I'm not going to vote in the poll, because I don't think the issue is that simple. Honestly, it is a problem for society that certain groups are underrepresented in positions of power, be it boards of directors, government, the judiciary, etc. It's probably good policy to try and mitigate this imbalance in some way or another. That being said, simple quotas rarely address the actual issue, and simply give advantages to privileged members within larger groups that have historically been discriminated against and/or create resentment among other groups.
Is being born into a rich family "positive discrimination"?
Being born into a rich family doesn't give you advantage in Finland like it does in USA, so I couldn't tell. In Finland everyone has about the same kind of tools to work with, everyone gets education for free from elementary to university.
We built the society and norms. Certain groups are underrepresented. It doesn't vanish over night but we have to work on it. I'm not so sure if quotas are the way to change a mindset. But it's better than nothing.
We have enshrined affirmative action (aka positive discrimination) in our Constitution and we promote employment equity. We chose to not follow the US approach.
The idea is to remedy historical imbalances - it is a restorative approach.
Per the Charter of Rights and Freedoms:
Equality before and under law and equal protection and benefit of law
15. (1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.
Affirmative action programs
(2) Subsection (1) does not preclude any law, program or activity that has as its object the amelioration of conditions of disadvantaged individuals or groups including those that are disadvantaged because of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.
Per the federal Employment Equity Act:
PURPOSE OF ACT
Purpose of Act
2. The purpose of this Act is to achieve equality in the workplace so that no person shall be denied employment opportunities or benefits for reasons unrelated to ability and, in the fulfilment of that goal, to correct the conditions of disadvantage in employment experienced by women, aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities and members of visible minorities by giving effect to the principle that employment equity means more than treating persons in the same way but also requires special measures and the accommodation of differences.
In 1983 the federal government established the Royal Commission on Equality in Employment, headed by Judge Rosalie Abella. The Commission, which released its report in 1984, recognized that the demographic, social and economic patterns of Canadian society were changing and women and minorities would form increasingly large segments of the labour force in Canada’s future.
The Abella Commission Report documented the practices Canadians have adopted that have negative effects on certain groups in society. The Report used the term systemic discrimination to refer to the unintentional barriers that screen out women, visible minorities, persons with disabilities and Aboriginal people from jobs they may be qualified to do. Systemic discrimination in the labour market produces high unemployment rates, lower than average salaries, and concentrations in low-status jobs for these groups of people. Clearly, systemic discrimination calls for systemic remedies that address the barriers that limit the full participation of these groups in productive work.
In addition to the term systemic discrimination, the Commission used employment equity and equality in particular ways. The Abella Report refers to equality as both equal and different treatment in order to achieve fairness; that is, treating people the same, in spite of their differences, as well as treating people as equals by accommodating their differences. The Commission coined the term employment equity to describe employment practices which eliminate discrimination and thereby provide equitable opportunities in employment.
In recent years, the concept of employment equity has evolved. The original goal of employment equity was to identify and remove barriers to equitable opportunities. That remains an important goal; however, employment equity is also valued as a means to enhance diversity. Removing barriers leads to greater diversity within an organization, which in turn can bring new perspectives and innovation. It is also recognized that the four groups designated in the Employment Equity Act are not the only groups who face discriminatory barriers resulting from historical disadvantage and who could, therefore, benefit from employment equity practices.
By promoting discrimination today? Every person should be treated as equal and as individuals rather than groups as per s.15(2).
Certainly. But in reality, merit seldom acts as the final arbiter in regards to educational and vocational opportunities (unless you think Dubya earned his way into Yale).
The reality is that racism and sexism exist in the real, everyday world. To counteract this easily provable fact with idealistic arguments about how the world "should" be simply ignores the problem while perpetuating the mystification ("everybody is equal", etc).
Trust me, the "Dream" speech was the last thing Dr. King had on his mind -- while in Memphis, speaking to and on behalf of striking sanitation workers in his "I've been to the Mountaintop" speech -- when the government put a bullet in his head.
I get the basic "no discrimination is good discrimination" premise, I just wonder what the best way to combat systemic racism and sexism's effect on society?
When I think about it I struggle to come up with an idea that is a more direct way affect the problem than affirmative action.
I'm not well-read on the matter, but I'm not quick to just dismiss it because of it's face value.
I think a healthy infusion of capital into depressed areas (infrastructure, schools, clinics, roads, parks, recreation centers, etc) is a start.
I think going after the predatory scum who decimated large swathes of minority districts and wiping out decades of accumulated wealth via deceptive and unrealistic loan terms is a good place to start.
I think attempting to restore some of that stolen equity is a start.
The truth is, affirmative action is ultimately an ineffectual program because it attempts to deal with the real problem of institutional racism and sexism by treating the symptoms (getting into college, career advancement) rather than the disease (wealth controlled by white men). To tackle any disease, you need a skilled doctor. Alas, they killed one of the best:
And another reason that I'm happy to live in this period is that we have been forced to a point where we are going to have to grapple with the problems that men have been trying to grapple with through history, but the demands didn't force them to do it. Survival demands that we grapple with them. Men, for years now, have been talking about war and peace. But now, no longer can they just talk about it. It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence in this world; it's nonviolence or nonexistence. That is where we are today.
And also in the human rights revolution, if something isn't done, and done in a hurry, to bring the colored peoples of the world out of their long years of poverty, their long years of hurt and neglect, the whole world is doomed......