Why Do Liberals Support Affirmation Action?

There’s one thing I just don’t understand. Why do liberals generally support Affirmative Action?

Without going into too many details just yet, AA basically changes (or “unlevels”) the playfield, so it favors African Americans. Yet, I know most liberals believe African Americans are equal to us in intelligence. So why the need for Affirmative Action?


You can see an overview of the pros and cons of Affirmative Action here. I’m in favor of Affirmative Action myself.

Because society is biased against certain groups, including black people. Intelligence does you little good when the collective power of a nation is slanted against you. Keep in mind that desegregation had to be enforced at the point of a gun, not by reason.

This liberal’s most visceral support of AA to advance blacks comes from the realization that 20 generations of vicious subjugation doesn’t get compensated for by one generation of halfhearted cooperation. But it’s not just blacks that AA tries to look out for.

Because they view people as parts of arbitrary groups instead of as individuals. White man A screwing over black man B is not balanced out by screwing over white man C for the benefit of black man D. If you would discriminate against an asian man not for anything he has done but because the average asian man is more successful than the average black man, you are a racist.

This cartoon might help you, OP.

I think it’d be more fair to say that AA attempts *to *level the playing field by compensating for the very real obstacles that remain in the African-American’s way since the day they are born.
Just because people have been indoctrinated into keeping their racism to themselves (among strangers, at least), water fountains have been streamlined and lynching has fallen out of favour doesn’t mean the playing field is level quite just yet.

Do you truly believe that, if Affirmative Action were eliminated today, the playing field would be level?

Liberals tend to place a high value on things like equal opportunity and fair opportunity for all, and many of us see AA as an imperfect tool to reach those goals. The gains of the civil rights era were made by brave people who faced down attack dogs, the Klan and firehoses; it is likely that without AA, another generation would have to face the violent racism of modern American conservatives all over again.

AA was the only political solution to a problem that could be implemented. The solution would have been to sue the numerous government entities and individuals who repeatedly violated the civil rights of a portion of society for years on end. I think that’s what should have been done, but the weak sauce of AA was substituted instead.

Without comment on Affirmative Action itself, your question presumes that the playing field is otherwise level. Demonstrating any other way the playing field is a priori unlevel that is not linked to intelligence would weaken your argument. For example, one could argue that administrators/businesses are irrationally less likely to admit/hire a black student/worker, or that black neighborhoods tend to be poor, so black children don’t get educational opportunities. Arguments of this form are made by **Der Trihs, Napier, Kobal2, **and madmonk28.

Again, these are not necessarily my arguments, but there are reasonable ways to interpret support for Affirmative Action that do not require the supporter to think that black people are inherently less intelligent.

Because we still have a long ways to go, as witnessed by the right wing apoplexy over the Obama presidency. The Republican alternative to the Hillary health care proposal becomes socialism when embraced by a black president. He can’t be “one of us”, maybe he wasn’t born here, maybe he practices “that” religion, maybe he got into college claiming to be foreign, etc. If so many people aren’t ready for a black president, then they aren’t ready for true racial equality. If they aren’t ready for true racial equality, then we need the means to ensure that minorities are not discriminated against in hiring. Affirmative action is not perfect nor do liberals claim it to be- but it is far more perfect than what preceded it.

As long as you start your premise with the belief that AA primarily benefits African-Americans, you will never understand. In reality AA effected (white) women more than African-Americans.

Are you aware that AA benefits women? If so, why are focusing on African-Americans and not on the other groups that benefit from it?

Well, obviously.
No man being an island, individual aptitudes are far from indicative of expected (or expectable) outcomes. I think it was Warren Buffet who quipped that he wouldn’t have achieved quite so much had he been born in Uganda, despite obviously being somewhat on the brainy side when it comes to business savvy if nothing else.
The point is just as valid when you consider two exactly similar individuals (and regardless of the colour of their skin), one raised by loving educated parents in quiet, opulent suburbia and the other in a dirt poor home in inner city Detroit or whatever “wrong side of the tracks” you might wish to substitute there.
It just so happens that in America there’s a distinct correlation between “starting out on the wrong side of the tracks” and “being a member of a non-white minority”. So that’s one adversarial factor, one way the field is inclined (among a slew of others ofc).

The discrimination on hiring aspect is actually amusing (in a bleak, depressing sort of way. Soviet humour, basically) in that it’s not necessarily a symptom of racism on the part of the prospective employer - many HR folks instead assume that their clients might just freak at the sight of a black or brown person employed in a non-janitorial, non-security, non-pizza delivery capacity. IOW when they’re not actively being racists themselves, they prudently assume *you *might be. And because the cost/benefit analysis of catering to the majority vs. the minority is extremely straightforward, the end result is the same of course.

AA is one way to resolve that sort of “Tragedy of the Bigots” deadlock in the long run. Might not be the most perfectest one but it’s the one y’all got, and trust me when I say that, imperfect and flawed a system as it may be, it’s still leagues better than nothing. I’m French, I know all about doing nothing and hoping inequalities will disappear on their own any minute now so long as you pretend they don’t exist. You might have heard about the rioting ;).

The irony of it all is that they actually strengthened the case for Affirmative Action by all their shenanigans.

Democrats use AA to buy votes. It’s also useful as an ad hominem, to call anyone who questions AA racist.

The assumption is that all the disparities between blacks and other groups are due to discrimination. And liberals get real peevish when that assumption is questioned.


I love it when **Shodan **answers a “Why do Liberals…” question. Good times.

I think the OP would make for a better debate if he defined exactly what he means by Affirmative Action. I think many liberals would cringe at the idea of quotas, for instance, although some might support it.

Do you think the playing field would be level if all forms of Affirmative Action were removed today?

So how do you explain disparities in educational and economic outcomes between ethnic groups in America?