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24 UCLA L. Rev. 581 (1976-1977)
Racism, Sexism, and Preferential Treatment: An Approach to the Topics

handle is hein.journals/uclalr24 and id is 595 raw text is: RACISM, SEXISM, AND PREFERENTIAL
Richard A. Wasserstrom*
Racism and sexism are two central issues that engage the at-
tention of many persons living within the United States today.
But while there is relatively little disagreement about their import-
ance as topics, there is substantial, vehement, and apparently in-
tractable disagreement about what individuals, practices, ideas,
and institutions are either racist or sexist-and for what reasons.
In dispute are a number of related questions concerning how in-
dividuals and institutions ought to regard and respond to matters
relating to race or sex.
One particularly contemporary example concerns those pro-
grams variously called programs of affirmative action, prefer-
ential treatment, or reverse discrimination that are a feature
of much of our institutional life. Attitudes and beliefs about these
programs are diverse. Some persons are convinced that all such
programs in virtually all of their forms are themselves racist and
sexist and are for these among other reasons indefensible.' The
* Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy, University of California,
Los Angeles. Copyright @ 1977 by Richard A. Wasserstrom.
I Such a view appears to be held in, e.g., Brief for the Anti-Defamation
League of the B'nai B'rith as Amicus Curiae on Appeal, DeFunis v. Odegaard,
416 U.S. 312 (1974): Discrimination on the basis of race is illegal, immoral,
unconstitutional, and inherently wrong. Id. at 16-17; Mr. Justice Douglas'
dissent in DeFunis, supra: There is no superior person by constitutional stand-
ards. A DeFunis who is white is entitled to no advantage by reason of that
fact; nor is he subject to any disability, no matter what his race or color. What-
ever his race, he has a constitutional right to have his application considered on
its individual merits in a racially neutral manner, id. at 337; Anderson v. San
Francisco Unified School Dist., 357 F. Supp. 248 (N.D. Cal. 1972): Preferential
treatment under the guise of 'affirmative action' is the imposition of . . . racial
discrimination, id. at 249; Bakke v. Regents of the Univ. of Cal., 18 Cal. 3d 34,
553 P.2d 1152, 132 Cal. Rptr. 680 (1976), cert. granted, L.A. Daily Jour., Feb.
23, 1977, at 1, col. 2 (No. 76-811): We cannot agree with the proposition
that deprivation based on race is subject to a less demanding standard of re-
view under the Fourteenth Amendment if the race discriminated against is
the majority rather than a minority. We have found no case so holding, and we
do not hesitate to reject the notion that racial discrimination may be more easily

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