African American Studies Essays and Research Papers

Instructions for African American Studies College Essay Examples

Title: African American Culture

  • Total Pages: 3
  • Words: 1064
  • References:0
  • Citation Style: APA
  • Document Type: Essay
Essay Instructions: I need to convey an application of knowledge learned through experience.
I can gain experience through museum visits, events attended, cultural exchanges, books read at the college-level.
I must cover all of the six headings listed below.
I only need simple sentences in knowledge learned through cultural contact.

Describe the learning!

1 Briefly connect the African cultural roots and the Black experience in America. Whaqt experience would you gain from viewing a traditional African community in modern America that retains strong cultural roots? (South Carolina!)

2. Compare and contrast the modern African and modern African American experience/perspective. Where can a student find this information first-hand and connect with the modern African American experience?

3. Compare and contrast the historical African and historical African American experience/perspective. Where can a student find this information first-hand and connect with the historical African American experience?

4. Briefly describe places of cultural significance (Specific museums/events/locations) to study contributors and movements involved in Black intellectual and political recognition/emancipation.

5. Link between intellectual inquiry and community service and development in African American Culture.
What kinds of community service opportunities are available to connect African American Culture to a non-African American seeking to understand Afrocentricity?
RE: African/American Indian (Seminole Tribe)
Cultural development with some traditional African Cultural blending.

6. Seek practical solutions to major challenges and controversial issues facing African American Studies.

I need simple sentences describing KNOWLEDGE learned through visiting places of significant African American Culture. Here are some locations I have visited, with websites listed below:

The African American Museum of Philadelphia
Exploring Africa (Temporary Exhibit, Feb. 2004)

The National Afro-American Museum
Wilberforce, OH
Permanent Exhibit: From Victory To Freedom: Afro-American Life in the Fifties.
August 2004-Temporary Exhibit: The Legacy of American Slavery.

Seminole Reservation Museum, Hollywood Florida (Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum)

Museum of Tolerance, Los Angeles. (Simon Wiesenthal Center)

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Works Cited

The African-American Museum of Philadelphia: Exploring Africa." Temporary Exhibit, Feb. 2004.

The National Afro-American Museum Wilberforce, OH: Permanent Exhibit: From Victory To Freedom: Afro-American Life in the Fifties and Temporary Exhibit: The Legacy of American Slavery." August 2004.

Seminole Reservation (Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum) Museum: Hollywood Florida.

Simon Weisenthal Center for Tolerance. 2004.

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Title: Canon defining African American Literature

  • Total Pages: 6
  • Words: 2062
  • Works Cited:0
  • Citation Style: MLA
  • Document Type: Research Paper
Essay Instructions: I need a canon defining African-American literature. Here is an email from the professor defining what she wants:

"Your project should consist of an Introduction that defines African American Literature and its characteristics using secondary sources.
The body should consist of sections that explain each time period (i.e. Slavery, Reconstruction), which text you will be adding to that time period, a brief summary or description of that text why you are adding the text to that time period, why this text meets the characteristics of African American literature. These sections should be written as essays.
The project should also contain a conclusion that sums up your whole canon project"

Here is the grading criteria:

"Canon Project Grade Criteria for ENGLISH 465/ 565
Projects will be evaluated using the following criteria, all equally weighted:

? “A” papers will possess an overall coherent project, which includes an independent argument that defines African American literature, discusses the warrants and literature that explains this definition, provides clearly discussed criteria that can be used to analyze texts canonical value to the African American canon, synthesizes sources that explain the time periods and traditions related to the African American canon, and provides a well-developed explanation about whether and where your text belongs in the African American canon. “A” papers clearly and logically demonstrate how the chosen texts fit the criteria developed by the student, the social, cultural, and historical indexes, criticisms, theories associated with the different time periods and styles as organized by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Textual. An “A” paper analyzes the literary text and uses academic sources on that text that help you explore, substantiate, and complicate your general ideas about its place in the African American studies. You should analyze enough of the text to provide quotations to illustrate and complicate your argument about the text (i.e., “close read” quotations from the text, cite specific ideas from the literary criticism). High “B” and “A” engage the text and literary criticism to both support and complicate the overall argument. Elegant writing unmarred by proofreading errors, grammatical problems, spelling mistakes, or typos. In research papers, documentation is ample and in the correct form, and indicates that the writer has examined the most important available sources
In addition, A Graduate Students “A” paper will delve deeply into the theoretical approach to get at both its possibilities and limits. Your sources may come from the Norton Anthology or your own research. “A” papers refer to articles on the canon to complicate, challenge, or even contradict ideas about how to assign value to your chosen text. Your sources may come from the Lee Morisey collection, Debating the Canon: A Reader from Addison to Nafisi, or your own research. Successful use and evaluation of theoretical approaches about the canon should demonstrate your facility with theoretical approaches by discussing how they would approach your chosen text, especially regarding on what basis they would/would not assign value to it.

