Argument: Affirmative action only deprives whites of unearned opportunities
Even the poor white male is losing only illicit undeserved privileges (from the mere fact of his being white) through Affirmative Action: Even the "poor white male from Appalachia" has an advantage by the mere fact of his being white and the wealthy black neurosurgeon a disadvantage by the mere fact of him being black. Affirmative Action does not deprive the white man of something that he deserves or has rightfully earned nor provide the black man with something that he should not have already had from the start. It simply balances the scales to how they should be.
Megan McArdle. "The Problem of Affirmative Action." The Atlantic. May 29, 2009: "almost all of us get something we don't deserve as a result of our race, including white people. Perhaps even especially white people.
If you don't believe it, ask yourself why repeated studies show that resumes with identifiably black names get fewer interview offers than identical white resumes. Being identifiably black hurts your chances worse than having a felony conviction. Even if you want to argue that an identifiably black name is a socio-economic marker for a certain kind of parenting, an argument I find pretty dubious, are you really willing to argue that black kids should be permanently barred from employment because their parents have dubious taste in names? Well, go ahead, I guess, but I'm going to find it hard to take you seriously when you complain about affirmative action because it undermines our fantabulous American meritocracy."
Michel Rosenfeld, Affirmative Action and Justice: A Philosophical Inquiry (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1991), 307-8: "Although affirmative action treats innocent white males unequally, it need not deprive them of any genuine equal opportunity rights. Provided an affirmative action plan is precisely tailored to redress the losses in prospects of success [by blacks and women] attributable to racism and sexism, it only deprives innocent white males of the corresponding undeserved increases in their prospects of success…. [R]emedial affirmative action does not take away from innocent white males anything that they have rightfully earned or that they should be entitled to keep."
Mary Anne Warren and James Rachels in the 1970s, argued this point
The end purpose of Affirmative Action does not necessitate that the fruits of Affirmative Action be "deserved" by individual candidates:
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. "Affirmative Action". Retrieved 10.2.07 - "The persistence of this strategy of defense reflects a residual feeling that the fruits of affirmative are somehow spoiled if they are not deserved. Nevertheless, it is the wrong strategy for defending real world affirmative action. The programs legitimated under the Civil Rights Act, in both their nonpreferential and preferential forms, had—and have—a clear aim: to change institutions so that they can meet the nondiscrimination mandate of the Act. Selection by race or gender was—and is—a means to such change. To the extent that such selection also compensates individuals for past wrongs or puts people in places they really deserve, these are incidental by-products of a process aimed at something else.
The same is true with university admissions policy. When the Medical School of the University of California at Davis offered four reasons in defense of the special admissions program that left Bakke on the outside, none of these reasons said anything about matching admissions and desert. The criteria of the special admissions program—race and ethnicity—were instruments to further ends: integrating the classroom, the profession, and the delivery of medical services, and breaking the chain of self-reproducing societal discrimination. Likewise, when the University of Michigan defended its programs it pointed not to desert rewarded by admissions but to the value of students experiencing racial and ethnic pluralism in the classroom."