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Dworkin's Belief of Preferential Treatment

Oct 08, 1999 1412 Words
Dworkin's Belief of Preferential Treatment

For many years, preferential treatment has been used to try to make up for past wrong-doings to minorities. There have been many cases tried over racial discrimination, with verdicts of both innocent and guilty. Ronald Dworkin attempts to argue that preferential treatment is socially useful and at the same time does not violate people's rights. This is wrong for many reasons; here I shall illustrate how preferential treatment hinders racial equality, violates people's rights, and can lead to a lower opinion toward a particular race.

Dworkin believes that continuing preferential treatment will decrease racial consciousness and the importance of race. This is the total opposite of what truly happens. If a person were to consider America's past, as an example, he would see how racially diverse people were. Now look around. Just walking across any given area, groups of people of the same race are seen walking together. Most people do not notice this, but very rarely are groups of ethnically diverse people seen. Although there are no longer any laws stating that there must be a separation between different races, people still practice it unconsciously. Dworkin states that the long-term goal of preferential treatment "is to reduce the degree to which American society is overall a racially conscious society (294)." Preferential treatment does nothing of the sort. It was used widely in the past and still exists in some areas today. It has not reduced racial consciousness, but increased it by making people think more about how many spaces are reserved for their particular race. Instead, people should think of what their chances are of getting something on account of their personal knowledge over someone else's, not even considering their race as a factor. This is evident in a black's point of view of getting into the medical school of the University of California at Davis. Sixteen places are set aside just for blacks and other minorities, no matter how low their test scores are. That way, minorities don't even have to worry about competing with whites for a position. This does not, in any way, reduce racial consciousness by setting two tracks for admission to medical school, one for the minorities, and one for the majority.

Mr. Dworkin supports the idea that preferential treatment does not violate people's rights. His argument is weak here because he attempts to prove this by saying that if two things do not violate people's rights, then neither does a third. The two things that supposedly do not violate rights are the denial of someone to medical school because of their age and because their test scores are just below the cutoff line of admission. He then assumes that because these two do not violate rights, then neither does denying an applicant because he will not reduce racial consciousness as much as an individual of another race would. By taking this argument apart piece by piece, it is evident that all three parts of his argument violate rights. Preferential treatment violates a person's right to be "judged on merit and merit alone(299)." Dworkin says that another definition for merit is qualification, and for some jobs, race can be a qualification. Given a specific job, certain human characteristics are more desirable than others. People with these preferred characteristics are more likely to get this job. For example, a desirable quality for a surgeon is steady hands; therefore, a person with steady hands is more likely to get this position than a person with shaky hands. Using race in a similar example, preferential treatment would be just if there were a job where one race is more qualified than another. The problem with this is that there are no such jobs. Dworkin says that denying a person admission because of his age does not violate that person's rights, but then, is the individual being judged on his merit and merit alone? No. It is therefore wrong to discriminate against someone because of their age because it violates his rights.

A second objection to Dworkin's belief that preferential treatment does not violate people's rights is that people have the right to be judged as an individual. Preferential treatment supports grouping people together according to race and then judging them as a whole. Dworkin agrees with Colvin when he says that people have the right not to be disadvantaged because of one's race alone. Many colleges set cutoff limits to the applicants' scores that they admit. Some applicants that barely fall below the line have much more dedication and enthusiasm than those above the line, and would make better students by these attributes. Unfortunately, these students are not even considered because they are not looked at as an individual, but judged solely by their scores. Now imagine a situation similar to this where race is the determinant of whether a person is accepted or not. If a person were to be turned down from a college because of his skin color before he was given a chance to be interviewed, the college may loose a very smart student. Skin color should not be used to group people because within one skin color, many different kinds of people can be grouped together. A possible alternative to this approach is similar to it, but with one slight change—create a range around the cutoff line where the students are considered on an individual basis. Those inside this zone with admirable qualities are accepted and those without are rejected.

The third objection that preferential treatment does not violate people's rights is that a person has the right not to be excluded, disadvantaged, or denied some good because of race alone. In Bakki's case, Dworkin agrees that he would have been accepted had he been a minority, but says that he was not disadvantaged because of his race. He says that Bakki would also have been accepted had he gotten better test scores or had been younger, so his color is not the only thing that kept him from being accepted. Here, Dworkin is comparing apples and oranges. A person's color is no determinant of whether he should be suitable for a job, and neither should his age (although I will not discuss this here). His knowledge is what is important. A doctor should not be turned away because of his race or because he may be a few years older than another, but he may very well be turned away because he is not performing his job to the necessary degree because he lacks the needed knowledge. A person's color or age has nothing to do with his intelligence. This is yet another weak argument given by Dworkin.

One more disadvantage to preferential treatment is how people feel when they work with people who have been helped by preferential treatment. If a black man were to apply to medical school and be accepted only because of his skin color, what kind of business would he run if he were to make it out of medical school for the same reasons? There would be a great disadvantage to giving him a little extra leeway because of his race. During college, he might not try as hard on his studies because he knows he will make it by and therefore not gain all the necessary information to be a good doctor. Then, after he graduates and works with other doctors, he may not only give his race a bad name by not knowing what he should have learned in college, but he may also lose patients from being misdiagnosed. It is clear that giving racial preferences can lead to great problems in the future, and should therefore not be used.

Many people have explained both advantages and disadvantages to preferential treatment since the racial injustice campaign began in 1954. One of whom is Ronald Dworkin, who spoke on the side for preferential treatment. He argued that while decreasing racial consciousness, it does not violate anyone's rights. When trying to prove his side, he uses examples that are uncharacteristic to racial preferences such as race being a qualification for a job. Although Dworkin argues his point well, he uses examples that just do not back up his beliefs as well as they should and do not draw a distinct line of why preferential treatment should be used.

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