? What distinguishes a “B” paper from an “A” paper is different for Undergraduate and Graduate students:
Undergraduate “B” papers will demonstrate all of the qualities of the “A” paper, but clarity may not be as strong. A “B" paper makes no major errors in style, mechanics, grammar, punctuation, and spelling. It has a clear thesis and contains good topic sentences and transitions. “B” papers are generally well-written, and not marred by any serious problems."

I am an undergraduate student so please use that criteria. So far in the class I have been between a high B and a low A and would like to stick with that for this final project. I didn't anticipate so much work going into this class and just don't have to time to work on this right now between working and going back to school.

I had to turn in a bibliography already that I am going to send in to you all via email. Please use the Norton Anthology and at least 3 of the websites.

Thank you SO much!!!

There are faxes for this order.

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Works Cited:

Works Cited

Dept. Of State: International Information Programs: Publications - Outline of American Literature." International Information Programs. Apr. 2002. U.S. Department of State. 18 Mar. 2008

Gates, Henry L., and Nellie Y. McKay, eds. The Norton Anthology of African-American Literature. New York W.W. Norton & Company, 1997.

Gorski, Paul C. "Classic African-American Literature." EdChange Multicultural Pavilion. 2008. EdChange. 18 Mar. 2008

Keenan, AM. "African-American Review." African-American Review. 5 Mar. 2008. Saint Louis University. 16 Mar. 2008

Lightfoot, Judy. "Judy Lightfoot PhD - Some Characteristics of African-American Literature." Judy Lightfoot. 18 Mar. 2008

Ramsey, Inez. "African-American Writers Online: E-Texts." African-American Writers Online: E-Texts. Internet School Library Media Center. 17 Mar. 2008

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Title: Technological history of Jazz in Film

  • Total Pages: 5
  • Words: 1575
  • Bibliography:5
  • Citation Style: MLA
  • Document Type: Essay

The Research Paper provides a unique opportunity to pursue in greater depth a pertinent jazz film/media phenomenon that might stem from either your disciplinary or personal interests. For example, if you are a sociology or American Studies or African-African American Studies major, you might want to consider the phenomenon of American ex-patriot jazz musicians (black and white) living and working in postwar Europe as reflected in films such as Paris Blues (1961). If you are political science major, you might consider how “free jazz” became a trope of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. If you are a feminist looking at how women have been either (mis)represented or largely ignored in jazz films, you might want to write on a documentary such as Anita O’Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer (2007). If you are a Midwest regionalist, you might want to consider how the rich Kansas City jazz scene of the 1930s was recalled and reconstructed by Robert Altman in his feature narrative film Kansas City (1996) or in his pseudo-documentary jam session, Robert Altman’s Jazz ’34 (1997). If you are an art major, you might want to investigate the story of A Great Day in Harlem (1995), a fascinating documentary springing from an iconic photo of jazz musicians that appeared in Esquire magazine in 1958. If you are a cultural historian enmeshed with issues pertaining to the collapse of distinctions between “high art” and “commercial/popular art,” you might want to consider the development of funk and fusion as revealed in performance documentaries featuring Blood, Sweat and Tears, Chicago, or the Brecker Brothers Band.

