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No Defending the Indefensible

I have never been prouder to be a Republican than when I watched South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott -- all Republicans -- call for the Confederate flag to come down on the statehouse grounds. Other prominent Republicans from states that incorporate the Confederate symbol into their own state flags also called for changes. These moves took courage of a kind too many politicians either lack altogether or fail to exercise when they think it might lose them votes.

But not all conservatives are happy. Talk-show host Rush Limbaugh warned that the real motivation of those who want to bring down the Confederate flag is "destroying the South as a political force," and that the next target will be the American flag. Provocateur Ann Coulter told Fox Business News, "I'd really like to like Nikki Haley since she is a Republican, but on the other hand, she's an immigrant and does not understand America's history." Coulter's words say a lot about her own ignorance, not to mention prejudice: Haley is American-born, and it's Coulter's understanding of history that is faulty.

Coulter and some other critics seem to think the flag is a symbol of bravery. Coulter says, "It was a battle flag -- it is to honor Robert E. Lee," the Confederate general who led the Confederate forces. "Anyone who knows the first thing about military history knows that there is no greater army that ever took the field than the Confederate army," according to Coulter. Except, of course, that Lee's army suffered disastrous defeats that finally brought an end to the most deadly war in U.S. history when he surrendered to Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House.

No doubt many Confederate soldiers were brave on the battlefield -- but so, too, were many individuals who fought against the United States of America, and that, after all, is exactly what Lee and the forces he commanded did. Why should we honor their cause, which was to destroy the union?

As military historian Max Boot noted in a blog post in Commentary Magazine, the controversy goes beyond the flag. States in the Old Confederacy go out of their way to honor not only Lee, but also Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States, and Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general known for his massacre of 300 black Union soldiers at Ft. Pillow, Tenn., whom he ordered slaughtered rather than taken prisoner. Boot says such men "were traitors to this country, inveterate racists and champions of slavery. Modern Germany does not have statues to Erwin Rommel even though he -- unlike Lee -- turned at the end of the day against the monstrous regime in whose cause he fought so skillfully."
Conservatives have been in the forefront of opposing revisionist history -- so why is it now so hard for some conservatives to recognize that efforts to rewrite the history of the Confederate flag is revisionism writ large?

The flag that Limbaugh and Coulter want to defend had largely receded from public view in the years after the Civil War except for its use in reenactments and other historical contexts. Segregationists revived its display at the Dixiecrat Convention in 1948, a party formed by Southern Democrats who objected to President Harry Truman's integration of the armed services and a proposal to include a civil rights plank in the Democratic Party platform.

At that moment, the flag took on a clear meaning, if it were ever in doubt. Georgia changed its flag to include the Confederate symbol in 1956 -- two years after Brown v. Board of Education outlawed school segregation. Governors in Alabama and South Carolina raised the battle flag over their state Capitols only in 1961 and 1962, respectively. These acts sent a clear message of resistance to civil rights.

Seven Southern states currently incorporate symbolic references to the Confederacy in their state flags: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee. All of them should rethink those symbols. It isn't just that they evoke a racist past; they are inherently un-American. They should offend not just those Americans whose ancestors were slaves, but all of us.

The Confederate states fought the Civil War to preserve slavery and were happy to destroy the union to do so. Theirs was not a noble cause, but a treasonous one. No one should see a need to defend it, least of all Republicans.

Teaching and the Times

“Tough Tests for Teachers, With Question of Bias” was the front-page, above-the-fold headline on a story last week in the New York Times. It discusses the fact that “minority candidates” — meaning African Americans and Hispanics — are not doing as well as whites in passing teacher-licensing exams. I have low expectations of the Times for a story like this, so I was pleasantly surprised that it at least acknowledged the arguments that, gee, maybe there’s some logic to requiring some basic level of competence among schoolteachers. But I still have several complaints.

First, the article (starting with the headline) suggests that the tests have “bias” or are “discriminatory” because not all groups pass them at the same rate. That’s true, however, only if one views a test with “disparate impact” as discriminatory, even if it does not discriminate on its face, in its design, or in its application. A normal human being would not call such a test discriminatory.

