The Errs Of Dworkin

For many years, preferential treatment has been used to try to make up for
past wrong-doings to minorities. There have been many cases tried over
racial discrimination, with verdicts of both innocent and guilty. Ronald
Dworkin attempts to argue that preferential treatment is socially useful
and at the same time does not violate people’s rights. This is wrong for
many reasons; here I shall illustrate how preferential treatment hinders
racial equality, violates people’s rights, and can lead to a lower opinion
toward a particular race.

Dworkin believes that continuing preferential treatment will decrease
racial consciousness and the importance of race. This is the total
opposite of what truly happens. If a person were to consider America’s
past, as an example, he would see how racially diverse people were. Now
look around. Just walking across any given area, groups of people of the
same race are seen walking together. Most people do not notice this, but
very rarely are groups of ethnically diverse people seen. Although there
are no longer any laws stating that there must be a separation between
different races, people still practice it unconsciously. Dworkin states
that the long-term goal of preferential treatment “is to reduce the degree
to which American society is overall a racially conscious society (294).”
Preferential treatment does nothing of the sort. It was used widely in the
past and still exists in some areas today. It has not reduced racial
consciousness, but increased it by making people think more about how many
spaces are reserved for their particular race. Instead, people should
think of what their chances are of getting something on account of their
personal knowledge over someone elses, not even considering their race as
a factor. This is evident in a black’s point of view of getting into the
medical school of the University of California at Davis. Sixteen places
are set aside just for blacks and other minorities, no matter how low their
test scores are. That way, minorities don’t even have to worry about
competing with whites for a position. This does not, in any way, reduce
racial consciousness by setting two tracks for admission to medical school,
one for the minorities, and one for the majority.

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Mr. Dworkin supports the idea that preferential treatment does not violate
people’s rights. His argument is weak here because he attempts to prove
this by saying that if two things do not violate peoples rights, then
neither does a third. The two things that supposedly do not violate rights
are the denial of someone to medical school because of their age and
because their test scores are just below the cutoff line of admission. He
then assumes that because these two do not violate rights, then neither
does denying an applicant because he will not reduce racial consciousness
as much as an individual of another race would. By taking this argument
apart piece by piece, it is evident that all three parts of his argument
violate rights.

Preferential treatment violates a person’s right to be “judged on merit and
merit alone(299).” Dworkin says that another definition for merit is
qualification, and for some jobs, race can be a qualification. Given a
specific job, certain human characteristics are more desirable than others.

People with these preferred characteristics are more likely to get this
job. For example, a desirable quality for a surgeon is steady hands;
therefore, a person with steady hands is more likely to get this position
than a person with shaky hands. Using race in a similar example,
preferential treatment would be just if there were a job where one race is
more qualified than another. The problem with this is that there are no
such jobs. Dworkin says that denying a person admission because of his age
does not violate that persons rights, but then, is the individual being
judged on his merit and merit alone? No. It is therefore wrong to
discriminate against someone because of their age because it violates his

A second objection to Dworkin’s belief that preferential treatment does
not violate people’s rights is that people have the right to be judged as
an individual. Preferential treatment supports grouping people together
according to race and then judging them as a whole. Dworkin agrees with
Colvin when he says that people have the right not to be disadvantaged
because of one’s race alone. Many colleges set cutoff limits to the
applicants scores that they admit. Some applicants that barely fall below
the line have much more dedication and enthusiasm than those above the
line, and would make better students by these attributes. Unfortunately,
these students are not even considered because they are not looked at as an
individual, but judged solely by their scores. Now imagine a situation
similar to this where race is the determinant of whether a person is
accepted or not. If a person were to be turned down from a college because
of his skin color before he was given a chance to be interviewed, the
college may loose a very smart student. Skin color should not be used to
group people because within one skin color, many different kinds of people
can be grouped together. A possible alternative to this approach is
similar to it, but with one slight changecreate a range around the cutoff
line where the students are considered on an individual basis. Those
inside this zone with admirable qualities are accepted and those without
are rejected.
The third objection that preferential treatment does not violate people’s
rights is that a person has the right not to be excluded, disadvantaged, or
denied some good because of race alone. In Bakkis case, Dworkin agrees
that he would have been accepted had he been a minority, but says that he
was not disadvantaged because of his race. He says that Bakki would also
have been accepted had he gotten better test scores or had been younger, so
his color is not the only thing that kept him from being accepted. Here,
Dworkin is comparing apples and oranges. A persons color is no
determinant of whether he should be suitable for a job, and neither should
his age (although I will not discuss this here). His knowledge is what is
important. A doctor should not be turned away because of his race or
because he may be a few years older than another, but he may very well be
turned away because he is not performing his job to the necessary degree
because he lacks the needed knowledge. A persons color or age has nothing
to do with his intelligence. This is yet another weak argument given by

One more disadvantage to preferential treatment is how people feel when
they work with people who have been helped by preferential treatment. If a
black man were to apply to medical school and be accepted only because of
his skin color, what kind of business would he run if he were to make it
out of medical school for the same reasons? There would be a great
disadvantage to giving him a little extra leeway because of his race.

During college, he might not try as hard on his studies because he knows he
will make it by and therefore not gain all the necessary information to be
a good doctor. Then, after he graduates and works with other doctors, he
may not only give his race a bad name by not knowing what he should have
learned in college, but he may also lose patients from being misdiagnosed.

It is clear that giving racial preferences can lead to great problems in
the future, and should therefore not be used.

Many people have explained both advantages and disadvantages to
preferential treatment since the racial injustice campaign began in 1954.

One of whom is Ronald Dworkin, who spoke on the side for preferential
treatment. He argued that while decreasing racial consciousness, it does
not violate anyones rights. When trying to prove his side, he uses
examples that are uncharacteristic to racial preferences such as race being
a qualification for a job. Although Dworkin argues his point well, he uses
examples that just do not back up his beliefs as well as they should and do
not draw a distinct line of why preferential treatment should be used.

Category: Philosophy