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Is equality what we strive for in a democratic society?

Our society today often strives to reach equality in all aspects of the legal system. Equal is defined as "having the same status, rights, or opportunities" or "evenly or fairly balanced." One of the biggest parts of equality is in civil rights.

On two very controversial issues, I have noticed that different groups are treated differently, but the effect has been rather beneficial. The groups are not treated equally in the sense that they are treated the same, yet a large portion of people have accepted that.

The two issues are on the draft and also minority scholarships. On the issue of the draft, I have seen no push on either side for required female enrollment. Females have been enlisted for a long time and have proven that they are equally capable of serving in armed services. Is the fact that only males are required to sign up for the draft a remnant of an old way of thinking? Is having only males sign up for the draft a good thing? Is this equality? If it is not equality, is that even a bad thing?

The second issue is minority scholarships. Minority scholarships grant money to different people based on achievement, plans, and also race. I see these scholarships as great things which provide opportunities, but it still raises the question "is it equal?" These scholarships still are based on race. Is this equality? If not, are minority scholarships still necessary at this point in time? Will they be removed in the future?

These are both very sensitive issues, and I am trying to as respectful as possible. It just seems that these are two instances where groups are not treated the same. I do not think that they are necessarily bad, but I do not seem them as equal. Will these issues change in the future in order to treat everyone the same, or are these methods the best way to handle the situation?


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  • Gu E

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    Aug 1 2012: The way I think about equality and democracy is basically that: equality is a requirement for democracy. Now, much of the issues around equality generally involve - equal opportunity and treatment.
    Every member of a democratic society is equal. Therefore, every citizen should expect equal rights, liberties, and opportunities.

    The problems arise when minorities, of any kind, are faced with obstacles that the majority manages to avoid. If we as a society value a functioning democracy, then we must strive to solve those problems of equaity- we are always trying to achieve true equality (something that evades us still).

    Equal opportunity is at the core of affirmative action/scholarships etc. These scholarships are created in order to accomplish two things: 1) identify talent and potential 2) removal of barriers to opportunity

    These policies exist primarily to identify people with potential and provide them with the assistance they need to pursue their life goals. Without these policies the chances for advancement is grim for many.
    I feel that most people who have an issue with equality largely fail to grasp the reality that people are not being treated equally. They also fail to see that some people are born into circumstances that put them at a major disadvantage to others.
    If giving someone a leg up who otherwise might not have the resources or opportunity to do so is a method for solving gaps in equality- then I'm all for it.
    It should be a given in democracies that every citizen should be able to experience the same rights and opportunities as their peers. There's my two cents!
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      Aug 4 2012: Mr. E,It can be argued that the purpose of Affirmative Action programs was (is?) to add members of minorities to the workplace by giving them certain advantages while burdening non-minority applicants with certain disadvantages. The way to equality is not by enforcing inequality. Minorities must not be suppressed. All citizens of a Democratic (Representative Republics included) nation MUST have an equal opportunity to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The best suited candidate should be selected. Two wrongs do not make a right. Thank You!
      • Gu E

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        Aug 8 2012: I understand your reaction to Affirmative action programs (the majority of which WOMEN are the beneficiaries), but what about scholarships?

        There is a fallacy in your understanding of the concept, which is a common one: programs that are designed to assist a displaced and disadvantaged minority group in a system that seems more and more rigged against their advancement (Another example for the Asian American community- a highly educated and successful community- is the bamboo ceiling). The policies are designed to correct the wrongs that were made against minorities- this is a systemic problem.

        By assisting those who are disadvantaged to have the opportunity to advance themselves and pull themselves out of a situation that would more likely than not prevent them from moving up, does not equal a conscious decision to burden or disadvantage a white person. This is crucial to the understanding, and has unfortunately made some people suspect achievements of minorities in university and the workplace (as if they had not been selected according to merit).

        Again, Affirmative action is not designed to place unqualified minorities into positions- it is designed to give qualified minorities the opportunity where they otherwise would not have been considered for.

        I appreciate your comment, but I feel that you are misunderstanding the purpose of such policies and the gravity of the problem.
        Interestingly, white women benefit more from affirmative action yet everyone seems to associate Blacks only.
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          Aug 8 2012: I disagree that my understanding of Affirmative Action is fallacious. Any process of selection is apt to be biased. The idea of equality is not acheived by reversing and intensifying existing bias, which wil inevitably result in unqualified, and therefore undeserving people being given unequal advantages. If the bias is simply reversed the system remains corrupt. The right way to establish equality is to eliminate the bias in the selection algorithm. Again, two wrongs do not make a right. Thank you!
      • Gu E

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        Aug 8 2012: "which will inevitably result in unqualified, and therefore undeserving people being given unequal advantages"

        It is primarily this portion of your argument that I find bothersome. You are making the claim that a person who is selected through this policy is "unqualified and undeserving" ... But how can you make that judgment??

        There is no "taking away" involved, let alone the uplifting of an "unqualified" person.

        Believing that beneficiaries do not possess the same potential and qualifications and are therefore undeserving is a dangerous position to take. It risks the mentality of….. "Oh that guy got that job just because of affirmative action, he/she doesn't deserve that opportunity- it would have gone to so and so" ( that so and so here being a member of the majority).