Second, the article refers to “a long-held goal of diversifying the teaching force so it more closely resembles the makeup of the country’s student body.” That’s a silly goal. Do we want half of all teachers to be men? Do we want more white teachers in Idaho than in New York? Should we be concerned if Jews are “overrepresented” among schoolteachers?

Third, the article talks about the purported benefits of “role models” — that is, that “having a teacher of the same race may be beneficial for students.” But, as I have discussed previously, the Supreme Court flatly rejected the role-model rationale many years ago, in Wygant v. Jackson Board of Education. A decade before that, in Hazelwood School District v. United States, the Court had similarly noted that a school district could not point to the racial makeup of its student body as a justification for the racial makeup of its faculty. The law aside, it’s hard enough to get competent teachers at any level without disqualifying some and preferring others because of irrelevant physical characteristics. Show me a parent who would say, “I’m willing for my child to be taught by a less qualified teacher so long as he or she shares my child’s color.” It is ugly indeed to presuppose that one can admire — one can adopt as a role model — only someone who shares your skin color and, conversely, that a white child could never look up to a black person, or a black child to a white person, or either one to an Asian or Latino or American Indian. And the notion that our schoolteachers and professors must look like our students leads into some very undesirable corners. As Justice Powell wrote in Wygant, “Carried to its logical extreme, the idea that black students are better off with black teachers could lead to the very system the Court rejected in Brown v. Board of Education.

Finally, it’s not clear to me that there is much of a racial imbalance anyway, at least based on the figures in the article. It calls the current teaching force “monochromatic” because “more than 80 percent of public school teachers are white.” But if Hispanics can also be white (the approach the Census takes, for example), then that’s not only not monochromatic, it’s not that different from the general population. And the fact that the percentage of minority teachers doesn’t line up with the percentage of minority students is also likely a function of the fact that younger age cohorts have a higher percentage of minorities than older age cohorts.

So, alas, the Times flunks.

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John Rosenberg, at his excellent “Discriminations” blogsite, flags an ugly new acronym, namely POCLA:  “People of Color Less Asians.”  It’s similar to URM (“Under-Represented Minorities”), in that it’s handy when a university wants to discriminate against both whites and Asian Americans in, say, student admissions or faculty hiring.  But I’d say it’s more pointed and explicit in defining the target and, thus, uglier. 

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Since it’s back in the news, here are some Confederate-flag related thoughts, from a National Review Online column of mine many years ago . . . .

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Finally, and back to the New York Times, here’s my response to one of its editorials from earlier this month: 

Your June 1 editorial “A Bad Voting Ban in Maryland” asserts “there isn’t any” logic behind disenfranchising felons — an unsupported assertion, and one that would be remarkable if true, since the practice has roots in ancient Greece and Rome and has been part of English and American law for a long, long time.

But it is not true.  People who are not willing to follow the law themselves cannot claim a right to make the law for everyone else.  We have certain minimum, objective standards of responsibility and commitment to our laws that must be met before people are given a role in the solemn enterprise of self-government, and some people don’t meet those standards — like children, noncitizens, the mentally incompetent, and those who have committed serious crimes against their fellow citizens.

It makes sense to reenfranchise felons as part of their reintegration into society, but it should not be done automatically and mechanically on the day someone walks out of prison — and certainly not, as the vetoed Maryland law would have done, when people have not even finished serving their probation and parole!  Rather, it should be done when the person has fully served his sentence and shown he has really turned over a new leaf.  Then a ceremony before a judge and restoring full civil-rights would have meaning and would create an incentive for true reintegration.

Trash TV Shouldn't Be News

Maybe I'm just getting old, but the media coverage of Bruce Jenner's transformation into Caitlyn and the Duggar family saga strike me as evidence that our society has become unhinged.

I'd never heard of the Duggars or their TLC show, "19 Kids and Counting," until two weeks ago when the story broke that the eldest child, now an adult, had resigned his job for the lobbying arm of the conservative Family Research Council over allegations that he had fondled his sisters as a young teenager.