Here, the intention is to provide as much latitude as possible in order for you to pursue your interests as long as they fall within the bounds of a specifically jazz film/media context. Other possible topics, again, given the requirement to focus them through the prism of jazz film/media include:

1. a study of the impact of an economic and/or technological phenomenon, e.g. the film industry’s conversion to sound in the late-1920s/early-1930s, and the impact of that transition on the day’s popular music (i.e., big band jazz) during the period as manifested in, for example, the emergence of jazz/big band/popular music shorts or the inclusion of big bands in Hollywood feature films including backstage musicals, etc.;

2. a critical study of a particular jazz film genre, e.g., the postwar rise of big band leader biopics in the wake of The Fabulous Dorseys (1947); here, you might want to consider more general issues pertaining to the biopic such as historical authenticity vs mythmaking (and, with it, Hollywood’s tacit support or reinforcement of prevailing social-cultural-political values contemporary with the film’s production and release); on the other hand, you might want to focus on a particular issue, e.g., the handling of race and/or gender and “mine” the films from either of those standpoints; from a musical standpoint, you might want to probe the genre’s “construction” of jazz musicians as artists and therefore explore the problems/challenges faced by jazz musicians in arriving at a personal style, balancing the often seemingly contradictory pulls of artistic vs commercial success, and bringing some order to personal lives made abnormal by the rigors of touring, working at night, etc.;

3. a study of a jazz movement or innovation such as a film’s rendering of the large ensemble needs of swing bands vs the individual virtuosic explorations of bebop as embedded in the narrative-dramatic fabrics of such Hollywood jazz films as Bird and New York, New York.

4. a sociological study focused on relationships between jazz and film/media pertaining to such issues as the significance of jazz as a means of African-American artistic expression in a largely white-dominated society and entertainment-arts industry; the intellectualization and popularization of progressive jazz on campus during the 1950s in the work of “modern” groups such as The Dave Brubeck Quartet or The Miles Davis Sextet; the aesthetic, cultural and political implications of the increasing co-mingling of young blacks and whites through the popularization of jazz in the 1940s-1950s (here, one might want to examine the convergence of jazz and the Beats of the 1950s; or, the growing postwar recognition of jazz as one of America’s unique gifts to world culture, including its use as an “official” U.S. cultural ambassador through the tours of jazz legends such as Louis Armstrong; or, the rise of the black avant-garde and its ideological ties to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s);

5. an examination of the use of jazz in background scoring for films, television programs, and, most recently, as a signifier of sophistication in TV commercials plugging upscale products and services; alternatively, you might want to consider the connection of jazz with representations of urban night-life, with its dangerous-exciting after-hours milieus, and its gallery of exotic yet generally damaged “night creatures” whose often sordid lives involve crime, drugs, booze, pathologically violent behaviors, and jazzers (some straight, some hooked) often looking for their muses in all the wrong places (e.g., in the popular TV private-eye series, Peter Gunn, 1958-1961);

6. an examination of the jazz documentary, or the use of jazz in experimental and animation films, or the rise of jazz performance videos, or the emergence of jazz educational and instructional videos ranging from Leonard Bernstein’s “Concerts for Young People” to “how-to” videos featuring jazz pros sharing technical inside information with aspiring players.

7. an examination of jazz as it connects to other art forms such as drama (e.g., Jack Gelber’s play, The Connection), or with painting (e.g., Matisse’s series of prints titled Jazz), or with dance.

Topic and Method:

The Research Paper should be an intensive and formal 1,250 word examination (about 5 pages, exclusive of Notes and Bibliography) of a significant jazz film/media topic supported by evidence drawn from at least five (5) credible sources. Possible subjects appropriate for scholarly treatment are mentioned above (see “Preamble”).

In preparing the Research Paper, your principal research sources will be books, scholarly articles from academic journals, and periodical literature of the day such as magazine and newspaper articles and/or reviews, as well as primary sources including films, videos and recordings. Please keep in mind that you are assembling a carefully organized Research Paper rather than an impressionistic “reaction” to an individual film, TV show, or “tell-all” bio of a Charlie Parker or Billie Holiday. Therefore, work ahead, hit the library with gusto, develop a do-able theme (and statement of purpose), outline your arguments, and deploy your supporting evidence with clarity and logic, and, indeed, imagination and stylistic elan.

