This is not an argument against quotas; I understand the use of them, not the necessity of them. I accept the function of them, but only when appropriately handled. I will address this appropriateness latter in the essay. My argument herein is not a tacit defense of eliminating quotas. It is an attempt to cite the problems and inadequacies of quota systems, as it is also a means of addressing the unavoidable social impact of any privilege system.
Quotas can function within a meritocracy; this is not impossible. I do understand that meritocracies can also suffer as many problems as any system of hiring based on quotas and privileging. We have to understand that privileges in a society are given to the oppressed, not the elite. That is, societal privileges are doled out by the monied and power elite in America to one or another repressed or oppressed group identified by gender, sexual orientation, or ethnicity (African-American is a distinction of ethnicity, although we still prefer to identify this grouping as one of race).
Privileges are licenses not liberties; they are set in place for those in a society who do not enjoy equality before the law or in the socio-econoomic practices of the society. Affirmative Action is another way of identifying this form of privileging. Privileges can only exist within systems of inequality; but where inequalities are not tangible, they must be fabricated, or at least exaggerated, or produced in the imagery manipulated by the media.
Let me say it again, quotas in hiring are privileges. A privilege is offered by the power and monied elite to any covered oppressed or repressed group in our society. This privilege to the oppressed is established to address actual or perceived or media received inequalities, or so we have been lead to think. What the privilege is supposed to do is allow members of the repressed group receiving the privilege to turn their heads to their oppression or the repression that the larger group experiences. For others, quotas are supposed relieve the stress of repression; but it often has an opposite effect.
Quotas as privileges only add to the stress of inequality; they do not eradicate the inequality; they cannot. A privilege is never intended to do so. Quotas do not address the inequality appropriately; they act on the inequality topically, superficially. In fact, quotas help reinforce the inequality they are meant to help eradicate. They do oftentimes cause us to look for or create the illusion of inequality if it an inequality does not persist. Yet inequalities do often persist; they have persisted. There are tangible inequalities and examples of injustice. Yet, the media often creates inequalities as it might create opinions or foster perceptions it needs to garner more viewers or readers, thus more in sponsorship. But it also exaggerates or blows up out of proportion the image of inequality where that inequality is not a media fabrication.
This kind of privileging present in quotas in hiring does not demand quality of the kind we might want, and therefore, it lessens the need to acquire quality in skills or talents. People just do not need to be as good as we now frame in an ideal both unrealistic and unnecessary in our thinnking. In fact, there is an assumed and conformed to mediocrity that passes for qualified in our culture. Furthermore, quality–actual quality–is ignored, and is rarely hired, except in elite structures, and only from the who-is-known-by-whom network of job marketing.
The preference in hiring is for the less qualified man or woman from among the established quotas because the man or woman of quality from among the group designated by a quota is only going to think of his job as a right and not a privilege. Hiring practices within a quota structure do not insure that the best and brightest from among the groups covered by hiring quotas will be promoted, but that the middling talented, the middling skilled, the middling qualified will progress. This reinforces the need for the quota in a two-fold way: one, less talented or skilled reinforce the rationalization for a kind of affirmative action; two, if less talentend and skilled from among the group covered by a quota, the likelihood of having employees hired under the quota that are equal in talent and skill from among employees not covered by quota will ensure the image of the covered group needing the quota. If all hired under a quota umbrella were of equal or greater talent and skill than those not hired under such an umbrella might reinforce an argument for meritocracy to prevail over a quota system.
People hired under a quota system have to be conditioned to think of their jobs as a privilege, and quotas reinforce this idea brilliantly. It is the triumph of the democratic averages advancing and entrenching themselves. Yes, mediocrity progressing to the forestalling of Progress. Quotas insure an increase in mediocrity even from among the quotas cover, but also from the groups not covered by quotas.