As for Jenner, I didn't know he was married to a Kardashian -- a name I know primarily from the O.J. Simpson trial, for which the original patriarch served as defense counsel -- much less that he was having an identity crisis.

I didn't know any of these things because I have never watched a reality TV show. Am I just a snob? I don't think so. It isn't that I don't engage in mindless activities to relax -- I watch silly pet videos on Facebook when a friend posts them. I was addicted to "Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad." And, while I hate to admit it because some of the content is disgusting, I've watched every episode of "Game of Thrones."

But reality TV, it seems to me, is of an entirely different species than even the most vapid drama or risque comedy. It isn't entertainment. It's voyeurism. Watching it is like looking through a peephole, albeit one in which the people on the other side are witting exhibitionists playing a role. And this symbiotic charade harms real human beings.

Cersei Lannister is pure evil -- but she is also make-believe. We can wish her ill with impunity. We root for her downfall, and it does no harm. This is the stuff of catharsis.

But what about Jenner and the Duggar family? They are sad, pitiful, real people, not characters, and we should avert our gaze, not gleefully watch their unraveling.

I don't buy that Bruce -- now Caitlyn -- is courageous. Jenner's inner demons, which he is willing to try to exorcise with extensive plastic surgery and artificial hormones, are his own business. Except that he insists on making it ours and is aided in the process not only by trash TV, but by supposedly responsible journalism.

As for the Duggars, they are begging for privacy now after living as exhibitionists for years. Their story is a human tragedy, one that unfortunately befalls more families than we would like to believe. Should son Josh have been prosecuted as a teenager for groping four of his sisters? Maybe, but I doubt his punishment at 14 or 15 would have been much different from the plan the family apparently came up with to deal with it, namely a work program and counseling.

But these family demons, too, could and should have been dealt with privately. Instead, the family decided to welcome millions of Americans into their lives, which was a virtual invitation for those who dislike their fundamentalist lifestyle to delve into their secrets.

The viewers of the shows that have made the Jenners and Duggars of this world famous aren't much different from the patrons of an earlier era's carnival "freak shows."  But both the scale and the acceptability of this form of entertainment are vastly greater today.

So, too, are the motivations of the participants. The most famous of the carnival sideshow acts included persons like the "Four-Legged Lady" Myrtle Corbin, who was born with a severe congenital deformity: an extra pair of legs and two pelvises that were the result of conjoined twinning. These performers allowed people to pay to stare because few other opportunities to make a living were available to them. Not so the Jenners, Duggars, Kardashians, Duck Dynasties, housewives of New York, Beverly Hills, wherever. Surely none of them would starve if they couldn't flaunt their strange lives.

There may always be an audience for this kind of thing. But can't those ostensibly engaged in responsible journalism stop putting it on their front pages or headlining their news programs with it? Some people may want to relish the oddities or misfortunes of others, but don't shove them in the faces of the rest of us.

What Is Race, Anyway?

Rachel Dolezal may be the single worst person imaginable to provoke a serious discussion on race in America -- but provoke it she does. The woman has told so many lies, it's easy to lose sight of the important question her story raises:  What is race, anyway?

Dolezal was born to fair-skinned parents whose ancestors came from Europe: Germany and what was then Czechoslovakia. We call such people white or Caucasian, though they are neither white in a literal sense or from the Caucasus. We define the racial group that includes the Dolezals so broadly today that it includes people as diverse as Danes and Arabs.

But the definition of a white race itself has transmogrified over time and place. In the early 20th century, amateur anthropologist and attorney Madison Grant wrote a book called "The Passing of the Great Race" that influenced the immigration debate of the time. In it, Grant argued for the superiority of what he dubbed the Nordic race, which included most Northern Europeans, against what he considered the corrupting influence of the Mediterranean and Alpine "races" that encompassed those from Southern and Eastern Europe. And indeed the immigration laws passed in the early 20th century were aimed at excluding more Italians, Poles, Russian Jews and others that lawmakers at the time considered racially inferior.