The Research Paper should include the following: A. an Introduction in which you briefly but clearly set forth the research problem, i.e., the paper’s basic theme, and the reasons or rationale for undertaking the investigation (what, in other words, is the significance of the topic?), and a brief indication as to the investigative approach (will your methodological framework be mainly historical, critical or theoretical?; will the paper be organized as a technological impact study, an economic study, a genre study, a sociological study, a study of an artistic innovation, or . . . ?); B. the Exposition or body of the paper in which you clearly develop and present your research findings (i.e., the heart of your presentation); and C. a Conclusion in which you summarize your major findings and discuss their implications.

The paper should include appropriate citations of sources used. For style issues pertaining to documenting your citations and sources, please use a recent edition of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. Basic concepts should be presented with clarity and vigor through the use of lucid explanations and detailed examples.

The paper must be computer-generated, double-spaced (with 1-inch left and right margins for comments by the graders) and plainly legible (make sure your printer’s ribbon or ink supply is fresh). The length of paper should be 1,250 words (about 5 pages of text, plus the Title Page, and a separate page for your list of Sources Cited or Bibliography). The Title Page should include your name, KUID#, the title of the course, the course number, the name of the instructor (i.e., Prof. Chuck Berg), the name of your contact-GTA, the date of submission, the designation of the assignment (i.e., RESEARCH PAPER), and the specific title of your paper (be sure to give your paper a title reflecting the nature of the topic covered).

Remember, the paper is your representative. Therefore, use several drafts to refine and tighten your presentation. Be sure to proofread carefully to check the logic and completeness of your explanations and illustrations. Employ a dictionary, a thesaurus, and an established style manual such as a recent edition of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers as your style arbiter.

Warnings: Avoid unsupported generalizations (concretize your general statements and assertions with appropriate supporting arguments and evidence) and rambling (outline your paper so that all parts fit together in a coherently interlocking and logical presentation). Superfluous repetition, along with other mechanical, logical and organizational shortcomings will detract from your goal of communicating precisely and forcefully; they will also detract from your grade. Again, please delimit your topic to a reasonable scope. Save that all-encompassing epic for Simon & Schuster.


I have chosen to research the technical history of sound being integrated into film beginning in the late 1920s and how this occurring parallel to the rise in jazz music, helped the art form bloom into a thriving part of American popular culture. I will first look at the advancement in technology and investment by studios, such as Warner Bros. in sound recording with the Vitaphone and advances to “sound on film”. I will look at the first appearances of Jazz in film beginning with early films in the late 1920s such as The Jazz Singer and into the 30s with The King of Jazz. In bringing together and stressing the fact that both Jazz and the technological advancements of Sound on Film blooming synonymously allowed for Jazz and equally Jazz’s part in motion pictures, to be such the phenomenon and movement it was in American history.

Current sources:

Eyman, Scott (1997). The Speed of Sound: Hollywood and the Talkie Revolution, 1926-1930. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Gabbard, Krin (1996). Jammin' at the Margins: Jazz and the American Cinema. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Crafton, Donald (1999 [1997]). The Talkies: American Cinema's Transition to Sound, 1926-1931. Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press.

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Works Cited

Behlmer, Rudy. "Big Bands in the Movies." Turner Classic Movies. 2009. Retrieved 16 Nov 2009 at

Gridley, Mark C. Jazz Styles: History and Analysis. 9th ed. Prentice Hall. 2006.

History Link, "The Jazz Singer, the First Successful Feature Film with Sound, Debuts in Seattle at the Blue Mouse on December 30, 1927." The Free Online Encyclopedia. Retrieved 15 Nov 2009 at

Schoenherr, Steven E. "Recording Technology History." San Diego University. 2005. Retrieved 16 Nov 2009 at

Yanow, Scott. Jazz on Film: The Complete Story of the Musicians and Music On Screen. Backbeat Books. 2004.

