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Two Views of Affirmative Action Essay

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Two Views of Affirmative Action


"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…." Even before it became a nation, America was heralded as a land of equality. Thomas Jefferson's statement begs more than a few questions, one of which is: "How can we ensure equality to everyone?" Beginning in the late 1960s, the federal government provided an answer to this question in the form of affirmative action. In recent years, many people have called this policy into question. Interestingly, affirmative action is sometimes attacked by the people it helps, and defended by those it hurts. In particular, two recent essays demonstrate that people's race does not necessarily determine their beliefs on the issue of affirmative action. "Why I Believe in Affirmative Action" is by Paul R. Spickard, a white man who is defending affirmative action, while "A Negative Vote on Affirmative Action" is by Shelby Steele, an African-American who is attacking the program. When the two essays are considered as responses to each other, Steele's logical explanations of the effects and implications of affirmative action expose the flaws in Spickard's ethical arguments supporting it.

Both authors structure their arguments to appeal to their respective audiences. Since Spickard's essay is written for Christianity Today, he makes a lot of ethical appeals that a Christian audience could easily relate to. Steele, on the other hand, is writing for The New York Times Magazine, so he relies on logic that would appeal to a more general audience. Spickard begins his ethical appeal by establishing his credibility through focusing on his support of affirmative action even though he has been denied employment because of the program. He says, "I a...


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...demonstrating the absurdity of trying to make up for what our ancestors did. According to Steele, these attempts to pay for the wrongs of our ancestors grow out of a need "to impose on the world a degree of justice that simply does not exist." In other words, affirmative action seeks to correct wrongs that cannot be corrected because the people who were involved are no longer living.

When Spickard's essay is examined alone, its arguments are quite convincing. However, Steele's essay effectively addresses the arguments of his opposition. As a result, his essay becomes much more effective than Spickard's, because he is able to point out all of the faults in Spickard's arguments. When these essays are read together and compared to each other, Steele's logic is much more convincing than Spickard's moral appeal, and exposes the flaws in the affirmative action program.


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