The 1930 Census included Mexican as a race. Protests from the Mexican government and Americans of Mexican descent in the U.S. led to removal of the racial classification afterward, but today we ask all who complete the Census to identify whether or not they are Hispanic, which the government carefully clarifies are persons who may be of any race. On the other hand, Mexican-American activists in the 1960s adopted "La Raza," the race, as their identity, and many still use the term today, including the National Council of La Raza, a leading Hispanic civil rights group.

Our most troubling racial classification has always been around the category of those whose heritage is African. That Africans were brought here in chains will always be our Original Sin, one that even a Civil War has never seemed fully to expiate. Years of discrimination on the basis of skin color followed passage of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments, which abolished slavery and granted citizenship and the right to vote to former slaves and their progeny. For decades, the "one drop rule" meant anyone who had even one great-grandparent who was black could be excluded from schools, denied a job or prevented from marrying whom he or she chose in many parts of this country.

But African-Americans are not the only group who have faced discrimination on the basis of race or color. Our immigration laws excluded Chinese in 1882 and later other Asian immigrants, and foreign-born Asians could not become naturalized U.S. citizens until 1952. Like African-Americans, Asians could not marry whom they chose. Seven states prohibited Asians, dubbed Mongolian in many statutes, from marrying whites in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Racial classifications have always served the purpose to divide and discriminate, so why do we insist on continuing to use them? I, for one, refuse to check the boxes on forms asking my race. But government today is the leading driver in asking people to identify their race on everything from college to loan applications. When I refuse to check the box required, the loan officer does it for me, because the government insists: "If you do not furnish ethnicity, race or sex, under federal regulations, this lender is required to note the information on the basis of visual observation and surname if you have made this application in person."

The real problem, it seems to me, isn't that Rachel Dolezal called herself black. It's that all of us are forced to choose a racial identity in the first place.

Good News Is Bad for Motivating Voters

I know it will come as a shock to most conservatives, but far fewer people are sneaking into the country across our southern border than at any time in recent memory. At the height of the illegal immigration crisis in 2000, 1.6 million illegal immigrants entered the U.S. Since 2012, the numbers are down to about 400,000 -- and they've gone down so far this fiscal year by another 28 percent over last year.

That's good news, but good news doesn't energize the base nearly as effectively as fear. Instead of embracing the facts that illegal immigration is down to a decades-long low -- by one measure lower than it has been in more than 40 years -- many conservatives still fret about an illegal invasion that threatens our very way of life.

Measuring the flow of illegal immigrants is difficult, which is why so many people argue about the numbers incessantly. A few years ago, I'd often encounter people who claimed there were 30 million illegal immigrants in the U.S., when demographers estimated slightly more than 12 million.

So how do demographers come up with their numbers? Most use data from a survey taken by the Census Bureau each March that asks individuals in a very large and statistically controlled sample to identify their country of birth and compare the number born outside the U.S. with the number of permanent resident aliens, authorized temporary workers, asylees and naturalized citizens known to be present. When the latter is subtracted from the former, the residual number of persons are presumed to be illegally present after adjusting upward for an estimated undercount of individuals likely missed in the surveys. The method isn't perfect, but if consistently used, it shows trends over time that provide the best information we have.

But some researchers go even further by doing studies of the populations in other countries, principally Mexico because traditionally it has been the source of the largest number of our illegal immigrants. Those studies show a remarkable decline not just in the number of Mexicans immigrating illegally, but also in the number who desire to come to the U.S.

The Washington Post reports that researcher Wayne Cornelius, who surveys Mexicans from the state of Yucatan (a major source of illegal immigrants in the past), has found a precipitous decline in the number who said they were planning to come to the U.S. In 2006, 24 percent of those surveyed said they were planning to come in the next 12 months. By 2009, during the economic recession, the number had dropped to 8 percent. But this year, only 2.5 percent said they were coming.

These numbers are born out by official statistics that show that Chinese replaced Mexicans as the largest group of new foreign-born persons last year. The Mexican-born population in the U.S. has actually declined in the past few years, for the first time since the Great Depression.

