Discriminating Eye

There was a dubious Associated Press story over the weekend about how California public universities are having to struggle to achieve “diversity”—defined as a student body that reflects the general population of the state—since Proposition 209 banned racial preferences in admissions there in 1996.  (Center for Equal Opportunity studies documenting discrimination there helped pass that initiative, btw.)

What has changed in California since it has gotten rid of admissions discrimination is not that fewer Latinos and African Americans are getting into the state’s public universities, but that they are going to schools where their academic qualifications are on par with the other students’.

There’s nothing wrong with that—to the contrary, it’s fairer to the Asian and white kids who used to be discriminated against, and it’s better for the Latino and African American kids, too, since their grades, graduation, and other indices of performance have all gone up.

The supposed benefits of admissions discrimination are all bogus: It tends to help the well-to-do, not the disadvantaged, and there is no justification for setting a quota determined by the general population (cf. the quota that used to be put on Jews by Ivy League schools).

And the AP article generally ignores the costs of such discrimination: It is personally unfair, passes over better qualified students, and sets a disturbing legal, political, and moral precedent in allowing racial discrimination; it creates resentment; it stigmatizes the so-called beneficiaries in the eyes of their classmates, teachers, and themselves, as well as future employers, clients, and patients; it fosters a victim mindset, removes the incentive for academic excellence, and encourages separatism; it compromises the academic mission of the university and lowers the overall academic quality of the student body; it creates pressure to discriminate in grading and graduation; it breeds hypocrisy within the school; it encourages a scofflaw attitude among college officials; it mismatches students and institutions, guaranteeing failure for many of the former; it papers over the real social problem of why so many African Americans and Latinos are academically uncompetitive; and it gets states and schools involved in unsavory activities like deciding which racial and ethnic minorities will be favored and which ones not, and how much blood is needed to establish group membership.
Q.E.D.: Racial preferences ought not to be used.

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Alas, however, such preferences are used.  And guess what?  President Obama hires with an eye on race, both at the White House and in his campaign.  Now, there’s a dog-bites-man story if there ever was one, but this report in Politicoon stepped-up “diversity” efforts in the president’s hiring is no less disturbing for that.

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Speaking of the Obama administration:  It reasserted last week that it will be using “all available legal avenues” to go after lending “discrimination.” Now, I put that sentence’s last word in quotation marks because a major part of this reassertion is that the administration will use the “disparate-impact” approach to enforcement here. And that means that lending policies that are not discriminatory by their terms, intent, or application—that is, which are not discriminatory at all, by any reasonable definition—will still result in federal lawsuits as long as they disproportionately affect some racial and ethnic groups in comparison to others. Which is to say that the lawsuits are really not about discrimination at all, but about achieving a politically correct racial balance in loans.

Of course, making loans with an eye on race rather than, say, creditworthiness is widely believed to have been at least a factor of the recent economic unpleasantness, but no matter.

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You might not be too surprised to hear about such policies in the Obama administration, but here’s something a little different.  It turns out that, for NASCAR’s affirmative action, it’s not enough to be Hispanic—it’s also required that you look Hispanic.  So if you’re too fair-skinned, then adios.  I wonder if it works the other way:  Would you be eligible if you looked Hispanic, even if you weren’t, assuming you knew what the folks at NASCAR would consider Hispanic-looking to be?

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And what do Americans think of this nonsense?  Not much.  The most recent example is a Rasmussen Poll taken in late February,which found 55 percent opposition to affirmative action in college admissions. Only 24 percent supported the concept, with 21 percent undecided.And if the question had been about “racial preferences”—the more accurate and less politically correct term—presumably the survey would have shown even greater unpopularity.