Editorial: Should Historic Injustices Influence Current Policy?

Mazin Chater, Staff Writer

*The views and opinions expressed in the following piece are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of The Nest or Albany High School.*

One of the most prevalent yet obscure controversies encompassing nearly every American’s life and perhaps the main dichotomy between the political left and right, is an ideological philosophy that argues the imposition of legislative “balancing mechanisms” as a form of reparation for historical injustices perpetrated against a multitude of minorities. The categorization of a debate of this scale is certainly challenging to say the least. “Ethical dilemma”, “principled divide”, “intellectual dispute” – all of these seem particularly fitting, but alone, not one truly describes the nature of the discussion.

Despite the identifying terminology, its complexity and influence on the political realm is truly astounding. Nearly all social policies enacted within the last several decades have been influenced by both the liberal and conservative view on the solution to this matter. Grasping both sides of the debate is necessary in determining which side, if any, is more compelling.

To genuinely examine this concept, there must be a search for honest proponents of their political belief – that is, people and/or groups who fight assertively for the sake of their political ideology, and not for secondary motivators such as wealth or attention. Essentially, the desired outcome would be a proportional debate that would ultimately allow for stronger reasoning to come forward.

In an abstract sense, the liberal disposition towards historical injustice is compassion; in other words, if a distinct force held back a certain group of people, the same magnitude of force would be applied in an opposing fashion, propelling them forward. A policy such as affirmative action would thus be supported by these ideologues, which in their view promotes diversity and eliminates socioeconomic barriers to success. The Young Turks, a popular online channel in favor of these characteristics, argued that affirmative action was “absolutely necessary at a time when there was no way for African Americans to break into… the roles that were handed down through the generations.”

Although a captivating contention, there are common counterarguments presented that must be considered.  Isn’t there a reasonable probability that some are left out? To what extent is the magnitude of historical injustice measured? At what expense are others weakened by such policy?

The dilemma continues further past those critiques when examining the other side of the political aisle. Those with a conservative bent not only have similar objections, but fundamentally reject the liberal notion almost entirely. Instead of granting opportunities in favor of minorities who faced historical drawbacks, a present-day balance would be sought, thus preventing future injustice and unfair boundaries towards success. Conservative social theorist Thomas Sowell sums up this view with this assessment: “Civil rights used to be about treating everyone the same. But today some people are so used to special treatment that equal treatment is considered to be discrimination.”

Inherently a more apathetic perspective, there is convincing speculation towards the practicality of the approach in American society and more specifically, in individuals who legitimately suffered as a result of inevitable adversity. What could’ve been achieved from the prospective potential of those who hypothetically never received aid despite their dire circumstances? How many generations would effectively suffer before an almost ideal balance was attained? These are just some objections to the conservative approach.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much of a conspicuous resolution in either political party’s rationale; both are comprised of serious flaws, yet both have a level of respective truth. Perhaps the preferable path should be somewhere down the middle: historic misfortune could be alleviated with some measure of contemporary assistance, while simultaneously ensuring that other members of society aren’t deprived of equal opportunities. Alternatively, you could side solely with either party policy, bearing in mind that they each have their own notable flaws which must be accounted for.

Despite the distinction between both positions, extent continues to be the massive center of conversation. How much or how little should deprived people be assisted? As long as the debate continues, the tug-of-war competition for better policy will follow.