Contrary to what many conservatives assert, preferential treatment is not something new to our patterns of public policy. Moreover, it has an ethical basis in what might be called a “higher public purpose”—that of undoing and compensating for a long history of discrimination and white supremacy.
When conservatives complain that affirmative action is “reverse discrimination,” it is largely an ideological ploy; they don’t extend their indictment to government programs that privilege and thereby foster mobility for assorted businesses, veterans, and farmers, among others. In any event, job market breakthroughs for African-Americans in the last three decades have hardly diminished job opportunities for white males....
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