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Affirmative Action and Collective Responsibility
It is not surprising that affirmative action is under attack: along with welfare, it benefits a section of society with very little political clout. It is a convenient place for the displaced anger of working-class white men who have seen their real wages decrease for the past thirty years. It stirs up feelings of racism that politicians are quick to publicly denounce but even quicker to exploit. There is, however, very little serious discussion about affirmative action underway; more often it is supplanted by buzzwords such as “quotas,” “set-asides,” and “reverse discrimination.” A serious discussion of affirmative action must begin by addressing the question of collective responsibility.
Affirmative action opponents firmly reject the notion of collective responsibility, claiming that it is unfair to punish those alive today for crimes committed by their parents. One letter to the editor received by The Progressive Review reads: “I never owned slaves, and have never discriminated against anyone. Why should I have to pay …
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