Framed: Affirmative Action

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Affirmative Action

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If you or someone you know is currently using this phrase, please go immediately to Forward Framing for repairs. If you can reframe any of the above yourself, do so!

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The Problem

Affirmative action has come under fire by conservative thinkers, and has shaky support among moderates and independents. These attacks come in several forms.

One is that Affirmative Action is government sanctioned discrimination. This argument seeks to trivialize the impact of racism in American society. If the government has a policy meant to counter the effects of discrimination on minorities, and there is no such discrimination against minorities, then it can be argued that we live in a society where you have more advantages as a minority. While hard to believe or stomach, it is a viewpoint that is growing in popularity.

Two is that Affirmative Action supports quotas. That is, every company or industry must have a certain amount of minorities on its roster. This rhetoric sometimes goes a step further, suggesting that the quotas make race more important than an applicant's qualifications. This is not always explicitly stated. But implicitly, there is a growing belief that affirmative action means our country would rather hire an unqualified minority than have a 'true meritocracy'.

Thirdly is that Affirmative Action is a kind of punishment. That is, it punishes whites for the actions of their ancestors, without respecting the individual in the present. It also ignores the number of whites who were innocent observers before the civil rights movement, let alone emancipation. By shifting the discussion towards punishment, there is no longer a discussion about solving the problem, which is discrimination against minorities in the work force and school system.

The final myth gaining support is that Affirmative Action actually discourages minorities from performing. This is because a minority will not gain the satisfaction and self-esteem of reaching a job on their own merits, but because there is an unequal playing field. These attacks implicitly suggest that without affirmative action, there would actually be a level playing field.

By focusing their attacks on affirmative action, conservatives are able to implicitly attack minorities and shield themselves from being considered racist. If eliminating affirmative action does level the playing field, then the inequities in society must be explained by race and culture. This idea gains popularity every time someone cites a "model minority", such as Asians or Jews. That is, genetically or culturally some groups are more or less intelligent or hard working, and the lower achievements of certain groups have nothing to do with historical or current discrimination.

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Realigning the Frame

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What Progressives Value and Want

Fairness. The standards of conduct should work for all people. Neither males nor females should get preferential treatment by governments or institutions open to the public. Sustainability. Our beliefs and values about sex must be sustainable in the modern world. Consistency. The rules should be internally consistent so that they work regardless of the situation. This implies flexibility that takes into account real-life situations.

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Responses

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Counter—Phrases To Use in Place of the Banished Terms

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Potential Ads

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Other Resources to Draw On

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Notes

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