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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Affirmative action

Over the years I've struggled with the concept of affirmative action. I fully understand the need to give a helping hand to those who are in a situation that they would otherwise find it VERY difficult to rise above. On the other hand there's something fundamentally unfair feeling about it.

Here's an interesting opinion at HuffPo.

This week's poll poses the question: Does affirmative action work? Please answer in the poll to the right.


  1. To be more exact than the poll allows: it works for a while. It's really a very powerful tool to break down the initial barriers that an institutionally disadvantaged community faces. Once past a certain point, it stops being necessary... but that point is never as early as members of the majority group think it is.

    Different communities need it for different amounts of time, and every case has to be judged on its own merits.

    Is it fundamentally unfair? In a very real sense, it is. So is a patent, or even a copyright, both of which are forms of government-enforced monopoly. In each of these cases, society has judged that the cost of the temporary unfairness is outweighed by the long-term benefit. In the case of affirmative action, the benefit of allowing an entire community to fully access their potential is considered worth the cost to some individuals of the larger community that are forced to make room for the newcomers.

  2. Interesting point about the copyright/patents. But in that case, the "benefit" of that person's situation (race for affirmative action or a good/unique idea in the case of patents) is transferable. I have a copyright and trademark for Secret Asian Man. If someone decides to make a SAM action figure (call me!) and makes money off it I'd be powerless without those protections. Whereas if a person gets a college education via an affirmative action program no one else can really benefit off that person. At least not in a malicious kind of way.

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  4. Arab Americans get the shaft, the Affirmative Action program doesn't apply to them (they are considered whites; I don't know who or how in the fuck that was determined) and they still get the discriminated by their white "equals"'s fantastic really

  5. Welcome to America, land of getting screwed and neglected because you don't fit the mold. But again, white Americans have been warring with Asians for half a century so I'm sure there's an undercurrent of passive aggressive behavior against asians seeping through most channels of mass media, movies, late night, music, and so forth. It has improved, but wait another generation or two assuming the U.S. doesn't try to invade NK or China.

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  7. Long time S.A.M. reader, first time poster!

    As a half-Japanese/half-American(Caucasian) male (like Shin!) in my mid-40's, the subject of "affirmative action" is somewhat perplexing to me. Do I qualify for it? I don't think I would even consider using such a system in my favor if I did.

    Other than having World War II thrown in my face all the time, I wouldn't say that my being half-Asian has been a significant disadvantage for me in my life. My own stupidy, maybe, but Asian-ness, not really.

    The thing about affirmative action (AA for short) is that it seemed to be designed primarily to assist African-Americans who have been historically disadvantaged in America. Asians, on the other hand, tend to skew towards high-income as a group, if I'm not mistaken. Do Asians in the modern USA really need it?

    Personally, I don't think AA is the most important issue to deal with right now. Until I see throngs of Caucasians passed over at crisis levels, AA is not a major issue at this point in time, fair or not. If AA gives some balance or piece of mind to some otherwise-disadvantaged group, then I say let it go (for now).