Do "minority rights" hurt the majority?

A viewer asked this question on 6/12/2000:

Are the rights of the majority diminished when the rights of the minority are upheld by the courts?

Majority = white male workers
Minority = all others as in women, blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Indians, handicapped, etc.

JesseGordon gave this response on 6/14/2000:

I would say that "majority" rights are not usually diminished when minority rights are upheld, for three reasons:

1) There's no such thing as "the majority." You define it as white male workers, but even within that group, some will be in your "minority" group definition of handicapped. Others will be in a "minority" when unemployed, when elderly, when with children, etc. In other words, we're ALL part of numerous minority groups in various aspects of our lives. Hence upholding minority rights helps the "majority" because people who are in any defined majority class are at other times in a minority class.

2) Granting rights to one group does not diminish the rights to another group. There's not a fixed pie chart of "rights", where giving a bigger piece of the pie to one group means you have to take away a corresponding sized piece of the pie from another group. Society as a whole can grant more rights to anyone, without hurting those who already have rights.

3) Presumably you're talking about something like an affirmative-action college admission program here. Yes, in a case like that, there IS a fixed size of pie (the number of college admission slots). And yes, when a minority candidate is admitted with less qualifications than a "majority" candidate, the majority member is hurt by it. But are his RIGHTS diminished? He still has the RIGHT to re-apply for admission, and the RIGHT to get admitted if his qualifications improve. He's hurt by affirmative action, but his rights remain intact. Of course, something like this instance is much murkier than instances discussing pure rights out of context; many people would say therefore that arguments about rights shouldn't be applied to specifics like college admissions.

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