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Nonexistent “Resegregation,” Phony Polls, and More

This month the Congressional Quarterly Researcher published this short piece I wrote for them on the (purported) “resegregation” of public schools in the United States:

No child today attends a segregated public school.  Not one.  “Segregation” means telling children they cannot attend the same school as children of a different color.  It does not mean a failure to have socially engineered racial balance.

It is true that there are educational disparities across racial lines, but racial imbalances in classrooms have little if anything to do with this.   Black children do not need a certain number of white children in a classroom in order to learn.

The real reasons that racial disparities exist are ignored by those who complain about “resegregation.”

When you think about it, a child’s environment has three major components — parents, schools, and peers — and in all three respects African American children face more hurdles.  They are more likely to grow up in single-parent homes, go to substandard schools, and have peers who are, to put it mildly, unsupportive of academic achievement.

But the Left is slow to acknowledge that out-of-wedlock births are a bad thing or that anti-“acting white” peer pressure exists.  They will admit that substandard schools are a problem, but resist (partly because of recalcitrant teacher unions) the most promising reforms:  competition among schools, merit pay for teachers, and more choice for parents and children.

The only way to bring schools into the politically correct racial-balance that the Left wants is not by ignoring students' skin color, but by using it to sort, assign, and bus them.  This is flatly inconsistent with Brown v. Board of Education, which prohibited race-based student assignments.

In addition, there is no increase in racial imbalance in schools.  In No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning, Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom [she’s on the Center for Equal Opportunity’s board of directors, by the way] conclude that "minority students are not becoming more racially isolated; white students typically attend schools that are much more racially and ethnically diverse than 30 years ago, and the modest decline in the exposure of black and Hispanic children to whites is solely due to the declining share of white children in the school age population.”  And race is no proxy for disadvantage.

Nor is there any validity in the Left’s premise that more racial-balance means better education.  To quote the Thernstroms again: “The most sophisticated research on the subject does not find that having white classmates notably improves the academic achievement of blacks and Hispanics.”

So forget racial bean-counting and focus on improving our schools.

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For the first time in its history, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission today has filed lawsuits that claim discrimination on the basis of transgender status violates Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of “sex,” among other things. The press releases are here and here.

I don’t think that this is sex discrimination within the meaning of Title VII; certainly the folks who passed Title VII in 1964 would have been surprised at this interpretation. ”Sex,” they would have said, means being male or female; it doesn’t mean changing from one to the other. But it will be interesting to see how the courts handle this issue.

And, in another report from our brave new world of progressive sex, the German Ethics Council has recommended abolishing laws against incest. 

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“An agenda-driven poll on affirmative action?”  That’s the headline the Los Angeles Times gave  my response to a recent op-ed it had published:

The premise of Karthick Ramakrishnan's Op-Ed article hinges on the positive response he received to one survey question: "Do you favor or oppose affirmative action programs designed to help blacks, women and other minorities get better jobs and education?" ("California needs to look again at Asian stance on affirmative action," Op-Ed, Sept. 25)

Now, was this objective or simply an attempt to get the result the professor wanted? A more objective question would be: "Do you believe there should be discrimination or preference on the basis of race, ethnicity or sex in deciding who is admitted to public universities, awarded public contracts and hired for state and local employment?"

That question would more fairly mirror the language in Proposition 209 that was at issue here. And, based on many other surveys, it would not have been likely to lead to the positive response that Ramakrishnan wanted.

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But let’s end on a somewhat lighter note.  By way of background, the Washington Post’s weekly “Style Invitational” is a contest in which readers compete to submit the funniest entry.  This week the winners were announced for the funniest (made up) course description from a college catalogue.  First-place was awarded to:  “PSYC 207: Welcome to Your College Nightmare. Participants will not be notified of their enrollment in this class until the morning of the final exam. Note: Class location is subject to weekly change without notice; each student will attend at least one class session in the nude.”

Very good, but what I wanted to note is the entry that won second place:  “SOC 101: Overcoming Prejudice. In this course, you will learn to identify and overcome the various prejudices — racism, sexism, classism, etc. — that all people like you have.”

