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Letters: Affirmative action, pro and con

August 19, 2012

Re "Affirming affirmative action," Editorial, Aug. 16

Affirmative action was right for the fire departments and military academies that had historically excluded qualified applicants because of their race. Race-based affirmative action policies in the pursuit of diversity and multiculturalism, however, have no place in university admissions. These policies discriminate against white applicants by granting a wholesale preference to all members of a minority group.

A university should be a meritocracy, not a demographic mirror of society. Selections for admission should be based on academic excellence and personal achievements without regard to race, religion or ethnicity.

Stuart Shelby

Santa Monica

Affirmative action travels a glorious path through the West's moral and legal traditions. Aristotle wrote about a "rectifying" justice that addressed previous injustices. If someone stole money, it was not sufficient to say sorry. Rather, he should also return the money or compensate in other fair ways.

The ancient Hebrews applied this principle to groups, and in their Torah gave special consideration to the victimized poor and marginalized. Jesus continued in the same tradition with his famous "last shall be first" moral teaching and in the Beatitudes, mentioning that the poor, hungry and oppressed are especially "blessed."

John Rawls, America's premier moral philosopher, upholds this valuable ethical and legal heirloom by defining justice to include providing special advantages to the disadvantaged. So then, to "affirm affirmative action" is actually to reaffirm an exquisite moral legacy.

Douglas J. Miller

Goleta, Calif.

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