        Affirmative action, or scholarships for minorities, do not ignore MERIT, SKILL or POTENTIAL and therefore there is no usurping of someone's somehow "fated" or "more deserving" opportunity.

        I understand it more as a measure designed to remove obstacles for DESERVING individuals that suffer from INEQUALITY……..that inequality being a pervasive gap in opportunity throughout the system.

        Similar to financial assistance for students wanting to go to college. Should we not provide financial assistance to those that are qualified for admission, yet lack the right funds - as a student from a wealthy family- not assuming the wealthier student is any more qualified or deserving mind you....

        Equal in merit, potential, and skill .....yet unequal in access and opportunity- this is what affirmative action and other provisions are trying to right.....there is no undeserving or unqualified or taking away involved, that's just an unfortunate argument some people have chosen as a way to distract from very real grievances and inequalities.

        Thinking that a spot is being taken away by someone else suggests an assumption that it was yours in the first place
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          Aug 8 2012: No. No, Gu E, you have misstated my position. I did not say everyone who benefits from Affirmative Action is undeserving. I said placement of unqualified people was a natural result of the program. That is not a judgment, it an unavoidable effect of bias. Many well-qualified, deserving people have benefited from the plan. The best system is the one that chooses the best suited candidate regardless of race, creed or gender. Surely you do not find that troublesome. The solution for bias related difficulties cannot possibly be more bias.Thank you!
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        Aug 9 2012: ." The solution for bias related difficulties cannot possibly be more bias."
        So we shouldn't bother with the women's events at the olympics?
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          Aug 9 2012: Peter- ZOOM! (That was the sound of your meaning going over my head!) I wish I could live-up to your apparent estimation of my wit, but alas, I must ask for a dumbed-down version of your question.
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        Aug 9 2012: I'm just suggesting that running women's events at the olympics is done to allow equal opertunity to a group that is unable to be competative in open events. This is analogous to affirmative action in some cases. In an interview situation a job applicant may be unable to be competative due to circumstances unrelated to the job. Sometimes your ability to get the job and your ability to do the job rely on different criteria.
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          Aug 9 2012: I see your point. Thanks for clarifying. I do not think it is valid to compare the Olympics (apples) to the national economy (oranges). White males were shackled by Affirmative Action. Minorities were hired and promoted over better qualified white males. My whole point is that such prejudicial conduct is wrong, even when it is being done to adjust demographics. The most qualified candidate should get hired or promoted regardless of their race, creed or gender. Demographics should not be in the equation.
        • Gu E

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          Aug 9 2012: Wow, I didn't realize white males were suffering from such disadvantages! Oh my.
          And once again: "Minorities were hired and promoted over better qualified white males"
          How the hell can you make that claim?? Somehow YOU know that the white males (whoever they are) are always better qualieifed. I'm sorry but I feel that you are suffering from an extreme bout of white privilege and a sense of entitlement.

          "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."

          "Myth 5: A large percentage of White workers will lose out if affirmative action is continued.

          Government statistics do not support this myth. According to the U.S. Commerce Department, there are 2.6 million unemployed Black civilians and 114 million employed White civilians (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2011). Thus, even if every unemployed Black worker in the United States were to displace a White worker, only 2% of Whites would be affected. Furthermore, affirmative action pertains only to job-qualified applicants, so the actual percentage of affected Whites would be even smaller. The main sources of job loss among White workers have to do with factory relocations and labor contracting outside the United States, computerization and automation, and corporate downsizing (Ivins, 1995)."

          Affirmative action is about INCLUSION.
      • Gu E

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        Aug 9 2012: I agree, I don't find any problem with having the selection be based on the best suited candidate regardless of race, sex, etc. In fact, this is the HOPE and goal.

        But, I would be making a naive statement that ignores the fact that we do not live in a post-racial society.
        I would be ignoring the fact that institutionalized and systemic racism, sexism, prejudice of other kinds still exist.
        Unfortunately, we do live in a time where whole segments of a population are at a huge disadvantage and still experience everyday forms of oppression. Suffering a disadvantage of opportunity only scratches the surface of the problem. It is attempting to level and uneven playing field and address the years upon years of policies that were designed to make the field uneven and suppress the advancement of minorities.

        Moreover, I don't agree that the program inevitably installs people who are unqualified. It installs people who are qualified -who happen to be from the minority- because they are underrepresented and face barriers to their entry/ opportunities are limited. This is the design. To open doors, to create opportunity that will in turn create individuals who can also open more doors and create more opportunity. Is it ideal? No. But is it unnecessary and harmful? No. It follows a realistic understanding of history and the barriers it has caused.

        You are assuming that there is an inevitability, that the unqualified will be promoted over a more qualified person ........I charge you to prove this claim.
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          Aug 9 2012: If you want verified statistics I can't supply them. My opinion is based on personal experience where persons who proved by their lack of ability to perform that they were not qualified for the job they were hired for under the Affirmative Action initiative. I experienced an actual promotion/hiring freeze for white males. The company announced that all promotions and new hires would be filled by minority candidates whenever possible for a period of five years. I hardly think that is indicative of a democratic society. If anyone is excluded from equal opportunity something is wrong, but the solution is not to exclude a different group for a while to make up for the wrongdoing.

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