Of course, the really funny (and sad) thing is that, while it might be described slightly (but only slightly) differently, my sense is that this is not at all an uncommon, let alone a fictional, offering.

Kudos to the Post, by the way, for its willingness to make a politically incorrect award, even if it was rather clueless in its apparent failure to see that too many academics and students won’t get the joke.

World Domination

What a difference a year makes. In September 2013, President Barack Obama bragged to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, "The world is more stable than it was five years ago." This week, the president again addressed the U.N. delegates, but claims that the world is somehow more stable thanks to his leadership were, understandably, missing.

It is difficult to know whether President Obama has finally learned his lesson or not. The man's hubris knows no bounds. Perhaps now he thinks he can vanquish Islamic extremism on his terms -- a few bombs here, a cruise missile there, a shipment of small arms to pro-Western fighters on the ground elsewhere.

But the battle to defeat the Islamic State will not be so easily won. Nor does eliminating one group ensure that others, even more dangerous, do not emerge. Indeed, the short, terrible history of the Islamic State (or ISIL or ISIS, as it is variously known) demonstrates exactly how these groups metastasize, with each mutation more deadly than the previous.

The U.S. may have killed Osama bin Laden, but the next generation of al-Qaida, the Khorasan Group, is busy plotting more attacks from bases in Syria. It is one thing for a great power to eliminate the leadership and annihilate the soldiers of an enemy army and quite another to defeat the ideology that inspires others to take their place.

And that is the problem the West faces. The struggles of the 20th century to defeat first Nazism and then communism in some respects pale in comparison with the challenge of the 21st century to defeat Islamist totalitarianism. As an ideology, communism ultimately collapsed of its own weight. Its utopian premise could not meet the test of reality. Communism promised heaven on earth but delivered scarcity and deprivation. Nonetheless, communist ideology advanced for seven decades, spreading suffering to many parts of Europe and Asia and, with more limited success, to Africa and Latin America before collapsing.

But radical Islamism faces no such earthly reality check. Radical religious ideologies are always more difficult than political or economic ideologies to prove false. Islamism promises not heaven on earth but a reward that will only be received after death. And who returns to report that there are no virgins awaiting the suicide bomber or beheader?

Fanatical religious sects are not restricted to Islam, of course. There are putatively Christian sects that preach violence and exert totalitarian control over their members -- Jim Jones' Peoples Temple and David Koresh's Branch Davidians, to name two of the most famous American examples.

But radical Islamism is no mere cult restricted in its scope and threat. Its aim is world domination -- much as communism's aspiration was. And opposing the threat of radical Islamism will require the same determination and proportionate commitment of resources as defeating communism did.

President Obama focused in his latest U.N. speech on the threats Islamism poses in Iraq and Syria, but these are just the tip of the spear. What about Yemen -- once the president's favorite success story in the fight against al-Qaida -- whose government has now been deposed by Iranian-backed rebel Houthis? Or Libya, where Majlis al-Shura and Ansar al-Sharia have crushed any hopes that the deposing of Moammar Gadhafi would bring freedom to the people? Or the myriad other places where security is threatened by such groups, from Algeria to Nigeria to Uganda to the Asian subcontinent? Even the country with the world's largest Muslim population, Indonesia, must now contend with the Islamic State. Can Saudi Arabia and other nations on the Arabian Peninsula be far behind?

And even these threats are not the Islamists' most dangerous. Iran, which the Obama administration shows no serious willingness to confront regarding its march toward building atomic weapons, looms larger than all the others combined.
President Obama's call to "dismantle the network of death" established by the Islamic State is not enough. Terrorism and death are simply the tools radical Islamism employs in its struggle for world domination. To misjudge its aims would cost us dearly.

Civilized Sport

I'm not much of a football fan, never have been, but I've lived most of my life in households where games dominated family schedules during football season. My father was a Notre Dame and Denver Broncos fan. My husband and three sons are diehard Redskins fans, and at least one of them wouldn't miss a University of Maryland game for anything.

But try as they might, they've never managed to get me to sit down and watch with them, at least not an entire game, not even the Super Bowl. But I'll gladly sit through basketball and baseball games, and I even like attending Washington Nationals games when I get the chance.

