Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Supreme Court Decision in the Michigan Race-Based Preference Ban

We presently have a divided Supreme Court, with the balance tipping towards conservative. So it was not much of a surprise to hear that they had upheld the State of Michigan's voter initiative that struck down race-based college-level admissions. The court didn't consider the constitutionality of race-based admissions, but only upheld the right of states to decide for themselves if they wanted to have race-based admissions, opening the gate for future state-by-state challenges to preferential discrimination. At some point in the future, however, it seems very likely that the issue will again rise to the federal level of appeal, and race-based admissions policies will eventually have to be measured against a constitutional standard, applicable through the land. 

I have always been against the idea of race-based initiatives, having seen their effects directly when I was a college student at UC Berkeley in the 1960's, and later when I worked for 27 years in a Federal Agency. In both instances, I could see plain evidence of the corruption and immorality of using race as a factor in determining qualifications for enrollment, and criteria for advancement in promotion. Blind justice requires that we don't discriminate for or against individuals solely on the basis of the color of their skin (genetic inheritance), sex or ethnic background.  

In institutions of higher learning, the only factors that should be considered are demonstrated academic performance and potential, and associated "extra-curricular" factors such as participation in sports, music, media, etc. If we rely, however well-intentioned, upon factors such as race or ethnic background or sex to rate and measure individual applicants, we will end up diluting the quality and value of our academic standards, and of the qualifications of those who graduate. Lowering standards to measure qualification, by substituting racial preferences for academic ones, is a form of corruption which encourages and realizes inequality in a way that is clearly against the intent and principle of our democratic institutions. 

In the past, de-facto discrimination allowed institutions to discriminate against minorities. But making public, deliberately preferential policies intended to facilitate discrimination--in order to artificially create racial "balance" or "diversity"--is even more corrupt. 

Over the past half-century, academic institutions have been influenced to believe that an idealized concept of "diversity" enrollment is a desirable goal. Defenders of "diversity" will argue that a racially "mixed" student body is a healthier, more balanced expression of the "diversity" of the society as a whole, and that it behooves society to "right the wrongs" of centuries of past racial discrimination by facilitating "diversity" through preferences and quotas. 

The message, however, that such selective discrimination sends to society as a whole isn't fairness, but a debasement of standards. What is a young black man or an hispanic woman to feel about him- or herself, if it is clear that their racial and ethnic backgrounds are the basis for their achieving an advantage over an "other" (i.e., white) individual? How is one kind of paternalistic (i.e., bigoted) discrimination somehow "better" than the older version? 

Presently, the undergraduate admissions totals for UC Berkeley for the current academic year, by ethnicity, show the following:

American Indian8780
African American392417
Asian American5,4275,566
Not Given492576
Subtotal-Citizens and Immigrants11,90012,465
Subtotal-American Indian, African American, Chicano, Latino2,2982,335

It's clear from this chart that Asians far outnumber any other single group (including caucasian whites). Since Asians art not, insofar as I know, a target group for affirmative preferences, it's clear that they have been able to overcome whatever deficits and/or deficiencies they may have experienced in their lives, to surmount the hierarchy of the bell-curve to achieve success in greater numbers than the competition. I suppose that if I were anti-Asian, I might find this development troubling. But since I understand that the Asian achievement is based on actual academic superiority, I find it a confirmation of the principles of equality our nation is supposed to stand for. In other words, if I were Asian, I would feel justifiably proud of my achievement, and of my inheritance. And if I were African American, and had managed to overcome whatever obstacles which I had had to confront, my success in qualifying for admission would be an untainted achievement, since California outlawed race-based admissions preferences in 1996.

Which is better?--to succeed through an artificial preference designed to privilege one through racial preference--or to succeed through one's native ability and effort?

Race-based admissions policies are a debased form of deliberate, discriminatory racism. They harm most those they are designed to assist, and spread corruption throughout the institutions where they are employed. They have no place in America, and should be outlawed. It will be interesting in the coming decades, to see whether we have the courage and decency to admit that, and take the necessary steps to eradicate them.    

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