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Title: Please answer question Should disabled veterans preferential treatment qualified candidates disabled veterans EXPECTATIONS Make contrast DVAAP programs involve affirmative action women minorities Be refer logic Affirmative Action arguments laid background information

  • Total Pages: 5
  • Words: 1751
  • Sources:4
  • Citation Style: MLA
  • Document Type: Research Paper
Essay Instructions: Please answer the following question:
Should disabled veterans get preferential treatment over better qualified candidates who are not disabled veterans?
? Make sure to contrast DVAAP to programs that involve affirmative action for women or minorities?
? Be sure to refer to the logic of the Affirmative Action arguments laid out in the background information. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT; show me that you understand the logic of those arguments that are relevant to your answer.
? Be sure to set out the utilitarian and deontological considerations.
Please write a five page paper answering this question.
A Spin on the issue
After listening to my background lectures and reading what I wrote, you were probably thinking that I am going to ask you a question on affirmative action and race or gender. I won't disappoint you. But affirmative action goes beyond that. AA for the disabled is a very interesting issue. Make them veterans and you really have something worth thinking about.
Take a moment and Click Here to check out the Disabled Veterans Affirmative Action Program (DVAAP)
"Most departments and agencies in the Federal government are required to have an affirmative action program for the recruitment, employment, and advancement of disabled veterans. The law requires agencies to develop annual Disabled Veterans Affirmative Action Program (DVAAP) Plans." (site excerpt)
Go to the Proquest Cyberlibrary and read:
Affirmative action requirements
Charles J Muhl. Monthly Labor Review. Washington: Jan 1999. Vol. 122, Iss. 1; p. 48 (2 pages)
Please answer the following question:
Should disabled veterans get preferential treatment over better qualified candidates who are not disabled veterans?
? Make sure to contrast DVAAP to programs that involve affirmative action for women or minorities?
? Be sure to refer to the logic of the Affirmative Action arguments laid out in the background information. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT; show me that you understand the logic of those arguments that are relevant to your answer.
? Be sure to set out the utilitarian and deontological considerations.
Please write a five page paper answering this question.

CLICK HERE for a video on discrimination (real player)
part 1>
part 2
part 3
For a written explanation of the utilitarian and deontological perspectives on Affirmative Action, Click Here.
Required Reading
The following is a listing of sites with detailed information on Affirmative Action. Some sites provide information on the moral issues involved. Others present the legal and historical perspective. Some will link you to corporate and institutional policies.
You are only required to visit the first link and read up on the major topics discussed in my written analysis linked above. At the AAD Project you will find more than enough information. Use the remainder of the links to help direct your research when you need.
Click here. The Affirmative Action and Diversity Project: A Web Page for Research (2007). Retrieved 2009 from
The AAD Project represents a variety of viewpoints. They wisely shy away from the simple minded for and against kind of thinking to expose the various facets of this complicated issue. (and I am not just saying this since it is my alma mater!) Use this page to delve deeper into, definitions, the current state of Affirmative Action, legal rulings, and issues like merit, quotas, and culture.
The American Association for Affirmative Action is the association of professionals managing affirmative action, equal opportunity, diversity and other human resource programs. Click here: The American Association for Affirmative Action (2007). Retrieved 2009 from
The University of Maryland's Diversity Database is a comprehensive index of multicultural and diversity resources. Click here: The University of Maryland's Diversity Database (2007). Retrieved 2009 from had a lot of information on the latest issues.
Modular Learning Objectives
By the end of this module, the student shall be able to satisfy the following outcomes expectations:
? Case
o Discuss the moral nature of discrimination
o Describe affirmative action programs
o Assess the utilitarian considerations of an affirmative action program
o Assess the deontological considerations of an affirmative action program
Ask yourself, is "discrimination" a good sort of thing or a bad sort of thing? I guarantee that 99% of you will say that it is bad. Discrimination, you might say, involves wrongly denying someone a benefit due to prejudice, e.g., race, religion, sexual orientation, etc.,. Well, not quite.
If I said to you that you are a discriminating person, have I just insulted you? I don't think so. To be a discriminating person is a good sort of thing. To discriminate, then, simply means to pick and choose. That is what human beings do! We are discriminators, we select based on discriminating judgment.
Ok Dr. Gold, you say, you are playing games with us. Of course discriminating in general is fine. But discriminating in the business arena (this is a business ethics course after all) is wrong. You should not discriminate in hiring practices. Well, not quite. When hiring one discriminates on the basis of education, job experience, qualifications, and more. A good manager does not simply hire the first person who walks in the door! He or she discriminates (I hope).
Ok Dr. Gold, you say, then it must be wrong to discriminate in the workplace based on certain things. It is wrong, you say, to discriminate based on, for example, religion, in the workplace. One should NEVER let religion come into play when hiring. I suppose. But how about the situation where you are hiring for your Methodist Church. When hiring a new Minister for your Methodist Church it is entirely proper to discriminate based on the religion of the applicant. It would be silly to insist that this Church must interview Catholic Priests.
Here is something we call a BFOQ, or bona fide occupational qualification. In this case, religion is a real qualification for that job. Similarly, one could insist on only interviewing women for a job as head of the women's studies program, or an African American to head the African American studies program. Race, gender and the like can be a qualification. I am certainly not saying that it is always a qualification. Rather, I am making the simple point that it can be. And if it can be acceptable to discriminate on the basis of race etc.,. in a hiring practice then it is not wrong to do so per se.
With this very general introduction to the moral issue of discrimination, we will now move to the substance of the issue, what do we do about it? One approach involves affirmative action, or actively preferring a person(s) from one group over another. In other words, affirmative action involves discrimination for the purposes of changing social inequality. We will be looking at this from a variety of perspectives.