This week, I think I finally figured out why I can't stand watching football for more than a few minutes. Violence is a major part of the game. The point isn't just to advance the ball down the field and across the goal line. With few exceptions -- the kickers, quarterbacks and wide receivers -- the job of everyone on the team is to stop the other guy with brute force or to use muscle and force to push through. Hurting or being hurt isn't an accident; it's part of the game. And with better cameras and microphones, the audience sitting at home gets to see and hear the violence up close and personal.

This week, my visceral discomfort with football made me ask whether suspended running back Ray Rice's left hook to his then fiancee's face wasn't so much an anomaly as a byproduct of his chosen career. That's not to say football players are all likely domestic abusers -- clearly they are not, and there are plenty of abusers who are milquetoasts in other aspects of their lives -- but the NFL still has a problem with domestic abuse, and not just in the relatively light punishment it has handed out for the offense in the past.

According to an analysis by Benjamin Morris for the website FiveThirtyEight, NFL players have higher relative arrest rates for domestic violence than for any other violent offense. Now, Morris makes clear that players' domestic violence arrest rates are still lower than average for men their age -- but that isn't the end of the story.

NFL players are both affluent and educated, which makes them fall into a cohort less likely to engage in violent criminal activity overall. But as Morris points out, when players are arrested, it is relatively more likely to be for domestic violence than for anything else. Domestic violence arrest rates are four times worse than the NFL's arrest rates for all offenses, he says, "and domestic violence accounts for 48 percent of arrests for violent crimes among NFL players, compared to our estimated 21 percent (of such arrests) nationally."

Of course, this may be the tip of the iceberg. Who is to say that many of the victims aren't too ashamed, afraid or even worried about losing their own affluent lifestyle to keep the real numbers under wraps?
And even if the Rice incident hadn't focused the nation's attention on the NFL's domestic violence problem, what about the violence the players themselves experience every week?

The NFL already has agreed to settle a suit with former players for the traumatic brain injuries they incurred playing the game, setting up a $765 million fund for currently retired players who can prove neurological damage. But even with better helmets and tougher rules, football players suffer brutally in their careers, and far more than players of most other sports. They get repeated concussions or sub-concussions that can result in neurological degenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. Their hips and knees give out. They incur soft-tissue damage, torn muscles and ligaments, dislocated joints and broken bones. Even the sheer bulk required in some positions can lead to later diabetes and heart disease.

Yes, players get paid well -- though the average player receives relatively less than those in many other sports, and their careers are short-lived. The real money goes to the owners and the networks that broadcast the sport. Call me a wimp or a bleeding heart, but I think none of this constitutes entertainment. Football is more controlled violence and mayhem than anything else. We want players to act like civilized men off the field, but maybe we should also figure out a way to civilize the sport itself.

English for the Children, Again

In 1998, Californians passed by a 61-to-39 percent margin Proposition 227, Ron Unz’s “English for the Children” ballot initiative. This effectively replaced “bilingual education” with structured English-immersion programs, since the former — while popular with the multicultural Left — does not succeed nearly as well as the latter in accomplishing the single most important job of public schools in immigrant-rich schools, namely teaching non-English-speakers how to speak English.

Unfortunately, and despite the great success of Proposition 227 in California, Governor Jerry Brown now has before him a bill that would put a repeal measure back on the ballot. In this op-ed last week in the San Francisco Chronicle, education expert — and Center for Equal Opportunity board member — Rosalie P. Porter explains why the governor should veto it.

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Read carefully the two sentences below from this news story:

A survey conducted by MTV asked 3,000 Millennials ages 14 to 24 their thoughts on race-related issues, including affirmative action for college acceptance, in May. And what it found was seemingly paradoxical: 90 percent of Millennials surveyed “believe that everyone should be treated the same regardless of race,” yet 88 percent opposed affirmative action.

Uh, what’s “paradoxical” about the overwhelming majority of people being opposed to affirmative action and also believing that everyone should be treated the same regardless of race?

The article is otherwise pretty good.