So why aren't conservatives applauding? It's clear that the economy has had some deterrent effect on illegal immigration. Immigrants come here to work, and when the job market is lousy, the risk and cost of immigrating makes less sense. Demographic changes in Mexico, in particular, have also led to less illegal immigration. Mexicans are having far fewer children than in the past. In 1960, the average fertility rate for Mexican women was 7.3 children; today it is 2.4, barely above the U.S. rate of 2. Mexicans are better educated today than ever before, making more opportunities available to them in their home country, whose economy grew at a faster pace than the U.S. economy following the recession.

But the major reason for less illegal immigration is better border security. Even as the economy has improved, illegal immigration continues to go down.

We have more than doubled our number of border agents to more than 18,000 now. We spend more on Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection and the Office of Biometric Identity Management -- some $16.2 billion last year -- than we do on all other federal criminal law enforcement combined, including the FBI, Drug Enforcement, Secret Service, Federal Marshal Service, and Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

But don't expect to hear these facts from the fear mongers. It's hard to motivate people with good news, and it's far easier to try to scare them into giving or going to the polls.

Political Correctness — Racial Diversity and Speech Uniformity

Two items of note late last week, race-wise (alas, of course, there are always more than that, but just two for now). 

First — as we noted early but was since then widely discussed here, there, and everywhere — the head of the Spokane branch of the NAACP now stands accused of being white. Of course, you can be white and still be a member of the NAACP, but the claim is that this lady knowingly misrepresented her melanin content.  Comparisons with faux–Native American Elizabeth Warren and faux-woman Caitlyn Jenner were, of course, inevitable.

Second, there was an interesting article in the New York Times headlined, “Report Says Census Undercounts Mixed Race.”  It’s worth reading, even though I’ll be suing the Times for plagiarism:

The Times article last week:  “Today, the United States is increasingly not only a multiracial country, but also a country of multiracial individuals, including the first biracial president . . . ”

Yours truly in ScotusBlog, 2012:  “ . . . as America becomes an increasingly multiracial, multiethnic society and as individual Americans are themselves more and more likely to be multiracial and multiethnic (starting with our president).”

I won’t really sue the Times, of course. Glad to have them on board with me in recognizing that, in such a country, it’s an “untenable legal regime” to give preferences to some Americans and discriminate against others on the basis of skin color and what country their ancestors came from.  The Times does recognize that now, right? 

And this goes double if we can all choose our own racial identities, right?  I don’t particularly care if people want to identify themselves as being of this or that race, so long as being classified a particular way doesn’t mean that you will get treated any better or any worse.  But, alas, such preferential treatment is vehemently insisted upon by the forces of political correctness.

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Speaking of political correctness:  Timothy Lewis is apparently angling to get the William J. Brennan, Jr., Prize, awarded annually to the worst Republican-appointed ex-judge (the slightly more prestigious Earl Warren Prize goes to the worst Republican-appointed sitting judge). 

In a recent speech, he assailed Chief Justice Roberts’s famous 2007 statement that “the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race”; the ex-judge opined that “the chief justice should like [sic] to spend a little more time in the ’hood before making pronouncements on discrimination.” 

Mr. Lewis, who was appointed to both a federal district judgeship and the Third Circuit by former President George H.W. Bush, went on to “stake[] out a number of liberal positions in his speech,” demanding greater “diversity” and “multiculturalism” at law firms and endorsing two bad bills, the Paycheck Fairness Act and the End Racial Profiling Act

You can read all about it here (behind a pay-wall).

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And one last note on political correctness (this time the “speech police” kind rather than the “racial diversity” kind). 

There was a Hill hearing earlier this month on “First Amendment Protections on Public College and University Campuses, a subject much in the news, which heard from witnesses Greg Lukianoff, Kim Kolby, Jamie Raskin, and Wendy Kaminer.  I want also to flag here this statement submitted by Hans Bader of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Relatedly, I participated last week in an exchange at The Chronicle of Higher Education, in which I noted:

Laura Kipnis’s inquisition (she was accused of sexual harassment for writing an article in [The Chronicle of Higher Education]) under Title IX happened because her university, Northwestern, adopted an extraordinarily broad definition of “sexual harassment” that can punish even a single “unwelcome” comment, as Jessica Gavora recently chronicled in an essay entitled “How Title IX Became a Political Weapon.”

