Issue of Preferential Hiring


In recent years preferential hiring has become an issue of 
great interest. Preferential hiring, which was devised to create
harmony between the different races and sexes, has divided the lines 
even more. Supporters on both sides seem fixed in their positions and 
often refuse to listen to the other group's platform. In this essay, 
the recipients of preferential hiring will be either black or female, 
and the position in question will be a professorship on the university 
level. The hirings in question are cases that involve several 
candidates, all roughly equal in their qualifications (including 
experience, education, people skills, etc.), with the only difference 
being race and/or sex. What we have here is a case of predetermined 
preference. The two candidates in question are equal in all ways, 
except race. The black applicant is selected, not because of skills or 
qualifications (in that case the white man would have provided the 
same result), but for his skin color. This seems to be blatant 
discrimination, but many believe it is justified. Some feel 
retribution for years of discrimination is reason enough, but that 
issue will be discussed later. First, lets focus on why this is not a 
solution to creating an unbiased society. 

 Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream: "I have a dream that my 
four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not
be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their 
character." He desired a world without discrimination, without
prejudice, and without stereotypes. The fundamental lesson years of 
discrimination should have taught is that to give anyone preference 
based on skin color, sex, or religious beliefs is, in one word, wrong. 
As Martin Luther King Jr. stated, judgment based on skin color must 
not exist. All preferential hiring does is keep judgments based on 
skin color alive. Race and sex should not be issues in today's 
society, yet preferential hiring continues to make these factors 
issues by treating minorities as a group rather than as individuals. 
More importantly preferential hiring may actually fuel, rather than 
extinguish, feelings of racial hostility. Applying the concept of 
preferential hiring to another situation may help elucidate its 
shortcomings. A party of white men and a party of black men both 
arrive at a restaurant at the same time and only one table is free. 
The headwaiter can only seat one party and must make a decision. 
According to preferential hiring theory it is necessary to seat the 
black party first, since historically blacks have been discriminated 
against when seated in restaurants. In another situation, a white man 
and a black man are both equidistant from the last seat on the bus. 
Both men are the same age, have no medical problems, and are equal in 
all ways except skin color. Should the black man get the seat since in 
the past black men have been discriminated against? We could continue 
this practice for several centuries before the debt we owe for 
depriving blacks of a seat on the bus would be paid. Perhaps these 
examples are invalid. It could be said that jobs are a different 
issue. They help define social status and provide economic well-being. 
They might even boost self-confidence, something that discrimination 
has stolen. Two points must be considered before moving any further. 
First, blacks may learn better from a black, and women may learn 
better from a woman. Second, hiring women and blacks will provide role 
models for others. The first point Thomson quickly concedes as likely 
to be false. Discussion about the second point however is required, 
and will, in effect, serve to negate the first point as well. 

 First, lets create a character, Bill. Bill is grossly 
overweight and unattractive. Studies have shown that many employers
discriminate (whether subconsciously or not), against both overweight 
and unattractive individuals. Unfortunately for Bill, he fits into 
both categories. His inability to land a job reflective of his 
abilities, coupled with years of public humiliation through jokes
made at his expense, has destroyed his self-esteem. This has caused 
him to accept as fact the notion that he will never be able to reach 
his goals. Few "Bill" success stories exist, only further plummeting 
his self-confidence. This example sounds strikingly similar to a 
common argument for preferential hiring. I have been discriminated 
against, which has caused my self esteem to fall, and now I am stuck, 
with few role models to follow. Bill's success has probably been 
thwarted by more sources than the today's average black or female, but 
there is no provision in preferential hiring for him. Just like no one 
can control their race or skin color, Bill's obesity is caused by a 
medical problem beyond treatment. Selective preferential hiring won't 
work. Even if one doesn't accept the fact that preferential hiring 
discriminates against the white male, one must accept the fact that 
preferential hiring discriminates against Bill.

