Linda Villarosa addresses the issue of affirmative action, discrimination, and the role of the Supreme Court in promoting equality. The point of the article is that the Supreme Court generally discriminates against minority groups in their rulings. In order to substantiate this opinion, the author cites several cases where this has occurred. One example is Brenda Patterson, a 43-year-old bank teller, whose supervisor publicly criticized her performance and blatantly stated that Blacks work more slowly that Whites. Eventually, after more discrimination, Brenda lost her job. When however taking her case to the Supreme Court, the ruling was that the law, despite affirmative action, did not provide her with much protection. Furthermore, it is the responsibility of the complainant to as it were provide sufficient evidence of discrimination before being heard.
Ms. Villarosa also cites the case of Wards Cove Packing v. Antonio in this regard. Here discrimination was claimed by native Alaskan and Filipino workers, who were forced to do difficult, low-wage jobs as opposed to their White counterparts. The Court once again found that first-person accounts and statistics were "not sufficient" as evidence.
After these two citations, the author explains the concept of affirmative action and the purpose of its creation. The concept has been the subject of much debate, with idealists feeling that it is the ideal way to redress inequalities and injustices of the past. Opponents on the other hand feel that affirmative action will result in dependence rather than self-sufficiency, and also reverse discrimination.
In this regard, Ms. Villarosa cites the prominent case of Allan Bakke, a white male student who sued a medical college. His claim was that his continued failure to be allowed into their study program was the result of racial quotas and concomitant unfair discrimination. The idea behind this is that, in order to fill racial quotas, colleges and employers are forced to consider skin color rather than qualification in determining the success of their applicants. After a long struggle, Bakke won his case in 1978. The Reagan administration brought an end to the use of quotas and numerical goals in the application process in the workplace and colleges. Ms. Villarosa bemoans this as a danger to the equality cultivated by affirmative action.
Ms. Villarosa ends the article with three short sections to substantiate the benefits of affirmative action. The first is the story of Tracy Juzang, whose success as senior financial analyst at Pizza Hut she ascribes to affirmative action practices. Secondly, she quotes two opposing expert opinions regarding the success of affirmative action.
The first being that, as discrimination is no longer a large part of the American culture, affirmative action's only current use is as a crutch for minority groups. The second opinion states that affirmative action is one of the most important tools in the evolution of equality for the United States. Finally, the article ends with statistics demonstrating the rise of Black representation in certain job sectors from 1972 to 1989.
Analysis both agree and disagree with the author. I agree in terms of affirmative action being a very important tool in the evolution of equality in the United States. Without it, the workplace today would still be dominated by a single sector of society. Because of affirmative action, as the author states, the workplace now benefits from the diversity of talent within the country. This provides an increase in quality and tolerance throughout the country. Obviously, the court cases she mentions are hard to disagree with. The decisions made by the court in the first two cited cases are discriminatory and unfair. Furthermore, it makes little sense that the law, including affirmative action as one of its aspects, does not provide protection to the very people it seeks to uplift.
On the other hand, she does not mention statistically whether there have been other similar cases that were successful in their attempts at law suits. The citation of the Bakke case is positioned in a way that appears to suggest that Ms. Villarosa does not agree with its outcome. While she does admit that it was a long and hard struggle, she nevertheless seems to juxtapose this case with the other two, where the outcome was not favorable for the minority group complainants. I do not agree with her bias in this regard. Furthermore, she seems to dismiss entirely the opposing point-of-view that affirmative action could have negative consequences. Nonetheless, she does provide the reader with a thorough explanation of this view.
In terms of unanswered questions, the article seems to end a little abruptly. While it begins with the role of the Supreme Court, as suggested by the title, the author does not return to the issue in her conclusion. Instead, she appears to have become so enthusiastic about affirmative action and its benefits, that she has forgotten the problems created by the Supreme Court. I would therefore have returned to the Court issue, perhaps making suggestions for how such cases could be handled in a better way, or emphasizing the flaws in the system and calling for change. Instead, the author seems to defeat her own purpose in providing statistical evidence of how successful affirmative action has been.
As mentioned above, I do not believe that the article presents the issue in a fair or unbiased manner. Indeed, Ms. Villarosa provides not statistics as evidence that the Supreme Court is indeed as discriminatory as she suggests. Her bias towards the benefits of affirmative action is furthermore shown in her extreme and emotional opposition to the removal of quotas. She does however admit that the problem of reverse discrimination has been an issue, but appears to suggest that any drawbacks pale in comparison to the benefits of the issue.
In her article, "Assisted suicide gets a boost," Linda Greenhouse reports on the Supreme Court decision to remove John Ashcroft's block against the Oregon Death with Dignity Act. This is the result of dissent from the new chief justice, John G. Roberts. The majority opinion in the decision was supported by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. The basis of the dissent is the fact that, according to the standard principles of the law, decisions regarding medical practices are the responsibility of individual states, and not the Government.
The case during which the Death with Dignity Act was reinforced in Oregon is Washington v. Glucksberg during 1997. During this case it was decided that, while the Constitution does not provide for assisted suicide, states were free to make their own decisions regarding the issue. According to this principle, the Act was approved in Oregon during 1994 and reaffirmed in 1997.
According to Greenhouse, however, Ashcroft and several members of the Missouri Congress disagreed with the decision. As such, an appeal was made to President Clinton to block the law. This appeal was however denied on the principle mentioned above; medical decisions are the domain of individual states.
Ashcroft however took matters into his own hands and threatened physicians with the loss of their license to prescribe controlled substances if they assisted patients with suicide. As authority for this decision, John Ashcroft invoked the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, citing that suicide is not a legitimate purpose for providing drugs. In the recent Gonzales v. Oregon, Ashcroft's unilateral decision in this regard is criticized and overturned by the majority, in what Greenhouse terms the removal of a "major obstacle."
In opposition to the majority, the author cites Justice Antonin Scalia's support for Ashcroft on the grounds that the decision to legalize assisted suicide rests not on scientific fact, but on value judgments and ethics. These, he argues, are the domain of the Government that should unify the entire nation in its decision making.
Regardless, the majority decision was upheld on the grounds of the basic principle that medical issues and decisions rest with states. The author states that a further difficulty with Ashcroft's decision is that he claimed extraordinary authority to criminalize an action that has not been declared criminal by Congress. It is therefore not legally enforceable.
Ms. Greenhouse finishes her article with a quote by Scott McClellan, the White House Press Secretary, who bemoans the result of the case. He states that the Government promotes a "culture of life," which the Supreme Court decision supposedly does not support.
Analysis agree with the outcome of the case. Attorney General John Ashcroft has been the focus of major controversy, especially since 9/11. It does not in the least surprise me that he would use any possible means to overturn decisions that are not his domain, simply because he does not agree with them. In terms of political freedom from oppression and democracy, I believe that the Court has made the correct decision. I also believe that the decision was the correct one in terms of human rights. The Act is aptly named: Death with Dignity. Every person has the right to leave this life with as much dignity as possible. A life filled with pain and misery,…