We will find out by the end of the month, maybe sooner, the Supreme Court ruling in Fisher v. U. Texas and whether the Court further limits the use of race in college admissions.
The main problem with affirmative action, particularly when there is competition for a limited number of slots be it in higher education or the workplace, is that it is racial discrimination.
The racial affirmative discrimination initially was justified as a means of rectifying historical discrimination. The problem always has been translating historical wrongs into present remedies. The beneficiary of a racial preference may never have personally experienced discrimination, and the person denied a benefit because of race may never have practiced discrimination.
Then the narrative shifted, at least in higher ed, to justifying racial discrimination as a means of procuring a diversity of experience and viewpoint as an educational benefit. But that’s at best a blunt instrument because it presumes that race dictates both experience and viewpoint. It has become a loophole large enough to drive a diversity agenda through, so long as that diversity agenda does not include ensuring conservative and Christian views on campus.
The dirty little secret is that many if not most affirmative action proponents do not really want the faculty and student body to look like America, because if that were the case, they would make an aggressive attempt to recruit evangelical Christians and Republicans, and that certainly doesn’t happen.
These problems also give rise to resentment which increases racial tension, for the same reason that past discrimination increased tensions. No one likes to be a victim of discrimination, particularly if it is to atone for the sins of past generations.
The public view of affirmative action is shifting away from using race as a basis. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll just released shows support for affirmative action at historic lows:
As the Supreme Court prepares to once again weigh in on the issue of affirmative action, a record-low number of Americans support such programs, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
Just 45 percent of respondents said they believe affirmative action programs are still needed to counteract the effects of discrimination against minorities, while an equal 45 percent feel the programs have gone too far and should be ended because they unfairly discriminate against whites….
The number of Americans supporting affirmative action has been in decline over the past two decades, down from a high of 61 percent in its favor in 1991.
Reasons for the trend range from the idea of “diversity fatigue” to what others believe is the effect of an African-American being elected president, as well as 20 years of anti-affirmative-action campaigns.
Even Bill Keller in The NY Times now recognizes the time may have arrived for a shift, Affirmative Reaction:
I am not a disinterested bystander on the subject. As an editor, I have long believed that hiring and promoting talented minorities was not just a moral obligation but a professional imperative: to comprehend a disparate world and present it to a disparate audience, it helps to have a reporting and editing staff with a diversity of experience and perspective. As a trustee of a liberal arts college, I’ve supported admission of black and Latino students not just as a remedy for historic injustice but because something fundamental is missing from a campus where everybody is pretty much alike. Diversity tends to make institutions more creative, more adaptable, more productive.
But over the years, following the work of scholars like Richard Kahlenberg at the Century Foundation, Anthony Carnevale of Georgetown and Marta Tienda of Princeton, I’ve come to think there may be a better way to accomplish diversity: namely, by shifting attention from race to class.
Regardless of how the Court rules in Fisher, the writing is on the public wall. Race-based affirmative action’s time has come and gone.