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Regardless of how Sup. Ct rules in Fisher, race-based affirmative action’s time has come and gone

Regardless of how Sup. Ct rules in Fisher, race-based affirmative action’s time has come and gone

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.


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DINORightMarie | June 11, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Yes it has. But how can the leftist higher-ed administrators change this? Better question, does anyone believe they ever would?

It will be a painfully slow process to change the nation’s overall “affirmative action” policy, since it is so ingrained in our government, our businesses, and of course our institutions of higher learning.

But we will all be the better for it; as MLK said, “….not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character….”

    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to DINORightMarie. | June 11, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    I agree. It was slow to be implemented and it will be slow in dismantling.

    But as for MLK and his high-drama ramblings, pfffft.

We gotten to see how great affirmative action is at the presidential level.

I mean really, why not continue this in every field.

If they really want to increase diversity in universities they should put an end to legacy admissions.

On an unrelated note, the news is abuzz because someone vandalized Michelle Obama’s great-great-great grand mother’s monument.

Why did Melvinia Shields get a monument? Because she was Michelle Obama’s great-great-great grand mother. I kid you not.


No kings, no queens, and no royal families.

JackRussellTerrierist | June 11, 2013 at 12:32 pm

Productivity and prosperity in this country will increase with the dismantling of these programs. The drop-out rate of the particular minority these programs are targeted at is very high. They can’t do the work and many just want to ride the grants and loans for the year or two they can BS their way into somebody else’s pocketbook. If those slots were given to others who have actually done the work to succeed to that point in time, such as diligent, ambitious whites and Asians who are in earnest about their futures, the entire country would benefit.

This nonsense has gone on for two generations already. The original theory posited that TEMPORARY discrimination was allowable notwithstanding that it is everything this country does NOT stand for, because an extra boost in one generation ostensibly would boost subsequent generations and eliminate the need for this to continue.

Either the theory worked, in which case there is no more need for this, or it didn’t work, in which case the theory was wrong ab initio, and should be ditched for that reason.

Moreover, there is no basis in any research to indicate that “diversity” on campuses or in the work place enhances anything for anyone.

It is time to go back to equal opportunity for all. Equal opportunity doesn’t mean that at every level it’s ostensibly to be presently applied we first have to make retroactive accounting adjustments for the differences in people and their life circumstances from gestation onward.

    janitor in reply to janitor. | June 11, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    There also is no need for “class-based” or any other group-based discrimination. Meritable effort and achievement in the face of actual demonstrated adversity can be observed on a case by case basis and would suffice.

      JackRussellTerrierist in reply to janitor. | June 11, 2013 at 6:55 pm

      The government should not be given the authority to make those decisions. Private organizations and institutions can, if they wish.

The purpose of affirmative action like many other liberal/progressive/democrat programs was not to equalize opportunity but just another method of securing dependency and votes.

The result of this action is no less than appalling as it has dumb down the the population in general and prevented the best and brightest from continuing what was once the actions of the most innovative country in the world so that we could continue a progression to bigger and better things.

Instead we are descending at an ever increasing rate to third world status and THAT appears to be the major goal of this administration.

Gawd he’p us…

Henry Hawkins | June 11, 2013 at 2:03 pm

I think left handers ought to have a turn on top of preference lists.

What I find amazing is that in all these pieces on Affirmative Action, there is little, if any, mention of the most discriminated minority .. Asians

Terrific column, Professor Jacobson. I am always thrilled when I read truthful articles that reflect reality, in this case the evils of affirmative action. Lawrence Auster wrote insightfully on How The 1964 Civil Rights Act Made Racial Group Entitlements Inevitable, which — for your curious readers — can be found here:

I will be watching for the USSC ruling you cite later this month.

Celebrate diversity!

Of course, “diversity” merited no more than a passing mention in AA circles until the statistics started proving there were racial quotas being used. It was always just a lie, a cloak of ambiguity to allow the process to continue business as usual.

Two established trends in AA should have been enough to kill it for lack of merit a couple of decades ago. First, the overwhelming beneficiaries were never poor minorities, they were mainly from upper middle class and professional minority households. Second, the graduation rates for those minority students admitted through AA programs who entered with substandard entrance qualifications for any given school was abysmal.

A reasonable case can be made that AA even harmed those minority students in the latter category. Had they attended a school whose typical entrance profile more closely matched their qualifications, they would have had a better and more enriching college experience than by washing out at a “better” school.

Why is it that college should look like the general population? Sure a State school might look like that but, isn’t the reason for choosing a university its own unique character and charter? A university, as every graduating high schooler knows, is not for everyone. Those students worked hard, or mebbe not, to achieve the status of “going on to college. They just might know that an elite university is something they worked mighty hard to obtain. Why then, do these vulgar professoriate think that the kids should be “given” a lesson in the status quo?

It was NEVER justified.