Positive discrimination is still discrimination. I want to succeed on my own merit



Positive discrimination is still discrimination. This would seem to be self-evident. If you choose to discriminate in favour of one person or group because of their unalterable characteristics like their gender, race or sexuality, then you are still discriminating. Period. Proponents of such activity – “affirmative action”, they sometimes call it – like to tell us it is fair. That it is correcting the mistakes of the past. That it is “levelling the playing” field.

But is it fair? Can it ever be fair to create explicit policies which favour one group over the other? Are its proponents trying to remedy a genuine problem? And is their solution – creating a remedy to a supposed structural or institutional bias against one group by introducing it towards another – the best one?

There are many issues with positive discrimination. Perhaps most importantly, it is impossible to positively discriminate in favour of one person without negatively discriminating against someone else. A university, company, or organisation cannot positively discriminate in favour of women without inadvertently discriminating against men. This is sexism. Sexism wrapped in good intentions, maybe – sexism with a smile – but sexism nonetheless.

Similarly, it’s not possible to favour black people (or any other ethnic minority) for a position without discriminating against white people. This is racism.

It’s a simple concept that many struggle to grasp, largely because “diversity” has become such a popular buzzword in recent years. People have become ideologically blinded to what it really means, how to achieve it – and even if it’s a goal worth pursuing at all.

Support for positive discrimination lies in a belief that racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of bigotry are so pervasive and embedded in the general psyche, that the only way to ‘help’ people is to enact policies that amount to social engineering.

I disagree.

Firstly, I do not accept that we currently live in a bigoted, intolerant society that does not afford equality of opportunity to men and women of all different skin colours and orientations.

Secondly, I believe that the popular understanding of ‘diversity’ is deeply flawed. Who decided that race, sex and sexuality are the most important factors? What about height, attractiveness, hair and eye colour? Even more importantly, what about diversity of opinion? If everybody looks different but thinks the same way, then I’d argue that is not true diversity.

Thirdly, I support meritocracy for both ideological and practical reasons. If I’m looking to hire a surgeon, doctor, teacher, engineer, or mechanic, then I want the best person for the job. Their skin colour, sex and who they are attracted to is totally irrelevant. Seeking out the very best people naturally creates a degree of diversity, because talent comes in all forms.

A blind push for diversity leads to genuine bigotry. Whether it’s charging different prices for music festival tickets based on race (as recently occurred in Detroit), straight white men being discriminated against for public sector jobs, or universities racially discriminating against Asian students. This is not ‘progress’.

All people should be viewed as individuals – with individual agency, treated with dignity – not merely as representatives of their ‘group’. By focusing on the individual, the essence of the human being – their character; their words and deeds and actions – all forms of prejudice and bigotry are instantly removed.

The best way to address real or perceived discrimination is not through active discrimination but through true equality of opportunity. Equality of outcome is a terrible, ignoble goal that flies in the face of freedom, human nature and fairness.

The sooner we can accept this, the sooner we can create a truly free – and truly fair – society.

Zuby Udezue is a rapper, podcaster, author and coach. Follow him on twitter: @ZubyMusic