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Affirmative Action is Not Equal Opportunity

“New York University is an affirmative action/ equal opportunity institution.”

I read this line in an advertisement and thought it interesting that the terms affirmative action and equal opportunity could be assembled together in the same clause. This seeming oxymoron stuck in my craw, as I cannot help but to find these two terms mutually exclusive. For it is my impression that, by definition, affirmative action cannot be equal opportunity.

“The term affirmative action refers to policies that take gender, race, or ethnicity into account in an attempt to promote equal opportunity. The focus of such policies ranges from employment and public contracting to educational outreach and health programs (such as breast or prostate cancer screenings). The impetus towards affirmative action is twofold: to maximize the benefits of diversity in all levels of society, and to redress disadvantages due to overt, institutional, or involuntary discrimination.”

Affirmative action in all ways, shapes, and forms seems to promote anything but racial equality. If a government deems that someone is worthy of handouts based solely on their racial composition then it in turn stress that they are not equal. It is not my impression that treating sectors of a population as lessers will ever make them “equal.”
There is no such thing as equality for any person in any country on this planet. People have different inherent advantages and different set-backs. Ugliness is a disadvantage, a speech impediment is a disadvantage, having stupid parents is a disadvantage, going to bad schools is a disadvantage, being poor (regardless of skin color) is a disadvantage, masculine women are at a disadvantage, effeminate males are at a disadvantage, short people are at a disadvantage, and fat people, missing parts people, substance abusers, the unmotivated are all at disadvantages. Disadvantages are normal. People are not equal. People have different advantages and disadvantages.
If affirmative action is granted to minorities because it is viewed as a disadvantage to be from certain lines of ancestry then this seems to formally acknowledge the racial inferiority of its recipients. To give assistance based solely on race seems to be an archaic policy. To divide, compare, and pit races against each other seems archaic in regard to the liberal, color-blind, view of race in America. To lump people into racial categories for the purpose of distributing advantages or disadvantages seems to be representative of the backward policies of some far off third world country.
“In some countries which have laws on racial equality, affirmative action is rendered illegal by a requirement to treat all races equally.”

But “affirmative action” is a sort of catch phrase in the USA. It is almost automatically thought of as being a progressive policy whose opponents are almost automatically labeled, at worst, racists or, at best, conservative. I do not think of myself as harboring many racists sentiments, which is why I find it difficult to logically justify policies like affirmative action.

It seems to be a contradiction of logic to view all people as equal, and then reverse suit by sifting out and dividing the races, giving handouts to some, and nothing to others.
A visit to Appalachia shows that race alone cannot be used as a sure shot indicator of economic, social, education, or cultural status.

Reader Comments:

Bob L. says . . .

You are going to be in big trouble from the liberals. At work I cannot even make the challenge that you make without being labeled a racist. And currently, there is not one “minority” in my office. It is so ingrained in the thinking of this country that Affirmative Action helps, that you can be looked down on for criticizing it. I know a few minorities (can’t even say what minority they belong to without getting in trouble) who think it is terrible and hurts them. These are people who made a success without the help of such laws, but often have to overcome the stigma of the laws. Others in the same level of business, first assume that they are where they are because of their minority status. They have to prove themselves over and over again.

At one time, these laws were probably a good idea, although they may have been poorly implemented as most Government Policy is (or maybe not, I don’t know much about the laws), but they are irrelevant and counterproductive now. In my opinion anyway.

Bob L

Wade Vagabond Journey.com says . . .

From my observations I could not agree more. It is interesting to me how an iron-walled status quo has been erected around many liberal ideas. Where “right” becomes unquestionable is the place where dire blockheadedness begins.

It is also funny to me how awful a person can be made to look in America just by asking someone what country they come from or for calling a black person black.

I have no regard for political correctness – I think it is a very ignorant and closed minded way to approach people in society – and I call a black guy a black guy and a person from Mexico a Mexican. I acknowledge other cultures because I appreciate them. If someone is insecure about their background then I feel that is their problem.

Lots of people are insecure about lots of different things. I think it silly to walk on eggshells. How much can you really learn from someone who pussyfoots their words?

Thanks for the comment, Bob! I appreciate it.

Walk Slow,


5/7/2009 23:25:33Jacob Murray says . . .

I absolutely agree.

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Filed under: USA

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 80 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3169 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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