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Here’s an interesting panel discussion on “What’s Next for Affirmative Action?” put on by the New York Times and moderated by its Supreme Court correspondent, Adam Liptak. The panelists are Columbia University president Lee Bollinger, Georgetown University law school professor Sheryll Cashin, and Richard Kahlenberg of the Century Foundation. Cashin and Kahlenberg want to end racial preferences in university admissions; Bollinger, a longtime advocate of them, of course does not.
What’s most interesting is that Bollinger makes it quite clear that the principal reason he favors racial preferences is because of America’s history of racial discrimination — notwithstanding the fact that this justification has been rejected by the Supreme Court and has not been available as a legal matter for decades. (See, for example, what he says at around 13:30–15:30, 23:30, and 32:00.)

Interesting that he admits it, though not surprising that he thinks it: For a long time, it has been clear that this — and not the phony-baloney “diversity” rationale — is what really motivates schools. And how “compelling” can the diversity rationale be to the courts if it’s not the real reason for these policies?

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Peter Thiel’s new book is getting some buzz, so I thought I’d post a link to an excellent earlier piece he co-wrote, calling for an end to racial preferences in admission to Stanford.

And speaking of new books, here’s a link to the teleforum/podcast I moderated last week that discusses Professor Sheryll Cashin’s now book Place Not Race.  Professor Cashin is very much a woman of the Left, but she has concluded that the time has come to get rid of racial preferences in university admissions.

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Here are two other items of interest to Center for Equal Opportunity supporters. 

First, I was quoted last week in this article about the proposed End Racial Profiling Act.  As I explained at greater length in my testimony before the Senate against this bill a couple of years ago, I’m opposed to (true) racial profiling in the traditional law-enforcement context (I explain why I might make an exception for terrorism), but this bill is a bad way to approach the issue.

Second, last week CEO sent out several emails to various “minority job fairs,” pointing out the legal and policy problems with such racially exclusive events.  For example, we flagged for them “Appendix D” of this testimony I delivered a few years ago to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  Similar efforts by CEO in the past have resulted in opportunities being opened up so that they are available to all without regard to race or ethnicity.

Can Obama Win the Fight Against ISIS?

President Obama, in the past, has demonstrated a way with written words, and he's done so again, this time in a joint op-ed with UK Prime Minister David Cameron for the London Times published on the eve of this week's NATO meeting in Wales. Promising that "we will not be cowed" by ISIS, the Islamist group that has beheaded two American journalists, the president and prime minister declared: "Those who want to adopt an isolationist approach misunderstand the nature of security in the 21st century. Developments in other parts of the world, particularly in Iraq and Syria, threaten our security at home."

But the question is whether Obama has the will to live up to those words --even on his own, if our allies, including his co-author, will not join us.  But to do so, the president would have to possess characteristics he's shown he lacks over the past five and a half years: an interest in and understanding of foreign policy, the humility to know what he doesn't know and the leadership to forgo partisanship in the national interest.

The crisis that ISIS poses is different from the one we faced with al-Qaida and most of the other Islamists in the war on terror. ISIS now controls territory and has sophisticated weapons, and if it holds the territory it has captured, it will become, de facto, what it likes to call itself: the Islamic State. Its soldiers wear uniforms and fight under a flag. They are more than terrorists; they are an army. ISIS has an ideology that it seeks to impose throughout the Middle East and ultimately beyond that region, as far as its resources and ability to recruit soldiers will allow. It is, according to published reports, already making inroads on the Indian subcontinent.

ISIS has killed Americans, but it has yet to launch an attack on our soil. Does anyone doubt it will try? After 9/11, does anyone believe it might not succeed? The group has declared war on America. But does Obama have the guts to go to war against ISIS?

There is much he can do militarily without a formal declaration of war, which requires Congress to act and would elevate ISIS. (ISIS is a threat, but it isn't Imperial Japan or Nazi Germany.) But he should have Congress' backing for sustained military action, as President Bush did when he sent troops into Iraq in 2003.