TheUnited States, like most societies, is a society lives with division. While the principles of equality of opportunity are deeply rooted in theAmerican zeitgeist, in reality that is a goal. Apartheid and racialsegregation was something still very recent. The women's movement isbarely a few decades old. Other groups, like gays and lesbians, stillfight for their right to be treated fairly.
Equality is the goal - a goalwe move closer to each day. But there is still much to be done.
Affirmative Action is one wayto get there.
AffirmativeAction involves some sort of preferential treatment. In some way, aparticular disadvantaged group is given some benefit. This can be done intwo ways:
Quotas: Here there is a rulethat at least so many people in a given program will be from a certaingroup. For example, a medical school may require that 3% of all incomingstudents be African American.
Case by Case: Here certaingroup features are factored in to the selection process. There is noparticular number, simply an attempt to consider the group in some specialmanner. For example, a school may try to get a racial and gender balancein the student body by considering race or gender in the selectionprocess. There is no actual number. Simply the goal of seeing somekind of parity.
Obviouslythis kind of approach to workplace diversity has seen its share of controversy(that is why we are talking about it!) Let's list out the deontologicaland utilitarian issues that we will be considering:
Deontological For AffirmativeAction:
? Compensatory Justice: Those discriminated against in the past have a right to be compensated for that past harm. They deserve the job as compensation.
Deontological AgainstAffirmative Action:
? Reverse Discrimination: The white male who is denied the position is discriminated against based on his race/gender.
? Merit: Only the best deserve to get the job, i.e., have the right to the job.
? Quotas: All Affirmative Action involves quotas and quotas are necessarily wrong.
Utilitarian Arguments ForAffirmative Action:
? AA benefits minorities who would otherwise not have the opportunity.
? Helping these individuals will help the disenfranchised communities they come from.
? Diversity: a mix of people in any workplace makes it a stronger place.
? Non-minorities will benefit from cross-cultural exposure.
Utilitarian Arguments AgainstAffirmative Action:
? People will resent minorities who get preferential treatment. This is bad for morale and bad for the individual.
? Unqualified people will get positions they cannot handle. This may even lead to dangerous situations.
Asyour professor it is incumbent upon me to first, present the issue thoroughlyand fairly, second, present engaging assignments that give you the opportunityto think it through yourself, and third give you my assessment of the issue asan experienced philosopher. You do not need to agree with me. Youare graded on how well you answer the questions asked of you. Any side ofany issue can be argued for well, or argued for poorly. That is what Ilook for in grading. Think for yourself. But I cannot ask you tothink for yourself if I do not do the same. So, if you want my take onthese arguments ClickHere.
To my mind, the deontologicalissues on both sides fail.
Compensatory Justice:If Aharms B,then Ashould fairly compensate B. That is the principle of compensatory justice. But when minority person Agets the job instead of white male Bthis does not work. It is often the case that Ahas never suffered discrimination, and it is nearly always the case that Bnever did anything wrong. Compensatory Justice breaks down on theindividual level. As a class phenomenon it makes sense. But whenindividuals are rewarded and punished it fails.
Reverse discrimination:With affirmative action a white male looses the job because of race. Butas we saw above, discrimination based on race is not perse wrong. One can discriminate quite legitimately. I do not have time to defend thepoint, but let me at least say: discrimination is wrong based on thepurposes. When it was the case that no African Americans could work as,say, Doctors, the purpose was to keep African Americans out of positions ofpower; discrimination existed for the purpose of keeping people inbondage. However, with affirmative action the purpose lies breaking thatbondage. I suspect that this will not satisfy many of you. But thatis fine. We have time to make this out, and in the end of the day it doesnot matter if you agree.
