Alex M. Johnson, Jr.

Defending the Use of Quotas in Affirmative Action: Attacking Racism in the Nineties

University of Illinois Law Review


In this article I take the controversial position that the implementation of mandatory quotas or strict numerical goals in the admission process for colleges and professional schools is a necessary remedial tool given the invidious nature of discrimination and the manipulation of the concept of "merit" in our society to maintain the favored position of the dominant group (white males) in our society. In other words, building upon other philosophical work in this area, including my own, I make certain key assumptions that ultimately justify the use of quotas in the admission process. I assume that certain first-order principles such as antidiscrimination and the presumption of individual equality irrespective of race and gender are beyond cavil. More specifically, I reject the concept that certain groups are biologically inferior or superior based on race or other ethnic classifications in favor of the postulate of equality irrespective of race.

Working from the first-order principle that all people are inherently, randomly equal when it comes to the distribution of intelligence across racial and ethnic lines, the logical question is why blacks and others historically discriminated against are underrepresented in certain prestigious positions but overrepresented in negative categories or positions. In the absence of racism and its effects, both past and present, our society presumably would produce a percentage of minority students matriculating at American colleges and professional schools (the focus here will be on law schools although the analysis applies with equal force to medical schools and other graduate professional schools) proportional to the percentage of minorities in American society.


Alex M. Johnson Jr., Defending the Use of Quotas in Affirmative Action: Attacking Racism in the Nineties, 1992 University of Illinois Law Review 1043-1073 (1992).

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