Whatever one thinks of whether it made the right decision, Congress did authorize the president to use force in Iraq in 2002 and did so with bipartisan support. Yet it is hard to imagine Obama risking the ire of some in his own party, much less making the necessary overtures to Republicans to do something similar against ISIS. I hope I am wrong.

Obama has taken some steps against ISIS, namely bombing strikes in Iraq. But he must do more. It is not enough to try to contain ISIS. It is not enough -- though it is a necessary step -- to arm and train others to fight ISIS. It surely is not the right thing to do to give Iran a nuclear deal in the hopes that Iran will do something to stop ISIS.

Perhaps ISIS will be a wake-up call for this president. Perhaps he will do the right thing. He should be pressing our allies as hard as he can to join the fight. But he has wasted so much capital that it makes the task harder than it should be.

He came into office with the highest goodwill and expectations of our European allies. For goodness' sake, the man won the Nobel Peace Prize barely nine months into office (not that the list of past dubious winners inspires much confidence in the judgment of the Norwegian Nobel Committee). It will take hard work to round up a coalition of the willing. Does Obama have it in him to even try? Will he make his case to Congress and the American people? He needs both if he is to succeed.

Obama is writing and saying some of the right things. Now let's see what he will actually do.

Quit Defending Abuse

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson's arrest on child abuse charges has sparked a huge debate about corporal punishment, one that exposes deep cultural rifts. I have to admit I've been surprised -- no, shocked -- at those who've jumped to the 217-pound football player's defense.

Fox News Channel host Sean Hannity said on his show this week, "I don't want to see this guy get a felony. I don't want to see this guy lose his job. ... He deserves parenting classes." Hannity followed up his defense by taking off his belt and slapping the desk to show how he was beaten as a child, and also described being punched in the face by his dad. "I deserved it," he said.

CNN's Don Lemon weighed in, as well. While not condoning what Peterson did, Lemon said, "I have to say that when I was a kid, I would have to go and get the switch off the tree. And if I brought back a switch that wasn't big enough, then my grandmother or my dad or my mom would go get a bigger one."

The pictures of Peterson's 4-year-old son, taken several days after the incident and available online, show blood-encrusted whipping marks on his thighs, both outer and inner. The indictment also describes similar marks on the boy's back, buttocks, ankles and scrotum, and Peterson admits stuffing leaves into the boy's mouth to stifle his screams.

This wasn't discipline. It was a beating by an angry thug who felt entitled to engage in it because the child is his biological offspring. (The man has multiple children -- he won't say how many -- by multiple women, one of whom was beaten to death at age 2 by another man.) One of Peterson's other children, also 4 at the time, bears a visible scar on his forehead from a "whooping" Peterson administered while the child was confined in a car seat. In that case, officials declined to prosecute the player.

Hannity's and Lemon's stories apparently resonate with large numbers of people. Whole swaths of Americans believe it is perfectly permissible to hit a child -- even to use an instrument like a belt, stick, paddle or anything else handy -- if the child misbehaves. According to the University of Chicago's General Social Survey (GSS), the overwhelming majority of Americans (about 70 percent in the last survey) believe that "it is sometimes necessary to discipline a child with a good, hard spanking."

But when does a spanking become a beating? Both Hannity and Lemon described beatings, not spankings. And while both men claim that the punishment did them "good," the empirical research on corporal punishment is clear and virtually unanimous: It isn't effective in discouraging future bad behavior, is likely to increase the child's own aggressiveness, and produces children who grow into adults with increased violent tendencies and other mental health problems.

Many born-again Christians, who are more likely to defend corporal punishment according to the GSS, point to the Biblical injunctions to justify physical punishment of children found almost exclusively in the Old Testament, especially Proverbs. The New Testament, however, is mostly silent on the issue. In place of admonishment to use the "rod of correction," there are stories of forgiveness, as in the parable of the prodigal son.

According to the GSS, blacks are more likely than whites, Hispanics or Asians to favor corporal punishment. Southerners are more likely than those from the Midwest, West or Northeast to think it's OK to spank, and Republicans are more likely than Democrats to agree.