Merit:Only the best deserve to get a job. First, merit is largely determined byopportunity. A rich kid, with lots of computers, at great schools, quietcommunity, where he does not need to work will always get better grades and testscores than the poor kid who works 40 hours a week, has pathetic facilities,lives in a dangerous areas, and the like. So merit is largely determined byopportunity. Second, "merit", i.e., what it means to be thebest, is largely determined by people in power. The tests are made up bypeople in power, the criteria are made up by people in power. I could fillyou with examples...and in fact I will...later.
Quotas:First, we saw that affirmative action need not be done by quotas. It canbe done on a case by case basis. Second, quotas are not inherently evil;it depends on the purposes. The argument typically goes: "just likequotas that said only 3% of the student body may be Jewish, quotas which areclearly wrong, quotas that say 3% of the student body must be African Americanare wrong". These are two different types of quotas. Oneis negative or exclusionary, meant to keep certain people out, the otherpositive or inclusionary, meant to insure that some people are allowed in. Neither is necessarily morally wrong. To have an exclusionary quota, nomore than 5% of the student body can come from out of state (a common quota forland grant schools) is perfectly acceptable given their mission for educatingstudents from that state. So quotas are not perse wrong, let alone necessary foraffirmative action.
This should show why I don'tthink much of the deontological arguments on either side.
To my mind, the question isstrictly utilitarian; does affirmative action work? Do you in fact get thegood results you say you will, or do the bad things overwhelm? I supposethat it depends on the program. Let me present an example each way:
I taught at a lovely littleliberal arts college in Minnesota that had its pick of students, since it hadunlimited scholarship money and an amazing reputation. In admissions theywere careful to select a diverse group. Honestly, sometimes it seemed likeNoah's Ark! We had two of everything in every class, every race, region,religion, and a 50/50 gender mix. All the good things that could possiblyhappen from this form of affirmative action did; and none of the bad thingsmanifested.
On the other hand, I workedwith a Sheriff's department in Connecticut that practiced something they call"dumping". They were trying very hard to rapidly hire as manyminorities as they could to make a strict quota. Any time a company hiresmassively and in a rush unqualified people get hired. I knew an officerwho worked in the jail where things got quite dangerous, given the violentoffenders he managed. It happened that a seriously unqualified person washired to work with him, just to fill a quota. The person was physicallyincapable of doing anything to help him when violence broke out (weighing in atan excess of 350 pounds). The officer nearly died in one attack when theother officer could not help. I do not need to explain why, from a utilityperspective, this is bad.
In sum, if you accept myrejection of deontological arguments, an affirmative action program is justifiedwhen it actually works for the greater good.

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reference: The Case against Affirmative Action. Boston: Madison Books. AAD Project.

Disabled Veterans Affirmative Action Program (DVAAP). U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Gold, S. (2010). Gold_Eth501_discrim_pt1.wmv

Henry, W. (1994). In Defense of Elitism. NY: Anchor Books. AAD Project.

Muhl, C.J. (1999) Monthly Labor Review, vol. 122, No. 1.

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