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posted on 13 September 2015

Affirmative Action: Discrimination With a Halo?

Written by , GEI Associate

Affirmative Action (AA) = "the practice of improving the educational and job opportunities of members of groups that have not been treated fairly in the past because of their race, sex, etc."

"67% of Americans support AA for women [.... and] 58% support AA for minorities" according to a Gallup survey conducted from June 15 to July 10 (2015.) Given the need of supporting AA, society's prejudicial baggage, a posteriori, looks still over-weighted. AA started in the 1960s under the presidency of J.F. Kennedy and became a controversial subject-- as did the bulk of policies deriving from normative analyzes. Indeed, c ontroversy has persisted even though positive discrimination remains a craze.

The spirit of progress started in the 18th century has made it in vogue to promote equality, such as through meritocracy. Tinged by the movement started in Paris - the Enlightenment - America, like an apprentice trumping his master, ended up considered as the one land where new opportunities are possible for every man. As Johann Wolfgang Goethe addressed it: "America, you're better off, than has our continent, the old." That said, the prevalence of nepotism visible in the financial sector, in education, or in college (legacy) acceptance of the zeitgeist suggest absolute meritocracy being but a more or less mangy concept. In addition to that, some minority groups are believed to be disadvantaged due to America's past moments of scornful behaviors. AA is supposed to obliterate discrimination as well as anti-merit practices by helping (and compensating) minority groups (e.g. Blacks, gays, women, the handicapped etc.).

A major group allegedly victimized by discrimination is women. As specified by the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2013 the median for the total of males (under 65 years old, and of all races) employed was of $40,190. For females, the median was of $ 28, 451. Specifically, women make 78 cents (mothers: 71 cents) for every dollar a man makes.

Women, so the story goes, struggle accessing high-income jobs; And when they do so, however, they are either not paid equally as men are for the same job, or they feel having to prove they deserve their job beyond what is aked of a man.

Women have yet another problem, which is related to maternity: lameness in the professional world. "Some mothers take time out of employment, and loss of work experience affects later wages," Michelle J. Budig and Paula England specified in the American Sociological Review. Actually, 46% of Millennials believe a woman with a high-status job ambition is "better off waiting to have children until she is well established in her career" (Pew Research.) The perception is that women can't simultaneously be a fulfilled worker and mother, thence a motherhood penalty.

Publication by the International Labor Office (ILO) 2015

President Barack Obama found out: "We are the only advanced country on Earth that doesn't guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers." Is America acting like a pyromanic fireman (i.e. applying AA policies) trying to extinguish a fire he himself caused and perpetuated (e.g. not giving women maternity leave?) Specifically, isn't it malarkey to promote equality between women and men in the work-place while ignoring the difference that make women in need of time-off for birth? While in most countries the provider of maternity benefits is either the employer or some social security/insurance, in America the source of financing is non-existent, "unpaid." Paid maternity leave being a discretionary approach at the mercy of the employer, only 12 % of women were offered a paid family leave in 2013.

Europe tried remediating the motherhood penalty, and lack of women (relative to men) in high status job positions. They encourage gender diversity in the work place by introducing quota programs for women. Germany's Bundesrat approved this year a bill introducing a 30% quota for women in corporation boards that will apply before long (January 2016.) Possible advantage? "The share of women employment is enhanced compared to situation where no intervention is implemented without negatively impacting overall performance," Guillaume Beaurain and David Masclet noted.

AA policies are nonetheless disputed. Guillaume Beaurain and David Masclet, for example, specified their findings "also indicate that reverse discrimination against men occurs when quota programs are implemented." Besides, AA policies for women focus on the wage-gender gap as intrinsically and exclusively caused by gender rather than gender' singular interests.

It is, indeed, not dull to consider that men and women have distinct interests. Putatively, they originate from childhood. With boys and girls being raised differently-- discriminated by mothers, themselves subordinated to a zeitgeist where men' domination is pervasive in that they restrict women' freedom to femininity and domesticity Simone de Beauvoir (a feminist) recalled in The Second Sex (1949.)

Different interests do not necessarily suggest merely different professions for all women and men. Neither that men are creatures that do not want women to succeed. Women too discriminate when they get the chance to do so. "The OECD found that boys did much better in its anonymised tests than in teacher assessments [...] What is behind this discrimination? One possibility [...] is that women, who make up eight out of ten primary-school teachers and nearly seven in ten lower-secondary teachers, favour their own sex, just as male bosses have been shown to favour male underlings."

Women, however, due to AA, have the possibility to compete with men for police departments or law schools where the sterner sex—men-- once had the monopoly. Germany's chancellor Angela Merkel is a paradigm of a female being capable of having-- not only being attracted by-- power.

In America, the case of the 2016 Presidential candidate Hilary Clinton woke up a sense of gender solidarity among American women. That is to say, regardless of her tactical or strategic planning in achieving her oaths about the future of America and no matter the heavy funding from lobbyists women seem to favor Clinton because of her gender.

Figure: "If the 2016 presidential election were being held today and the candidates were (Hillary Clinton, the Democrat) and (Jeb Bush, the Republican), for whom would you vote?" Washington Post-ABC News Polls









Although women mainly vote democratic, 2016 is projected having the biggest gap yet seen in voting gender preferences.


Solidarity based on biological traits has shown its fruits: in 2012, Obama was voted by 93% of voters registered as being of the race African-American. Although African-Americans are used voting for democrats, 93% is a relatively high percentage. Given his mendacious results, Obama has confirmed that it is more about who walks the talk (converting words into actions) that matters, and less about who one is (a gay or an heterosexual, a woman or a man, a blinded or a bolded person, a White or a Black etc.)

Blacks, however, are victims of institutional discrimination for they are a minority whose kids attend schools receiving less funding than most White schools. And, a peep at the income by race, and AA seems intelligible in its aim of equalizing access to opportunities.

Minimum wage laws also are at some extent laws generated by AA. The minimum wage flowed in teenagers enjoying munificent hourly paid wages relative to their skills. But minimum wage laws are supposedly "the most anti-negro laws in the book" according to Milton Friedman. The argument is that the minimum wage mainly favors trade unions members who by demanding a higher minimum wage will eliminate the competition with "low price competition" (Walter Williams;) trade unions members assuring therefore themselves a decent wage plus job. An alternative to minimum wage laws might be extending the earned income tax credit (EITC,) focusing on low-income families.

"Whoever wants to act the angel, acts the beast," Blaise Pascal once declared. A new national survey by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago found that "half of black Americans report being treated unfairly by police because of their race, and their views of law enforcement are shaped by this experience."

Is the American government. like doctors in the time of Louis XIV, doing more harm by giving treatment does nothing besides propounding illusions. AA programs might offer promises for effects because it ignores socio-economical problems. AA policies are not to be confused with AA's intentions. AA's intentions appear justifiable. AA policies appear to be spewed as a politically niggardly way to hush up, shrug off in earnest issues at the bottom. Like a camouflage, AA is criticized to tuck reprieved issues related to maternity leave, location, education, poverty, and racial incarceration... camouflage's dissembled exterior chosen to be gender and race.

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