I'm not going to say it's never permissible to spank a child (though I never received a spanking or spanked my children) -- but the rules should be clear. Disciplining a child should never include hitting bare flesh. Nor should it ever involve using anything other than an open hand -- certainly no fists, belts, cords, switches, paddles, wood spoons or any other instruments. And there should be some reasonable limits on the number of swats a parent can administer and to how young a child.

Children are vulnerable and need protection -- and, unfortunately, that sometimes includes protection from their own parents. Too bad those who have been abused now see the need to defend the abusers.

An Honest Conversation on Race

After weeks of national angst generated when a white police officer shot an unarmed black man on the streets of Ferguson, Mo., perhaps it is time we have an honest discussion about race in America. But if we do so, the voices should not be restricted to those who carry a sense of racial grievance and blame racism as the root cause of all the problems that afflict the black community.

Jason Riley, a Wall Street Journal editorial board member and author of "Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks To Succeed," is certainly one man who should be listened to.

Riley is not oblivious to police bias. He recounts, in what is a very personal book, several incidents in which, as a young black man, police pulled him over when he was driving through white neighborhoods or high-crime areas, suspecting he might be up to no good, based solely on demographics.

In the early 1990s, while driving home from work as a sportswriter late one night through Washington, D.C., he got a harsh taste of what it sometimes means to be a young black man.

"I was sitting at a red light when no fewer than four squad cars converged on me, lights flashing and sirens screaming," he writes. "Seconds later police officers were pointing guns at me as I sat cowering."

The police ordered him out of the vehicle, pushed him to the ground and handcuffed him, while two officers kept their guns pointed at him. A few minutes later they let him go, explaining he fit the description of a suspected gunrunner from New York (his license plates were from the Empire State).

The incident, far more traumatic than the one Attorney General Eric Holder recounted in the wake of the Ferguson shooting about being stopped by the police while running to a movie in Georgetown, didn't leave Riley embittered and angry, however. Nor did a series of other slights and suspicions, such as being followed in stores and while driving around white neighborhoods when visiting friends.

Why? Because he recognized that the behavior of all too many young black men makes many people -- including other blacks -- fearful. Riley recounts the statistics on crimes committed by blacks, most importantly young black men, from a variety of sources.

But one needn't take Riley's word for it. According to statistics compiled by Holder's own Department of Justice, black men commit a hugely disproportionate share of violent crimes. In 2012, blacks made up 38.5 percent of all persons arrested for violent crimes and 51.5 percent of those under 18 arrested for such crimes, but they constituted only 13 percent of the population. And even accounting for the possibility or likelihood of bias in arrests, the conviction rates are similarly stark. One Bureau of Justice Statistics study from 2002 concluded that when the race of the person committing homicide was known, blacks committed 51 percent of homicides.

Riley's book discusses why these depressing statistics stem not simply from poverty or prejudice, but from cultural changes that have occurred in the black community and the unintended consequences of liberal efforts to blame everything on poverty and prejudice. Much of Riley's discussion has to do with what has happened to black culture. He describes the pernicious effect of even middle-class black youngsters eschewing proper diction and devotion to schoolwork. In one study of fairly affluent kids in an Ohio suburb, Riley reports that researcher John Ogbu, a Nigerian-born anthropologist and Berkeley professor before his death in 2003, found that "black kids readily admitted that they didn't work as hard as whites, took easier classes, watched more TV and read fewer books."

But, of course, the major problem in the black community that accounts for so much of the disparity in achievement and criminal behavior is that more than seven in 10 black children are born to single women and will spend much of their lives with no father present.

If we want to have an honest conversation about race, we need to begin here. Riley is not afraid to confront this issue or any other. As the conversation on race in America continues, let's hope his voice gets a hearing.

Disparate Impact, Affirmative Action, and Other Nonsense

Last Tuesday, September 9, at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., there was a multipanel event on “Civil Rights in the United States” sponsored jointly by the Federalist Society, the Heritage Foundation, and the Cato Institute.  Needless to say, these issues are always of interest and have particular salience these days in light of the ongoing drama in Ferguson. 

