Liberal democracies continue to advocate equality. Yet, minority groups still have difficulties getting accepted to the positions they apply for. Whether it is for a job or a spot in university, minority admissions are substantially lower than their counterparts. In an increasingly competitive job market, with employers expecting more and more from their applicants, how do we justify minority privilege? Excuse the oxymoron.
What I mean to say is: how does one justify rendering the positions of otherwise more experienced or skillful applicants for the sake of diversity? Should a minority applicant be able to snatch the position from a better qualified white male? Some would argue yes. This process is otherwise referred to as affirmative action.
Affirmative action aims to make up for years of mistreatment, by granting minorities positions, regardless of whether they are less qualified than their privileged rivals. Others believe in a system of meritocracy. Meritocracy aims to grant positions to those who are the most qualified for the job. Since merit has no race, gender, etc., meritocracy supporters often argue that this system is best aligned with liberal notions of equality. I would like to question both of these systems and offer what I believe to be a fair solution.
To describe what I believe is a great example of meritocracy, I would like to cite none other than our very own McMaster University’s Admissions Policy. At McMaster, the Office of the Registrar receives nothing other than a student’s grades upon deciding admission. In fact, each student is reviewed under complete anonymity. The applicants’ names are not disclosed. Instead, applicants are allocated a number. This erases the aspects of an applicant’s identity that could potentially provide grounds for discrimination; mainly, their gender and ethnicity.
This policy allows for merit to be the sole factor in dictating acceptance. While this meritocratic policy is commendable, it overlooks a key flaw. This flaw is visible in most meritocratic processes.
Our current system of meritocracy, whether it goes so far as to include anonymity or not, fails to account for the ongoing obstacles that face minorities. Consider the following; if two students are applying to McMaster, one of which is privileged, the other is a Native minority. How exactly is the minority student supposed to achieve competitive grades if their parents were incapable of helping out with homework? This unique disadvantage would affect the child’s opportunity to do well in school and earn comparable grades.
In the work field, how exactly does an immigrant minority compete with the merit of their privileged competitors if their family did not have the financial means to enroll them in college?
My point is this: meritocracy fails to sustain equal opportunity when there does not exist the equal opportunity to earn merit.
With this in mind, I hope to actualize the goal of affirmative action, through the means of a reformed meritocracy. By establishing the means for underprivileged minorities to earn the same merit as their privileged counterparts, meritocracy can work to sustain equality and diversity. This is particularly the case when anonymity is used in the application process. Instead of granting acceptance to less qualified individuals, for the sake of diversity and rewriting past wrongs, may the best applicant win.
After all, what need is there for a gravy train if everyone has access to the ingredients?