Equality and Discrimination

Posted: February 21, 2017

In social relations, to discriminate has widely been described as the act of treating an individual with favor towards them or against them. Usually, the distinction is based on some factors such as class, sex, gender, race, education level, and many others. On the other hand equality is a human right created to cure the evil of discrimination. Equality is that aspect of human relations that ensures all individuals (young and old, woman and man, rich and poor, educated or not, white or black) - have equal access to opportunities that are geared towards making their lives better. Equality is the mother of issues like quotas and affirmative action, and many underprivileged groups in society have pegged their hope on the idea of equality.However, some people tend to view affirmative action as another cause of discrimination since it favors the less qualified hence denying the rightful owners of the opportunity their right. Although it presents an ethical dilemma by being discrimination in the reverse, affirmative action promotes equality, and there can never be a better option than it.

First and foremost, it is imperative to note that discrimination is a social evil that must never be allowed to exist. That is very paramount, but it is almost impossible to live without discrimination. Some of the grounds of discrimination include race and ethnicity, civil class and sexual orientation. MacKinnon states that “Discrimination is unjustified preferential treatment.”If it is understood that way, then it becomes easy to understand why preferential treatment must be there for the sake of equality- meaning affirmative action. Discrimination only becomes bad when it is used to perpetuate an evil against the other group. But when it is used to help another group of people enjoy life like their counterparts who are considered well off, it becomes a good thing.

Roscigno notes that discrimination is rampant, but sometimes the perpetrators of the evil acts of omission are not aware of the injustice and suffering that they impute on their victims. He notes that the act of discrimination is sometimes subtle and it may be very difficult to detect.In some other cases, though it may be explicit it usually goes unreported due to various reasons. Therefore it follows that most of the cases of discrimination go undetected unless someone concerned swings into action. In his well documented research work, Roscigno has come up with a detailed analysis of the various spheres of American life where discrimination is explicit. There is discrimination in the American workplace based on sex religion and ethnicity. There is also discrimination based on race, creed, and economic status in the general public space. Many people engage in the unlawful act of either passively or actively discriminating against minority groups in a manner that is unwarranted.

The worst form of discrimination is that meted upon a certain group of citizenry based on race, religion or other observable traits by the government that is supposed to protect them. Profiling is such a form of discrimination. In this form of discrimination, the government incriminated people based on the abovementioned characteristics. For instance, in the recent past, at least in the last decade, African American drivers were 78 percent more likely to be stopped and searched by police, yet the instances at which they were caught with contraband and narcotics were 25 percent less. The same racial discrimination has been reported of Hispanics with 118 percent of drivers of Hispanic origin likely to be searched by police. The sad thing about profiling is that it has been made lawful by endorsement of the US Penal Code.Law enforcement use profiling as a shortcut to detecting criminal activities, yet it is not only discriminating but also unjust.

When we talk about affirmative action, are still discriminating against some other group. However the kind of discrimination in this case is positive and it encourages growth. Affirmative action is ethical discrimination and it is the only hope that can be relied upon as the cure for discrimination against an individual or a group of individuals. Some call it positive discrimination, and indeed it is. Take for instance- when the universities set aside a number of slots for special groups like women and people of color, they engage in positive discrimination that will one day yield the perfect society that we desire. In education matters, affirmative action assumes that the other group was well placed to perform better, but the one that was disadvantaged either outperformed them or matched their standard, therefore they need preferential treatment. I believe every individual regardless their way of life has an equal chance to achieve anything they want. In so far as affirmative action may not make sense to some people, it will soon bring in equality and we will no longer need it- at least in utopia.

What makes affirmative action the best cure for discrimination is the fact that most of the people that are discriminated against do not have the leverage that the groups they are competing against have. Take for instance men and women.  It is obvious that men are stronger than women physically, emotionally, economically, just to mention but a few, and culture and traditions have placed women in a position that requires them to be led by men. Changing these notions is a bit difficult and therefore when it comes to performance issues that require competition between men and women, the males have the advantage of outperforming females. Moving to the next level therefore becomes necessary to involve affirmative action. For instance, women are presented by lesser qualification while seeking admission to the university because they have more social responsibilities than their male counterparts; hence they have limited time to concentrate on their studies. At the same time, there are special funds for women to help them get a head start in business and family life. All the preferential treatment advanced to women but against men acknowledges the fact that men can easily get a way out of any situation without compromising their moral standing as compared to women.

A comparative study conducted in the US and India about admissions to higher education revealed that affirmative action has the potential to enhance equality in future. However, the results of the affirmative action programs heavily depend upon the government policies put in place to enhance humanity. Most importantly, context is a very important concept when deciding on the way forward for affirmative action. In the US, the society is quite inhomogeneous as far as race, ethnicity and religion are concerned and therefore the grounds for affirmative action are quite obvious. In India however, minorities are not very much identifiable and yet the same parameters are used to uphold affirmative action. Moreover, affirmative action in the US is more liberal in that it is less ambitious in magnitude and the most essential aspects of the programs is the provision of resources to the disadvantaged and skewed selection processes. Some of the issues that define context include extent of mistreatment or stigmatization, societal salience of ethnicity at many more. Primarily, Benefits of positive affirmative action depend on the severity of the environmental aspects mentioned above.

In all this analysis, it is evident that where equality is intended there must be an element of discrimination. It is not possible to give a right to one man without taking the same from another. The simple argument that resources are scarce is enough to cement this argument. Discrimination exists as human nature. Many of us what the best, or maybe the most for ourselves, and when equality is brought in as a concept of law and morality it denies the leveraged and hardworking members of society. Denying a woman a job to give to a man can be looked at as a just concept since men have a higher pecuniary role in society of providing for their families as compared to women. On the other hand, it will be very unfair to deny a woman the chance of getting her preferred job just because she is a woman. What if she is a single mother and plays the role of both father and mother? This is what makes equality a course to follow so as to provide justice.

Equality should be upheld at all times, and people should be made to understand its importance in society. People should be informed that ways of achieving equality such as affirmative action are for their benefit. A society can only be cohesive if the people that cohabit know that they are respected and that their social, economic, political and religious space is well safeguarded. Otherwise, anarchy may reign in. Equality as an ethical principle did not just arise from nowhere. It must have come from some form of agitation. The struggle for equality by African Americans who were held under the bondage of poverty is well documented. Women went to Beijing to agitate for their rights and today gender equality is all over the media and other social circles. Issues of equality and discrimination are a recipe for instability in society, and if they are not addressed at the right time, they may cause discomfort among people in various quarters. Despite the ethical dilemma of hurting some people while helping others, equality should be upheld through affirmative action, and with time, society members will be at par in most issues with no need for equal rights advocacy.

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