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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 decisions? 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 self-confidence. 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


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