Was I Entitled or Should I Apologize?  Affirmative Action Going Forward

Author(s)Anita L. Allen
JournalThe Journal of Ethics
AbstractAs a U.S. civil rights policy, affirmative action commonly denotes raceconscious
and result-oriented efforts by private and public officials to correct the
unequal distribution of economic opportunity and education attributed to slavery,
segregation, poverty and racism. Opponents argue that affirmative action (1) violates
ideals of color-blind public policies, offending moral principles of fairness and
constitutional principles of equality and due process; (2) has proven to be socially
and politically divisive; (3) has not made things better; (4) mainly benefits middleclass,
wealthy and foreign-born blacks; (4) stigmatizes its beneficiaries; and (5)
compromises the self-esteem and self-respect of beneficiaries who know that they
have been awarded preferential treatment. By way of a thought experiment, imagine
that after decades of public policy and experimentation, the United States public
finally came to agree: affirmative action is morally and legally wrong. Employing
such a thought experiment, this essay by a beneficiary of affirmative action—written
in response to James Sterba’s Affirmative Action for the Future (2009)—examines
duties of moral repair and the possibility that the past beneficiaries of affirmative
action owe apologies, compensation or some other highly personal form of corrective
accountability. Beneficiaries of affirmative action have experienced
woundedness and moral insecurity. Indeed, the practice of affirmative action comes
with a psychology, a set of psychological benefits and burdens whose moral logic
those of us who believe in our own fallibility—as much as we believe in the justice
of what we have received and conferred on others—should address.
Keywordsaffirmative action, African American, apology, corrective justice, discrimination, race, reparation
Date Published 2011
Google Scholar Linkhttps://scholar.google.com/scholar?cluster=6405048666609364358&hl=en&as_sdt=0,5
Open Access?Yes