I was the opening speaker on the opening panel, which discussed “Disparate Impact and the Rule of Law: Does Disparate Impact Liability Make Everything Illegal?”  You can listen to the panel discussion here (my opening remarks start at the 5:30 mark and last until 22:00, but you might want to listen a bit longer to hear the very nice compliment I received from the next panelist, Peter Kirsanow, at about 22:25; there’s also a lively question-and-answer period that starts at the 55:50, the most lively part beginning around 1:03:50).

I explained what the “disparate impact” approach to civil-rights enforcement was and why it makes no sense.  To quote from a Wall Street Journal op-ed I wrote:

Landlords, businesses, local governments and others can be held liable for policies that have disproportionate racial effects — even if those policies make no racial distinctions, are adopted with no discriminatory intent, and are applied in nondiscriminatory ways.

Yet if the numbers come out wrong, then none of the rest matters, unless a defendant can prove to the satisfaction of a judge or jury that there is some high degree of "necessity" for the policy or practice in question. Even then, defendants can lose if a judge or jury is persuaded that some other procedure would have been as good and wouldn't have resulted in those numbers.

The disparate-impact standard for antidiscrimination law pushes people to do one or both of two things: Get rid of legitimate selection criteria, or use a racial double standard to ensure that the numbers come out right.

Unfortunately, as I also discussed, the approach is being used aggressively today by the Obama administration in a wide range of contexts — to challenge, for example, employers’ use of criminal-background checks, school discipline policies, and voter ID requirements among other things.

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Speaking of voter ID:  Last week I read this news account, suggesting that the challenge to invalidate Wisconsin’s voter-ID law prior to the upcoming election appeared to have gotten a cold reception before a federal courts of appeals panel hearing the case.  I immediately noted on National Review Online this promising development, and that the proper framework for determining whether such laws violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act is the subject of this paper that I had coauthored.  Later in the day, the court indeed ruled that the election could go forward.

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In that Wall Street Journal op-ed mentioned above, I also noted:

If a business, agency or school has standards for hiring, promoting, admissions or offering a mortgage that aren't being met by individuals in some racial and ethnic groups, there are three things that can be done. First, the standards can be relaxed for those groups. That is what racial preferences do. Second, the government can attack the standards themselves. That is what the disparate-impact approach to enforcement does. Third, one can examine why a disproportionate number of individuals in some groups aren't meeting the standards — such as failing public schools or being born out of wedlock — and do something about it. This option holds little interest on the political left.

And that mention of racial preferences is a good lead-in to this last item, involving a news story in the Washington Times about a speech given by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.  The story was headlined “Sotomayor voices support for affirmative action,” and read in part:

She said [different opportunities] may start with many people of color being born in economically challenged circumstances, going to school in districts that lag behind, or even where people go to camp.

"So many of my lawyer friends, the people that they have as clients are people they met at summer camps. Many minorities never have the opportunity for that experience," said Sotomayor, the first Hispanic on the Supreme Court.

The justice — only the third woman on the nation's highest court — wrote the dissent in April in a 6-2 decision that upheld a state's right to outlaw the use of race in determining college admissions. She told the audience that when she was a senior in high school, a friend who went to Princeton University called her and urged her to come to the school.

"'You have to go to an Ivy League school,'" Sotomayor recounted him telling her. "And what I said to him was, ‘What's an Ivy League school?'"

She did apply, got in and was a good student, the justice said, "but I wouldn't even have known to apply because I came from a world where that wasn't the expectation."

"And that's true of a lot of kids in a lot of communities," the justice said. "I certainly wouldn't be where I am today."

Here’s my question for Justice Sotomayor:  Does she think that there are no white or Asian students who were “born in economically challenged circumstances” or never went to “summer camps” or whatever?  And does she think that there are no African American or Latino students who were not born in economically challenged circumstances and who did go to summer camps?

The point is that there is no reason — none — to use skin color and national origin as a proxy for disadvantage in America in 2014.  University admissions decisions should be made without regard to race or ethnicity.

Enablers General and Other Thoughts on Ferguson

My handy online dictionary defines “enabler” as “a person who encourages or enables negative or self-destructive behavior in another.”  Another online definition:  “one who enables another to persist in self-destructive behavior … by providing excuses or by making it possible to avoid the consequences of such behavior.”

