Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action, and the Anti-Discrimination Principle: The Philosophical Basis for the Legal Prohibition of Discrimination

Consider the following hypothetical.

In the early part of the twentieth century a man named Jacob lives with his wife, baby daughter, and infant son near the city of Roman on the Moldova river in Romania. Jacob and his wife are very poor, and because they are Jewish, they have been subject to government sanctioned harassment, depredation, and oppression all their lives. Determined to ensure a better life for their children, they decide to emigrate to the United States. Because they can afford only one passage, Jacob travels to America alone in the hope of earning enough money to pay for his family’s subsequent emigration.

Upon disembarking at Ellis Island, Jacob sees a man holding a sign written in Yiddish that says, “Do you come from Romania? If so, speak to the man holding this sign.” Jacob approaches the man with the sign and tells him that he is from Romania. The man explains that he is a representative of the Erste Romaner Kranken Unterstutzung Verein (First Romanian Health and Support Association), a fraternal society of Romanian Jewish immigrants, and asks Jacob whether he has the $100 necessary to gain admission to the United States. When Jacob responds that he has no money, the Verein representative offers to give Jacob $100 to be returned after his interview with the immigration officials. He further offers to help Jacob, who speaks no English, find a place to live and get a job.