That extraordinarily, unconscionably broad definition is precisely what the [Obama administration’s] Office for Civil Rights [at the Education Department] and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division demanded the University of Montana adopt, over the objectionsof free-speech advocates like the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).

As FIRE has described at length, the Office for Civil Rights has sent conflicting signals ever since then about whether the definition it urged on the U. of M. should be adopted by all colleges, or need not be (sometimes suggesting it is a blueprint for all colleges, and sometimes not), but it is not surprising that colleges that want to avoid a Title IX inquisition have adopted it to avoid potential harassment by the Office for Civil Rights, as many in fact have.
The fact that the Office for Civil Rights once supported free speech during the previous administration (way back in 2003) says little about its stance toward free speech now.

Justice for Freddie Gray

A Baltimore grand jury handed down indictments against six police officers Thursday in the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody, the latest chapter in a saga that captured national attention when riots erupted last month following Gray's funeral. Gray's death doesn't lend itself easily to simplistic racial explanations, which were seized upon in other highly publicized deaths of black men in police custody over the past year, including the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in New York City.

Three of the accused officers are white; three are black. Five are men, and one is a woman. The police commissioner, whose department is now under scrutiny by the Justice Department for potential civil rights violations, is black. So, too, are the mayor and the city prosecutor bringing the charges.

But if Baltimore's political leaders are mostly black and its police force reflects the racial composition of the city, why is there such a sense of racial grievance among its black residents, especially those who live in poor neighborhoods in West Baltimore?

Since the rioting, Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts said this week that police are having difficulty stopping the violence that afflicts West Baltimore. "Officers tell me and their supervisors, any time they pull up to respond to a call, they have 30 to 50 people surrounding them," Batts told The Baltimore Sun. The situation is especially dangerous given the crime stats in Baltimore and the Western District, a 3-square-mile area that is among the city's most violent areas and was the scene of Gray's arrest and the riots that followed his death.

Homicides in Baltimore are up more than 40 percent in 2015 over the previous period last year. The city has experienced 100 homicides to date, compared with 71 at the same point last year -- a trend that bucks a national decrease in violent crime in most major cities in recent years. The overwhelming majority of these homicides -- 87 of the 100 -- involved a black victim, 80 of whom were males. And the largest number, 22, occurred in the Western District -- that's more than all the homicides in the district in all of 2014. Nonfatal shootings in West Baltimore were up 175 percent year-over-year, according to the Sun.

But while crime is up dramatically, arrests are down. Arrests in the city were 40 percent lower in the weeks following Gray's death and the riots than the same period in the two previous years, according to an analysis of police data by The Wall Street Journal. Even before Gray's death, arrests in Baltimore were down 22 percent in the first three months of 2015 compared to the same period in 2014.

What happened to Freddie Gray in the back of a police van on April 12 was a terrible shame. Thrown into the back of the van, handcuffed and later shackled but unrestrained, he sustained injuries to his spinal cord that left him dead seven days later. A jury will decide the evidence against the accused police officers in Gray's death -- but none of us should presume to know at this point whether they are guilty as charged.

Yes, Gray's life mattered. Black lives matter, as protesters remind us following every such incident involving the death of a black man at the hands of police.

But so, too, should the 87 black lives (and 13 others) lost on the streets of Baltimore this year. By focusing almost all of our national attention on the horrific death of one black victim while in police custody, we avoid the larger problem of violence within the black community. Worse, by making the police out to be the greatest threat to the black community, we risk allowing criminals to go unchallenged within those communities.

Justice for Freddie Gray would best be served by better policing in the neighborhood where he lived -- not by less policing.

