct and horrific variety may reign. Status is important but overabundant concern with status is sometimes attributed to the fall of the Roman Empire and throughout human history examples proliferate of status-inspired decadence resulting in decline and ultimate catastrophe.

Shifting back to our example, every school inspires towards prestige but every school looks for qualified candidates along with diverse candidates. Too often at elite schools diversity becomes a search for the immensely unusual but if unusual things were always desired then recruiters would end up scouting in Alaska for people who can grow palm trees in their greenhouse all year round while traveling 800 miles every month to field soup kitchens. Fundamentals are extremely important and issues related to qualification are too often resisted and sometimes people are more inspired by prestige than by that which they need to survive. To put it blankly, these two things are more or less, money and an alumni base that is willing to supplement with more money. A prestigious school with no money cannot maintain itself and a prestigious school that does not train its students to tackle the real-world adequately and responsibly should not expect that it will receive a great many donations.

This harsh reality is confronted not only by schools like Boalt Hall but also by more familiar institutions like Berkeley and UCLA. While the Bakke decisionmay have protected and legitimized affirmative action as something not racist despite that it does classify specifically on a very unfocused category of race, the decision made was far from popular and was even widely condemned. To even say that race is a factor is to admit to discrimination, this is entirely incompatible with the founding mythology of equal opportunity that is a vital motivational stimulus for productivity. Myths are often smeared for being not true but their inspirational quality is within their form and functionality, this makes some myths very important and worth preserving or rebuilding.

Prestige is not a myth, it is only an aspiration, myths reconcile individual wishes and the demands of one’s society while aspirations are individual and operate on symbolic terms that are incredibly fragile. Intrinsically people need to believe that they are important for their contributions, these contributions need to have a functional purpose for the society. If not, there is a contradiction that results in confusion and disorganization. A lie is also and frequently prestige oriented as they serve a person’s ends for symbolic competition that is of no use. Simply to look good people will often witness for critical insight while not being capable themselves of productive self-examination.

A society where all is based on relative thoughts is an abyss. Affirmative action and its prestige orientation are decadent in their mechanism towards discrimination without consequences. When highly qualified students are rejected because they are not distinct enough in presentation, what happens is a critical loss of potentially dependable alumni who would give and assist. Individuality is not a sacrifice but a disciplined practicality that is aware of morality is in essence what could turn a decadent society around and reshape it so as to make it last.

Boalt Hall students were most likely very interesting and talked a lot, but conversation that talks about unsupportable and moreover, decadently flawed untruths is not a contribution. A collection of largely stylized ‘outsiders’ who are too focused on conversation as an end in itself are more or less living in a kind of dormitory that is but a dream. But being existent they are costly and impose costs on others even after they’ve endangered themselves considerably without knowing it at all. Norms and a more managed lifestyle with rational methods that are proven to work is not what affirmative action encourages. It tantalizes with diversity but too many who participate are ultimately left destitute and those who condemn it may condemn out of compassion. For insight unspoken is but a thought, and this thought unspoken is a failure of character.

In summary, Boalt Hall operates metaphorically because it shows that diversity is something nice but not critical to matters of foundational importance. Matters of foundational importance center a society towards competitions that matter and also maintain that competitions motivates better change instead of changes for their own sake. Affirmative action, at the bottom of it, is a change that is categorically impossible. Intentions might be fine but practice relies on governance and norms, better intentions need to be evolved so that people make better choices that are not haphazardly guided by something as unstable as the psyche.

Affirmative action has hardly eradicated racism but only seems to add to it. Diversity might be good to discuss but diversity is often too categorized and is more of a leisure practice. If affirmative action legitimates its openly discriminatory practices then people lose faith in the institutions that support it. When affirmative action results in a gross misdirection of resources then other people have to pay for that which they are not responsible for and even that which they actively attempted to prevent. Discrimination at this time might fulfill some need of the psyche but few would be concerned about self-actualization when times become more desperate and reckless decisions are increasingly more wasteful. Emotion is fine but emotion is a danger as it has no true guide. Discrimination is a symptom of overly emotional decisions that can produce no end result but decline or even disaster.

As affirmative action is the most prominently sanctioned form of discrimination in existence, its protections should be challenged and its privileges should be confronted. It is a charged issue and one that most people do in some way, acknowledge as intensely problematic and internally dysfunctional.

List of References

Van Boven, L. (2000). Pluralistic Ignorance and Political Correctness: The Case of Affirmative Action. Political Psychology, 21(2), 267-276.

Janara, L. (2004). Brothers and Others: Tocqueville and Beaumont, U.S. Genealogy, Democracy, and Racism. Political Theory, 32(6), 773-800.

Anderson, M. (2001). Restructuring for Whom? Race, Class, Gender and the Ideology of Invisibility. Sociological Forum, 16(2), 181-201.

Kluegel, J., & Smith, E. (1983). Affirmative Action Attitudes: Effects on Self-Interest, Racial Affect, and Stratification Beliefs on Whites’ Views. Social Forces, 61(3), 797-824.

Wagner, J. (1990). Groups, Individuals & Constitutive Rules: The Conceptual Dilemma in Justifying Affirmative Action. Palgrave Macmillan Journals, 23(1), 77-103.

Lawrence, C. (2001). Two Views of the River: A Critique of the Liberal Defense of Affirmative Action. Columbia Law Review, 101(4), 928-976.