Racial and ethnic discrimination is always related to the violation of civil and human rights. The term discrimination is used to refer to any action aimed at differentiation, exclusion, limitation, or preference based on racial, national, or ethnic characteristics. Discrimination involves humiliation or derogation of social acceptance, an unfulfillment of basic rights for equality, and limitation of freedom in economic, cultural, political, and other aspects of life.
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Since the middle of the 20th century, the US government has attempted to address the issue of discrimination in employment through the application of positive discrimination and non-discrimination principles aimed at the provision of equality (Leonard, 1990, p. 48). The idea of positive discrimination as a political strategy has the purpose of creating the specific benefits for the racial minorities through the creation of “counter-stereotypes” (Wicks-Lim, 2014, p. 21). At the same time, this strategy implies that the rights of the dominant group are fulfilled in a natural way because the culture of this group is considered to be official and is developed at the national level while the rights of the minor groups are naturally undermined.
According to the principles of Utilitarianism, any action and decision can be estimated only by its consequences (Mosser, 2013). When applied to the Affirmative Action policy, the ethical principle demonstrates that the policy cannot be considered efficient. Although Affirmative Action helped to improve the situation in the African American employment rates, it certainly has some disadvantages. First of all, the policy leads to the discrimination of White Americans because it provides beneficial opportunities for minorities.
Moreover, it doesn’t consider the social status of those whom it supports, and it doesn’t guarantee the compliance with the principles of professional and social ethics in the selection of employees because the individuals hired for work on the basis of the unprofessional criteria may lack the sufficient competence. The Affirmative Action doesn’t support the equal welfare of all citizens, and it thus doesn’t comply with the ethical approach of Utilitarianism.
On the other hand, according to the principles of Deontology, an action cannot be evaluated merely by its consequences in case the action is performed in accordance with the social responsibilities and moral rules, and if it was aimed at the achievement of common welfare (Mosser, 2013). In the USA, the positive discrimination policies helped to reduce the negative discrimination through the adoption of laws, programs, and court decisions, and the main purpose of the adopted legislation was the provision of equal opportunities in employment and education for all social groups. It is possible to assume that through the development and adoption of Affirmative Action policies, the US government attempted to achieve the Common Good values.
The Common Good is the legal form of acceptance and realization of individual goods according to the principles of equality. In this case, the good, both common and individual, includes multiple interests, preferences, and desires to the extent to which they fit the legal standards and perform the criteria of legal limitations and rights commonly accepted within the law enforcement system.
The Common Good idea is based on the values of freedom and justice, preservation of differences, maintenance of individuals’ creative development, potential, and wealth. In this way, through the enforcement of positive discrimination laws, the US officials aimed at the official unification of social-cultural differences within the community and at the provision of equal opportunities for the individuals’ self-realization. Thus, although the Affirmative Action policies provoke the reverse effect on the White population when evaluated according to the principles of Deontology, they still can be considered effective and efficient because they have moral implications and include the performance of social duties.
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From the ethical perspective of Emotivism, morality and ethics are the subjective phenomena, and they depend on the individual emotional perceptions (Mosser, 2013). In this way, the diversity of opinions and worldviews is natural, but it raises the issue of universal ethical conduct and the Common Good concept validity. The Common Good is the declaration of universal principles of objective ethics. It provides the ideas that should be strained after by the governments and common people but, at the same time, it seems inapplicable to the current situation because the conformity of social differences and individual goals can be achieved only within the boundaries of specifically designed legislations and with the conscious approach.
In the ideal society, the individuals will see the purpose of their activities in the achievement of the common good, and this attitude will be largely supported by the laws. The Common Good idea eliminates any kind of natural and social determinism, and it thus goes against the exclusion of ethnical minorities from access to employment and education. Nowadays, it is important to encourage the cooperation within the society.
It also is important to comprehend that through the self-realization each person contributes to the development of society as a whole. Thus, the total acceptance of African Americans and other ethnic minorities, the equal fulfillment of natural physical, biological, psychological, and cultural needs will help to overcome determinism and transform the society by reducing violence, injustice, and discrimination.
Leonard, J. S. (1990). The Impact of Affirmative Action Regulation and Equal Employment Law on Black Employment. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 4(4), 47-63.
Mosser, K. (2013). Ethics and social responsibility. San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education.
Wicks-Lim, J. (2014). Why we all need affirmative action. Dollars & Sense, p. 19-22.