And that’s a fair description of the role the Left is playing, or would like to play, with respect to crime and substance abuse in many African American communities, isn’t it?  And this includes, alas, the Attorney General, as the Center for Equal Opportunity’s Linda Chavez discussed in her latest column.  

The Left’s preferred approach:  Let’s not focus overmuch on criminal and other self-destructive behavior, or talk about out-of-wedlock birthrates and a dysfunctional inner-city culture that romanticizes thugs and disparages “acting white.  Let’s talk instead about dubious arrest disparities and ill-defined “institutional racism.” 

Now, really, which discussion is more likely to improve the lives of those in these communities, law-breakers and law-abiders alike?

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From Eric Holder’s “open letter” to the people of Ferguson: “And police forces should reflect the diversity of the communities they serve.”

Hiring with an eye on race and ethnicity violates the civil-rights laws that Mr. Holder is supposedly enforcing. And such discrimination is not only unfair and divisive; it also means that the less qualified will be hired over the more qualified, which is in no one’s interest, including of course the general public’s interest in being protected.  

Should an all-white jurisdiction avoid hiring nonwhites? Do most nonwhites insist on having a sub-optimum police force because of their racial preferences? If they do, should those preferences be catered to? Can and should a police force be trusted only if it has a melanin content that approximates the melanin content of the jurisdiction’s general population? The answers are no, no, no, and no. And it is certainly not a good thing for the Attorney General of the United States to encourage, apparently, the answers of yes, yes, yes, and yes.

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But let’s assume the absolute worst and that it turns out that a policeman has acted with racial malice in killing a young black man. That may be one additional bit of evidence that the Left is justified in some part of its racial agenda, but one incident, no matter how dramatic, is not a universal proof. So it’s important that justice be done in this case, but it won’t tell us anything definitive about what goes on elsewhere. It’s not as if lots of people think that racism is nonexistent so that finding one example of it is really important. 

I can see the argument that an incident like this can be appropriately seized upon to force a particular reform in a particular community. But that’s about it. And, of course, you would want to wait until you actually knew what had happened.

And we know it may well turn out that what actually happened was somewhat different, or a lot different, from what the Left believes/hopes happened. In which case the Left’s worldview will not change, because that won’t be universal proof of anything either.

If the shoe were on the other foot, and a young black man was accused of some horrific crime, no one on the Left would concede that one young black man’s guilt made the case for this or that policy that the Left opposed. They would argue, rightly, that one incident can’t bear that much weight. And naturally we would hear a lot about being innocent until proved guilty.

I suppose it is human nature to like drama and, especially, to have a struggle come down to one decisive moment. But that’s not a sane way to view a broader reality or to make political decisions.

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I can understand demonstrating against police racism.  But I’ve seen no evidence adduced of police racism in Ferguson beyond this shooting, where the facts are hazy at best and are still being investigated. 

And perhaps I’m being too charitable:  There are obviously some on the Left who believe they should just seize the moment to advance their agenda — although, even for them, it’s unclear to me just what that agenda is here — because it gives them an excuse to use a threat of unrest and even riots to extort this or that political payment (what would be more clearly seen as the blackmail it is if that excuse were lacking). 

Don’t waste a crisis; don’t even waste the opportunity to create a crisis where there really isn’t one.

And the media bear much of the blame here, too.  It sells too many newspapers and helps ratings too much not to help create a bigger story than this is, especially when doing so is consistent with the mainstream media’s liberal worldview anyhow.

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One other item, this one not Ferguson-related: Here is a long — painfully, 876-words long — call for “Increasing College Diversity” on Huffington Post.  It’s quite unremarkable, the usual pabulum, and not at all worth reading. 

I send it only to note that at no point does the author argue that “diversity” will yield educational benefits for white and Asian students by exposing them to random conversations with students having a different melanin content from themselves.  Even that is not itself noteworthy, since most defenses of “diversity” likewise fail in this regard.  But it is worth noting that even those who defend the use of racial and ethnic preferences don’t seem to think much of the only legal defense the Supreme Court has recognized for such discrimination.