Time to Recognize the Iranian Resistance

With the June 30 deadline for a deal with Iran on halting its nuclear weapons program fast approaching, the Obama administration is playing its usual bait-and-switch game. When talks first began, the administration said its goal was to dismantle Iran's nuclear infrastructure. Now the administration seems willing to accept any deal the Iranians are willing to agree to that might slow Iran's race, even marginally, to build a bomb. In return, U.N. economic sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy would be lifted. But those sanctions are the one point of leverage we have against one of the most brutal regimes in the world and one that poses a direct threat to neighboring countries, as well as to the U.S. and our allies.

Against this backdrop, a huge gathering of Iranian expatriates from around the world will take place June 13 in Villepinte, France. Organized by the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the gathering will draw tens of thousands of participants who oppose the regime in Tehran, including thousands of American citizens. As I have at similar gatherings in the past, I will be there to lend my support to the efforts of those who want to give voice to the Iranian people and the organized resistance to the Iranian regime, along with some 600 political dignitaries, including former Democratic and Republican administration officials and 120 parliamentarians from more than 60 countries.

In an interview this week, Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of the NCRI, told me, "We have to tell the U.S. government that if you do not want to see the clerical regime equipped with a nuclear bomb, stop appeasing it."

Rajavi warned: "Today the clerical regime, through its growing expansion in the region, has entered a lethal crisis. In Syria, the Assad dictatorship is on its last leg. In Iraq, the clerical regime lost its hand-picked government, headed by Nouri al-Maliki. This has marked the start of the demise of the clerical regime not only in Iraq but also throughout the region, because if the mullahs lose Baghdad, their rule in Tehran will be jeopardized."

Ironically, it is precisely because of Iran's involvement in Iraq that the Obama administration seems so willing to accept a nuclear deal on Iran's terms. The administration's reluctance to commit U.S. troops to fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq has de facto made Iran our proxy there.

President Barack Obama admitted this week that "we don't yet have a complete strategy" to deal with the growing threat of the Islamic State in Iraq or elsewhere in the region. With the Islamic State in control of Ramadi and much of Anbar province in Iraq and attacks this week on a city less than 40 miles southwest of Baghdad, the administration is desperate for help.

But Iran is not the answer. Indeed, it is part of a much bigger problem. For more than 35 years, Iran has been the chief state-sponsored terrorist nation in the world, responsible for the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of Americans and other Westerners. While the U.S. has dithered in talks with Iran on containing its nuclear threat, Iran has taken a firm foothold in Iraq, continues to prop up the Assad regime in Syria and has engineered a coup in Yemen -- a country that President Obama pointed to less than a year ago as a success in our counterterrorism strategy of "taking out terrorists who threaten us while supporting partners on the front lines."

But when it comes to supporting our "partners on the front lines," the one group that gets the cold shoulder from this administration is the organized Iranian opposition. Tehran faces growing internal opposition, which it has answered by engaging in more repression of its own people. Since Hasan Rouhani became president in 2013, Iran has executed more than 1,700 people, a higher total than at a similar point in former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's tenure. These executions signal that the Iranian regime is growing weaker, not stronger.

Now is the time for the U.S. to abandon its policy of appeasement and engage with the democratic resistance movement. The only hope for a peaceful, nuclear-free Iran is for there to be a free Iran.

Make Sure Your Pollution Is Racially Fair!

Supporters of the Center for Equal Opportunity know that I don’t like the “disparate impact” approach to civil-rights enforcement.  And while it’s a bad idea when used to challenge firefighter exams, criminal background checks, English proficiency, school discipline policies, policing, mortgage lending, and voter ID laws — to give just a few examples — I’ve always had a special place in my heart for its use by bureaucrats to challenge pollution that fails to strike the right racial balance. But, “[i]n recognition of Earth Day and Arbor Day,” the Obama administration recently highlighted those efforts in its own publication.

Now, I’m prepared to believe that the government needs to consider stepping in from time to time to stop pollution, but what I don’t understand is why racial considerations should ever be part of that consideration. That is, if the pollution is dangerous, then why should it be allowed — or not allowed — depending on the racial makeup of its victims? If a polluter’s activity will hurt those living nearby, why is it acceptable if that population is white or racially balanced, but not acceptable if those being hurt belong disproportionately to a racial or ethnic minority group?

