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Affirmative Action Essay: Quotas for White Players in the NBA?

Is Affirmative Action Analogous to Setting Quotas for White Players in the NBA?

The NBA analogy doesn’t even apply because that is not how affirmative action even works. All affirmative action recipients must be qualified for their jobs. Besides, the fact that blacks overcome their social disadvantages to dominate in the NBA is no justification for keeping them disadvantaged. The argument that it’s wrong to give whites an even greater advantage to make up for their lack of merit is irrelevant. If blacks got an equal start in life, they might even dominate the NBA more than they do now. The fact that they don’t is a further injustice to their merit.

This is a prize piece of rhetoric among anti-affirmative critics. Teams in the National Basketball Association select their players based on merit. For some reason, blacks have come to represent the vast majority of players in the NBA, even though they form only 12 percent of the U.S. population. If we were to impose racial quotas on the NBA to make the teams resemble a cross-section of society, we would be throwing more talented black players off the teams and replacing them with less talented white players. Obviously, that would be an injustice.

However, this example is a parody of affirmative action, and is so wrong as to be irrelevant.

If affirmative action were truly applied to the NBA, then a study would be done to determine the percentage of qualified players from each race. Although 75 percent of the male population is white, and 12 percent black, the study would probably find that 90 percent of the qualified players are black, and only 10 percent white. It would then set an affirmative action goal of 90 percent black and 10 percent white players, and ask the team-owners to conduct a good-faith effort to meet these goals. Penalties would be incurred only if a racist team insisted on 100 percent black players, and a blatant case of discrimination could be proven.

We could quit here, but it is also worthwhile to address the point that critics of affirmative action thought they were making with this example. And that is that it’s wrong to deny top jobs to the most qualified in the name of racial fairness.

However, the NBA example fails to make even this point. To see why, imagine that you have been asked to preside as a judge at a track-and-field event.

Affirmative Action Helps Qualified Minorities

Affirmative Action Helps Qualified Minorities

Affirmative action doesn’t require a company to hire the local percentage of women and minorities, qualified or not. The program determines the percentage of qualified women and minorities available to a company, then sets flexible goals, to be reached in good faith. As a result, numerous studies show that minorities who land their jobs through affirmative action are not less qualified than their colleagues.

Critics of affirmative action often evoke images of qualified white males being denied jobs so that lesser qualified women and minorities might have them, all in the name of racial and gender fairness. But this is one of the worst myths about affirmative action.

Affirmative action works by determining what percentage of qualified women and minorities are available to a company, and then setting a goal for hiring that percentage. For example, suppose a minority makes up 30 percent of the local population, but only 15 percent are qualified for the company’s jobs. The goal for the company is 15 percent, not 30 percent. A…

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