Discrimination and Social Justice

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Abstract

One goal of social justice is to overcome discrimination. This goal implies that discrimination needs to be well understood so that once an endpoint has been reached people will know that justice has been achieved. Moreover, equal opportunity legislation in some legal jurisdictions requires a predefined endpoint to enable distinction between “lawful” and “unlawful” discrimination. In this article, we show that the concept of an endpoint is logically flawed. We also illustrate how the concept of discrimination is utilized inconsistently due to a shift between deontological and utilitarian frames of reference. This shift is a major factor leading writers of an EEO training module to fall into the traps of inaccuracy and “doublespeak.” Finally, we argue that futures-oriented thinking about social issues should entail a temporally open ended removal of barriers rather than imposition of quotas based on ostensible endpoints that have been invoked in legislation. This would enable avoidance of inconsistency and illogicality, without diminishing relevance to social justice.