 Now let's assume that this argumentation is invalid for one 
reason or another. Let's assume the lack of self-confidence and
self-respect that today's blacks and women are suffering from may 
deserve some compensation. But before continuing, it seems necessary 
to narrow the range of who qualifies for compensation for suffering. 
The issue at hand concerns today's blacks and today's women. Today's 
society is not responsible for incidents preceding its own existence. 
Other opinions may not coincide with this belief, but I do not feel 
any responsibility for the positive or negative actions of my 
grandfather or my father. However, as a member of society I will take 
responsibility for the positive or negative actions of society today. 
For example, today's society is not responsible for blacks or women's 
lack of voting rights years ago. If for some reason we were 
responsible, how could this possibly be repaid? Make a black or female 
vote count two or three times? No, this is preposterous. We have 
canceled our debts, simply by giving them a right to vote and a say in 
the election of their representatives. Now that is not to say that 
today's society is not responsible for the discrimination of blacks 
and women in recent years. But, even prior to the lifetime of those 
that would be most affected by preferential hiring: both blacks and 
women have had the right to vote; discrimination based on race, color, 
religion, or sex has been illegal; segregation has ended; and the
civil rights movement has taken place. Clearly, we live in a different 
United States than out predecessors. Today's blacks and women may 
still experience some repercussions of discrimination, but for decades 
laws have been enforced prohibiting discrimination. If someone 
discriminates against a black today, charges could be filed against 
that person and that person will be punished. That is the bottom line. 
Preferential treatment cannot be given to victims of all crimes. It 
would become chaotic trying pin the level of preference a victim 
should get for different crimes. For a moment let's digress to the 
case of Judy. Judy was raped. All society can offer her is the 
punishment of her rapist, if her rapist is found guilty. Sure, Judy 
will probably suffer for the rest of her life believing that it was 
her fault; she will lose self-respect and self-confidence. But is Judy 
going to receive preferential treatment when she walks into an office 
and applies for a job? There is no space on a job application for Judy 
to say: "I should receive special consideration, because several years 
ago I was raped. This rape has caused me years of anguish, and now I 
lack the self-confidence I once had. All this has cause me to 
underachieve in school and in life. Please consider this when you 
review my application." If Judy, who lost her self-confidence and 
self-respect through the violation of her rights by a member of 
society, is given no compensation for her trauma, why should blacks or 
women? All society owes the victim of a crime is that the criminal be 
punished if in fact a law was breached. 

 Possibly their case is more powerful. Not all women (or men) 
are raped each year, but most blacks and women have been discriminated 
against at some point in their life. Could we possibly owe the victims 
of discrimination something? 

 If, as Thomson claims, all blacks and females have, as a 
consequence of their past lack of rights, suffered a lack of
self-confidence and self-respect, then why preferentially give them 
jobs? Jobs have no direct correlation to a lack of self-respect and 
self-confidence. Indirectly, yes, maybe many blacks and women have not 
been able to achieve their highest goals due to this lack of 
self-confidence and are therefore handicapped when they enter the job 
market. But it seems to me that if we were to solve the problem and 
provide repayment with the loosening of qualifications necessary, or 
even not the loosening but the offering of preferential treatment when 
hiring blacks and women, this does not solve the problem. It seems to 
make more sense to dig deeper; to find the root of the problem and 
change it. Since we can't go back and change history, eliminating
the poor treatment blacks and women of the past, then the next best 
thing seems to be to reverse the effects of discrimination in
the present. 

 The lack of presence in the upper levels of the job market is 
not a direct effect of discrimination. It is, as Thomson states, a 
lack of self-confidence and self-respect that has kept toady's blacks 
and women down. So the logical solution would be to renew their 
self-respect, and to restore their self-confidence. It seems like too 
superficial of a solution to simply give blacks and women preference 
when it comes to hiring. Certainly it would not bolster my 
self-confidence to know that I received a job over another equally 
qualified individual, simply due to my skin color or sex. I would feel 
as if again race and sex were dominating decisions. Wasn't the 
original goal to eliminate the issue of skin color and sex from all 

 Thomson, in her essay on preferential hiring, tells us that 
she is not happy with the solution of preferential hiring in its 
entirety: "If there were some appropriate way in which the community 
could make amends to its blacks and women, some way which did not 
require depriving anyone of anything he has a right to, then that 
would be the best course to take." There must be a better way. 
Psychological treatment would help give the victims of poor treatment 
renewed self-confidence, providing them the confidence to go out and 
try to earn a job, rather than get handed a job. The feeling of 
accomplishment that results from earning a job would help improve 

 But now another issue arises. We would owe all victims of 
crime some sort of compensation. Maybe there is another way to elevate 
the status of minorities without bringing the issue of race or sex 
into the arena. If what is desired by preferential hiring is a 
jump-start to promote diversity in the workplace and in society, where 
race and sex are irrelevant, why not enact a plan where preferential 
hiring is not based on these factors? Instead, why not give preference 
to underrepresented towns or areas of town (possibly by zip code), to 
those that are financially burdened, and to those with handicaps. This 
would help relieve the pressure of race and sex in these issues. The 
underprivileged will still be given a jump-start, and diversity will 
still be promoted. 

 However, this solution breaches another point that any form of 
categorization of people should not occur. The solutions presented are 
more acceptable than preferential hiring, though they still have their 
defects. Why not bury the issue of race? Discrimination is waning. It 
has become a crime to discriminate. Soon blacks and women will become 
full members of the job world. There are plenty of role model success 
stories available. There is no reason to believe that anyone, in 
today's society, cannot achieve whatever they wish. Hard work and 
diligence will pay off and eventually race and sex will no longer be 
issues. The goal is to make race and sex irrelevant, and preferential 
hiring only keeps these issues alive. Let's try to live in a society
modeled after Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream, and I believe the issues 
of race and sex will disappear, leaving people to be judged solely on 
their character.


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