For many years, preferential treatment has been used to try to make up forpast wrong-doings to minorities. There have been many cases tried overracial discrimination, with verdicts of both innocent and guilty. RonaldDworkin attempts to argue that preferential treatment is socially usefuland at the same time does not violate people’s rights. This is wrong formany reasons; here I shall illustrate how preferential treatment hindersracial equality, violates people’s rights, and can lead to a lower opiniontoward a particular race.
Dworkin believes that continuing preferential treatment will decreaseracial consciousness and the importance of race. This is the totalopposite of what truly happens. If a person were to consider America’spast, as an example, he would see how racially diverse people were. Nowlook around. Just walking across any given area, groups of people of thesame race are seen walking together. Most people do not notice this, butvery rarely are groups of ethnically diverse people seen. Although thereare no longer any laws stating that there must be a separation betweendifferent races, people still practice it unconsciously. Dworkin statesthat the long-term goal of preferential treatment “is to reduce the degreeto which American society is overall a racially conscious society (294).”Preferential treatment does nothing of the sort. It was used widely in thepast and still exists in some areas today. It has not reduced racialconsciousness, but increased it by making people think more about how manyspaces are reserved for their particular race. Instead, people shouldthink of what their chances are of getting something on account of theirpersonal knowledge over someone elses, not even considering their race asa factor. This is evident in a black’s point of view of getting into themedical school of the University of California at Davis. Sixteen placesare set aside just for blacks and other minorities, no matter how low theirtest scores are. That way, minorities don’t even have to worry aboutcompeting with whites for a position. This does not, in any way, reduceracial 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 violatepeople’s rights. His argument is weak here because he attempts to provethis by saying that if two things do not violate peoples rights, thenneither does a third. The two things that supposedly do not violate rightsare the denial of someone to medical school because of their age andbecause their test scores are just below the cutoff line of admission. Hethen assumes that because these two do not violate rights, then neitherdoes denying an applicant because he will not reduce racial consciousnessas much as an individual of another race would. By taking this argumentapart piece by piece, it is evident that all three parts of his argumentviolate rights.
Preferential treatment violates a person’s right to be “judged on merit andmerit alone(299).” Dworkin says that another definition for merit isqualification, and for some jobs, race can be a qualification. Given aspecific job, certain human characteristics are more desirable than others.
People with these preferred characteristics are more likely to get thisjob. For example, a desirable quality for a surgeon is steady hands;therefore, a person with steady hands is more likely to get this positionthan a person with shaky hands. Using race in a similar example,preferential treatment would be just if there were a job where one race ismore qualified than another. The problem with this is that there are nosuch jobs. Dworkin says that denying a person admission because of his agedoes not violate that persons rights, but then, is the individual beingjudged on his merit and merit alone? No. It is therefore wrong todiscriminate against someone because of their age because it violates hisrights.
A second objection to Dworkin’s belief that preferential treatment doesnot violate people’s rights is that people have the right to be judged asan individual. Preferential treatment supports grouping people togetheraccording to race and then judging them as a whole. Dworkin agrees withColvin when he says that people have the right not to be disadvantagedbecause of one’s race alone. Many colleges set cutoff limits to theapplicants scores that they admit. Some applicants that barely fall belowthe line have much more dedication and enthusiasm than those above theline, and would make better students by these attributes. Unfortunately,these students are not even considered because they are not looked at as anindividual, but judged solely by their scores. Now imagine a situationsimilar to this where race is the determinant of whether a person isaccepted or not. If a person were to be turned down from a college becauseof his skin color before he was given a chance to be interviewed, thecollege may loose a very smart student. Skin color should not be used togroup people because within one skin color, many different kinds of peoplecan be grouped together. A possible alternative to this approach issimilar to it, but with one slight changecreate a range around the cutoffline where the students are considered on an individual basis. Thoseinside this zone with admirable qualities are accepted and those withoutare rejected. The third objection that preferential treatment does not violate people’srights is that a person has the right not to be excluded, disadvantaged, ordenied some good because of race alone. In Bakkis case, Dworkin agreesthat he would have been accepted had he been a minority, but says that hewas not disadvantaged because of his race. He says that Bakki would alsohave been accepted had he gotten better test scores or had been younger, sohis color is not the only thing that kept him from being accepted. Here,Dworkin is comparing apples and oranges. A persons color is nodeterminant of whether he should be suitable for a job, and neither shouldhis age (although I will not discuss this here). His knowledge is what isimportant. A doctor should not be turned away because of his race orbecause he may be a few years older than another, but he may very well beturned away because he is not performing his job to the necessary degreebecause he lacks the needed knowledge. A persons color or age has nothingto do with his intelligence. This is yet another weak argument given byDworkin.
One more disadvantage to preferential treatment is how people feel whenthey work with people who have been helped by preferential treatment. If ablack man were to apply to medical school and be accepted only because ofhis skin color, what kind of business would he run if he were to make itout of medical school for the same reasons? There would be a greatdisadvantage 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 hewill make it by and therefore not gain all the necessary information to bea good doctor. Then, after he graduates and works with other doctors, hemay not only give his race a bad name by not knowing what he should havelearned in college, but he may also lose patients from being misdiagnosed.
It is clear that giving racial preferences can lead to great problems inthe future, and should therefore not be used.
Many people have explained both advantages and disadvantages topreferential treatment since the racial injustice campaign began in 1954.
One of whom is Ronald Dworkin, who spoke on the side for preferentialtreatment. He argued that while decreasing racial consciousness, it doesnot violate anyones rights. When trying to prove his side, he usesexamples that are uncharacteristic to racial preferences such as race beinga qualification for a job. Although Dworkin argues his point well, he usesexamples that just do not back up his beliefs as well as they should and donot draw a distinct line of why preferential treatment should be used.