¨ What is discrimination?
¨ Differentiating between people, or giving preference, on the basis of irrelevant factors
¨ What is the difference (if any) between discrimination and racism or sexism?
¨ Racism (or sexism) is essentially discrimination on the basis of solely racial or sexual differences
¨ Discrimination can be for any (irrelevant) reason
¨ How is prejudice different from discrimination?
¨ Prejudice is (lit) pre-judging, before all the facts are known
¨ Prejudice could lead to correct judgments or incorrect ones
¨ Typically, we think of it in negative terms
¨ “It is unjust to treat people differently in ways that deny to some of them significant social benefits unless we can show that there is a difference between them that is relevant to the differential treatment”
¨ Does this mean that everyone must always be treated exactly the same?
¨ Clearly, we can treat friends and family differently than we treat strangers without being unjust
¨ Are fairness and justice always the same?
¨ When can we treat people differently? (Aside from friends and family)
¨ We need to show that real differences exist and that they are relevant to the matter being decided
¨ For example: It is generally unlawful (and unjust) to discriminate against someone just because they are blind or disabled in some way
¨ But we don’t give blind people drivers’ licenses
¨ We don’t hire paraplegics as firemen or policemen or allow them to join the military
¨ In these cases, the differences are relevant to the job or the privilege being sought
¨ Blind people simply cannot drive cars safely
¨ Paraplegics cannot do the job of a fireman or policeman without endangering others
¨ Affirmative Action and preferential treatment
¨ Affirmative action is an attempt to reverse the results of historic discrimination
¨ Some consider it nothing more than reverse discrimination
¨ Can we end the effects of discrimination against one group by discriminating against another?
¨ Can we end the effects of discrimination against one group without discriminating against another?
¨ Consequentialist concerns
¨ At least some affirmative action programs have had good results
¨ Students admitted to some prestigious universities have graduated and proceeded on to postgraduate education at rates equivalent to their white classmates
¨ Some argue the programs have done more harm than good
¨ The group benefiting most is middle-class African-Americans, for example, not the poorest segment of society
¨ The negative effects on others are also a problem
¨ The white male student who is more qualified than his competition, but cannot gain admittance due to affirmative action programs
¨ Nonconsequentialist concerns
¨ Affirmative action programs also raise questions of justice and fairness
¨ How can preferential treatment today right a wrong done 50 or 100 years ago to someone else, e.g.
¨ Should compensatory justice be used to right past wrongs, or is it limited to compensating those who have been wronged?
¨ Race and sex are socially important categories – they affect how we are perceived and how we act
¨ In an ideal world, how relevant would these be to most situations?
¨ Are there some times when either race or sex is a relevant concern?
¨ Casting an actor to play Martin Luther King in a play, e.g.?
¨ What would a non-racist, non-sexist society be like?
¨ Basic political rights and obligations
¨ Important non-governmental institutional benefits and burdens
¨ Individual social interaction
¨ Can we even have a totally non-racist or non-sexist society
¨ Are there differences that would need to be maintained?
¨ For race, the answer seems to be no
¨ For sex, the result is more ambiguous
¨ Should we have unisex public bathrooms?
¨ Reverse discrimination does not redress past wrongs
¨ Justice requires us to root out (unjustified) discrimination
¨ We cannot have a truly free society unless we do
¨ The ideal must be, as Aristotle suggested, equal treatment for all citizens
¨ But reverse discrimination doesn’t provide equal treatment for all
¨ Rather, it encourages, even requires, that some be treated “more equally” than others
¨ The aim is to reverse the effects of past discrimination
¨ How does discriminating against me and in favor of someone of a different race today reverse the effects of discrimination against that other person’s father or grandfather?
¨ Reverse discrimination is itself a violation of justice
¨ How do we define a “minority” that has been discriminated against?
¨ American society is a society of minorities – even WASPs
¨ How will we know when the groups previously discriminated against have achieved equality, and no longer require “assistance”?
¨ “[Reverse discrimination] destroys justice, law, equality and citizenship itself, and replaces them with power struggles and popularity contests.”