Goals of This Exercise
- Consider the goals and instrumental reasoning used by white and black citizens on matters related to affirmative action.
- Examine survey data of white and black respondents’ views of affirmative action in hiring and promotion practices.
- Consider how various affirmative action programs, including incentive programs and quotas, might be viewed as “rules” and “procedures” that influence the outcomes of political and economic struggles.
Attitudes toward Affirmative Action: Goals and Purposes
The Rationality Principle: all political behavior is purposive.
Presumably, hiring decisions, admissions to institutions of higher education, and the awarding of government contracts reflect the goals of getting the most qualified person, admitting the best student body, and contracting out government services to the best public-sector actors.
Still, some opponents of affirmative action believe that it represents “reverse discrimination” that violates the societal goal of having decisions made based on merit and “color blindness.”
Anti–Affirmative Action Attitudes
- Decisions should be “color-blind” and race should be neither a help nor a hindrance to an individual.
- Affirmative action gives an “unfair” advantage to African Americans.
Pro–Affirmative Action Attitudes
- America’s history with race relations means that decisions can never be “color-blind” and that affirmative action helps to redress racism already present.
- The absence of affirmative action gives a default advantage to white applicants.
Public Opinion Data on Affirmative Action
The following figure presents public opinion data on affirmative action in hiring and promotions. Examine the figure with the following questions in mind:
- Are there differences in black and white support for affirmative action?
- Are those differences what you would expect?
Do the Data Confirm or Disconfirm Our Expectations?