But this is exactly the approach the government overtly takes. To quote from an example proudly showcased in the Obama administration’s publication, a violation was found “when the cities failed to assess the potential adverse disparate impacts stemming from relocation of a trolley maintenance facility to a historically Black neighborhood. As a direct result of [the federal government agency’s] involvement in the matter, city officials agreed to keep the facility near its current location.” That may be fine for the “historically Black neighborhood,” but what about the folks “near its current location”?

Too bad for them. The agency here insisted that those getting federal money “must consider and analyze alternatives [in location] to determine whether those alternatives would have less of a disparate impact on the basis of race, color, or national origin, and then implement the least discriminatory alternative.”  In other words, the government insists that whether or not there is an environmental problem worthy of federal intervention depends in part on the skin color and ancestral origin of those put at risk.

Happy belated Earth and Arbor Days!

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Is the pollution example not silly or scary enough for you?  Well, this article from Fox Business suggests that “disparate impact” and political correctness will also make airline travel less safe.  Sigh.

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I noted in this National Review Online column that I sent to you last week that the Supreme Court is now considering whether to grant review (again) in Fisher v. University of Texas. In that column I discuss recent freedom-of-information efforts by the Center for Equal Opportunity and the state affiliates of the National Association of Scholars demonstrating that universities are not taking the Court’s 2013 decision in Fisher seriously, which in itself is a good reason for revisiting the case. 

I should also note that universities’ good faith is likewise called into question by Abigail Fisher’s reply brief, which notes, for example, UT’s decision to run a “secret, race-based admissions program for well-connected applicants” (citing this amicus brief at pages 8-12), and — referring to Stanford and Yale —  that schools arrogantly “believe they can systematically destroy application files” that might open them up to antidiscrimination claims. 

And then there’s the fact that, more and more, schools are discriminating against racial minorities in in name of political correctness — see, for example, the administrative complaint filed last week against Harvard by a number of Asian-American groups. The Court was right to grant review in the Fisher case last time around (I summarized the many reasons at the time here), and it should do so again.

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To elaborate on that administrative complaint I mentioned in the preceding paragraph:  According to this news story,

A coalition of more than 60 Asian-American groups filed a federal discrimination complaint against Harvard University, claiming racial bias in undergraduate admissions.
Asian-American students with almost perfect college entrance-exam scores, top 1 percent grade-point averages, academic awards and leadership positions are more likely to be rejected than similar applicants of other races, according to their administrative complaint, filed [on May 15] with the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights. Harvard denies any discrimination.

Similar allegations were made in a lawsuit filed in federal court last November.  The more the merrier, I say, and the more Harvard is embarrassed and the more publicity that is given to this discrimination the better. 

On the other hand, I suspect that the Obama administration will do exactly nothing with this latest administrative complaint, because (a) it doesn’t want to since it likes politically correct discrimination, and (b) it can say that this matter is already before a federal court.

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One last item, also connected to the Asian American angle to the racial preference issue. 

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an interview with sociology professor Jennifer Lee about Asian American students and, in particular, the stereotyping of them.  She was asked about the Harvard complaint discussed above.  I didn’t like her response, and posted this comment:

Her answer to the penultimate question suggests that individuals support or oppose racial preferences based largely on whether or not those preferences will benefit them personally. I certainly hope that this is not true, for Asian Americans or any other group. If it had been true fifty years ago, the Civil Rights movement would have failed; it could not have prevailed without a majority of white Americans viewing discrimination against African Americans as morally wrong and opposing it for that reason, regardless of their own interests.

Likewise, racial preferences in university admissions should be ended principally for the same reason, and that reason ought to be appealing to all of us, regardless of color. There are certainly many other reasons to oppose this discrimination, and many of them are also extremely powerful, but the moral one — that it is wrong to treat people differently because of skin color or what country their ancestors came from — should always come first.

I should add that the second paragraph of her answer, in which she suggests that it is somehow selfish for people not to want to be discriminated against, is baffling. It is not selfish to oppose racial discrimination against one’s children; indeed, it is much more selfish to support racial preferences for one’s children.