By Steven M. Cahn
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Additional resources for Affirmative Action and the University: A Philosophical Inquiry
The supposition would then be that affirmative action becomes a continuing source of entrenched privilege. This suppositiorl works quite differently for process-directed and outcome-directed methods of affirmative action. Affirmative action that corrects a discriminatory practice by replacing it with a nondiscriminatory one does not introduce or entrench privilege. It displaces existing privilege. Open advertising of positions, for example, has displaced privileged access to information about jobs.
Yet if discrimination is a wrong, we should not define the problem in terms of assumptions that militate against its identification. When universities consider voluntary strategies to root out discrimination (rather than whether they are likely to be subjected to a successful lawsuit after Wards Cove), they should therefore focus on larger patterns rather than particular appointments decisions. Once the subject practice has been identified, the next step is to decide what makes a practice discriminatory.
Suppose instead that we take Sowell's argument as a hypothesis about what is likely to happen when affirmative action is used frequently to correct process-based discrimination. The supposition would then be that affirmative action becomes a continuing source of entrenched privilege. This suppositiorl works quite differently for process-directed and outcome-directed methods of affirmative action. Affirmative action that corrects a discriminatory practice by replacing it with a nondiscriminatory one does not introduce or entrench privilege.