By: Hendrik van der Breggen

Let’s think discriminately about discrimination (yes, you read that right). I’ll distinguish two senses of discrimination, and then I’ll raise seven questions about reverse discrimination.

Discrimination 1: to discern/differentiate between things; show a partiality/preference to specific things/people for some (usually) good reason. We discriminate between foods, wines, friends, potential spouses.

Such discrimination is typically not problematic.

But discrimination 2 is problematic: it happens when we differentiate between people unjustly.

Discrimination 2 occurs when, say, we don’t hire a qualified black man simply because he is black. Ditto for women, aboriginals, ethnicities, etc.

Philosopher Louis Pojman clarifies: “Discrimination [sense 1] is essentially a good quality, having reference to our ability to make distinctions. As rational and moral agents we need to make proper distinctions. To be rational is to discriminate between good and bad arguments, and to think morally is to discriminate between reasons based on valid principles and those based on invalid ones. What needs to be distinguished is the difference between rational and moral discrimination [discrimination 1], on the one hand, and irrational and immoral discrimination [discrimination 2], on the other hand.”

Enter reverse discrimination (henceforth RD), sometimes also known as “strong affirmative action.”

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