Friday, November 5, 2010

Ten Myths About Affirmative Action


This article is an updated version of a 1996 essay first published in the Journal of Social Issues (volume 52, pages 25-31). The complete citation for the updated version is: Plous, S. (2003). Ten myths about affirmative action. In S. Plous (Ed.), Understanding Prejudice and Discrimination (pp. 206-212). New York: McGraw-Hill.

In Recent years, affirmative action has been debated more intensely than at any other time in its 35-year history. Many supporters view affirmative action as a milestone, many opponents see it as a millstone, and many others regard it as both or neither -- as a necessary, but imperfect, remedy for an intractable social disease. My own view is that the case against affirmative action is weak, resting, as it does so heavily, on myth and misunderstanding. Here are some of the most popular myths about affirmative action, along with a brief commentary on each one.
Myth 1: The only way to create a color-blind society is to adopt color-blind policies.
Although this statement sounds intuitively plausible, the reality is that color-blind policies often put racial minorities at a disadvantage. For instance, all else being equal, color-blind seniority systems tend to protect White workers against job layoffs, because senior employees are usually White (Ezorsky, 1991). Likewise, color-blind college admissions favor White students because of their earlier educational advantages. Unless preexisting inequities are corrected or otherwise taken into account, color-blind policies do not correct racial injustice -- they reinforce it.

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