Can we unite with a utilitarian society?

Cendal Atkins

Throughout history, humans have had the need to classify each other in an attempt to make life more understandable, whether it was by race, gender, or finances. However, one of the most complicated of these classifications is race. As seen in America’s history, these classifications have backfired and created nothing but confusion because their effect contradicts the foundation of American society. America was founded on the ideas of unity; however, these classifications separate the society and emphasize our differences, making it seem as if one set of people are better than another. Therefore, when a race tries to combat the classifications with equality it creates mass chaos. In American history, one of the biggest examples of this phenomenon is seen in the 1960’s during the civil rights movement.  As African Americans stood up for their freedom and made an effort for racial equality, it created a time of peace less confusion for the American society. However, this issue of racism has not completely disappeared and it is often seen in our modern society. One of the most prominent examples of racism today happens with black students on college campuses. Because college campuses are a place where students experience their first taste of real adulthood, it makes the campuses a perfect place for racism to be exploited.

Moreover, in an effort to combat and confront not only racism, but also all issues in a society, economists have fallen into the same habit of classification by creating visions of a perfect society. One of the most interesting of these societies, proposed by John Stuart Mill, is the utilitarian society.  This is the idea of making decisions based on the most pleasure for the greatest number of people. [1]However, in any society, often times the pleasure of the minority and even fractions of the majority are overlooked because there is simply no way to please every single person. Because many college campuses have adopted the ideas of a utilitarian society to make decisions, it has created the issue of racism. This has happened because the college administrators have indeed made their decisions on racial incidents according to the happiness for the greatest amount of people; however, they see the greatest amount of people in the lens of race. For example, it has been researched that roughly 60 percent of college students are Caucasian. [2] Because Caucasians are the biggest racial group of almost all college campuses, the administrators make decisions for the maximum pleasures of that race. However, what if college administrators changed their perspective and stopped grouping campuses by race? If college administrators and presidents looked at the greatest number of people from a different perspective and looked at the student body as scholars trying to educate themselves, instead of a black student or a white student, would racism on college campuses be eliminated?

College campuses have adopted the idea of the utilitarian society when dealing with social issues; therefore, they have encouraged racism. A utilitarian society is governed by choosing the act that leads to the most pleasure for the greatest amount of people. However, one may argue that pleasure may be different according to each person, but John Stuart Mill says that “of two pleasures, one to which all or almost all who have experience of both give a decided preference… that is the more desirable pleasure.” [3]Therefore, this society’s pleasure is based on the pleasure of the more experienced person. Through this definition, it is obvious that many colleges have adopted these ideas when approaching the issue of racism. Not only is the Caucasian race seen as the greatest amount of people, but they are also seen as the most experienced because they were the ones who colonized this land in the beginning. In most recent events, the University of Missouri’s former president displayed this train of thought. When racist acts occurred on campus, such as African American men being called derogatory terms, the president simply turned his head the other way, refusing to properly address these acts.[4] He did this is hopes of keeping the “peace” on campus and avoiding any negative media attention towards the school.  However, by doing this, he succumbed to the idea of a utilitarian society because he showed favor to the white students, and ignored the complaints of the African Americans. In a sense, by not doing anything, he is supporting the white students, saying that their acts are OK and will go unpunished. Therefore, the pleasure of the Caucasian students was made a priority and the pleasure and security of African American students was overlooked altogether. Unfortunately, these incidents have happened all across the country.  The problem with this method of governing a college campus is that the minority will only deal with so much before they start to rebel and demand equality, creating mass chaos and bringing negative media attention toward the school, which was the inevitable consequence at the University of Missouri. Ultimately, it creates what was trying to be avoided.

Because these acts of racism seem to be encouraged at the college level, it translates to the workplace once students graduate and start to find jobs. In college, Caucasian racial incidents were treated lightly, causing them to think that racism is a normalcy in society. Therefore, they see nothing wrong with continuing it within the workplace.  According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal agency responsible for reinforcing the Civil Rights Act, there were over 31,000 race-based charges filed within the workplace in 2014.[5] This statistic proves that racism has translated to the workplace. Although it may not all be from college graduates, the majority of employers only like to hire those who are best prepared for jobs, college graduates. Therefore, if racism can be condensed at the college level, it would make a difference in eliminating the majority of racism in America.

However, I believe racism can be confronted if the governing bodies changed their perspective on who they consider the greatest amount of people. Instead of seeing students as their classifications, their race, the administrators should look at them as scholars, eager to expand their knowledge, and should support them each step of the way. Therefore, every decision made would be to make every student’s educational experience as amazing as possible, not their social lives. One solution to this is making it a requirement to have a diverse group of people deal with all racial incidents on campus. Say, for example, in the case of the University of Missouri, if the greatest amount of people were seen as the student body as scholars instead of the white students being the majority and the black students the minority, then the president would have been inclined to make a very different decision when presented with the complaints about racial slurs on campus and black students feeling attacked. In that case, he would have different perspectives on how to deal with the issue and the president would be forced to think about the education of all students when discovering how to handle the complaint. He would have addressed the problem, which may have meant some disciplinary action for the offender. Although this may not be pleasurable for the offender and his supporters, they are only a fraction of the majority of the students and as stated before, there is never a way to make every single individual happy. Now, he would have made the victim and his supporters happy without causing unrest throughout the entire campus. This is a utilitarian society based on racial equality.

Now, if all college campuses accepted this new way of classifying, then the classifications would not be pointless. Instead, they would help reduce racism not only on college campuses, but also in the workplace because there would be less encouragement in this type of behavior. Although this will not eliminate racism in America altogether, reducing it on college campuses is a start. However, it requires the cooperation of the colleges, their administrators, and the student. In order to reduce the problem of racism, we must first unite to control it.

 

 

[1] “Utilitarianism,” John Start Mill in How to Find Happiness Without a Free Lunch, ed. Mr. Aparicio, Ursuline Academy, 2015

[2] US Department of Education. “Digest of Education Statistics.” National Center
for Education Statistics. Accessed November 20, 2015. http://nces.ed.gov/
fastfacts/display.asp?id=98.

[3]  “Utilitarianism,” John Start Mill in How to Find Happiness Without a Free Lunch, ed. Mr. Aparicio, Ursuline Academy, 2015

[4] Ballentine, Summer. “Missouri Student Leader Says Students Unify.” US News. Last
modified November 15, 2015. Accessed November 19, 2015.
http://www.usnews.com/news/us/articles/2015/11/15/
missouri-student-president-school-has-racism-also-unity.

[5]  “Race-Based Charges.” US Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission. Last modified 2014. Accessed November 19, 2015.
http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/statistics/enforcement/race.cfm.

Bibliography

Ballentine, Summer. “Missouri Student Leader Says Students Unify.” US News. Last
modified November 15, 2015. Accessed November 19, 2015.
http://www.usnews.com/news/us/articles/2015/11/15/
missouri-student-president-school-has-racism-also-unity

Office of the Inspector General. “Race-Based Charges.” US Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission. Last modified 2014. Accessed November 22, 2015.
http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/statistics/enforcement/race.cfm.

US Department of Education. “Digest of Education Statistics.” National Center
for Education Statistics. Accessed November 20, 2015. http://nces.ed.gov/
fastfacts/display.asp?id=98.

“Utilitarianism,” John Start Mill in How to Find Happiness Without a Free Lunch, ed. Mr. Aparicio, Ursuline Academy, 2015

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