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The Abolition of Racial and Ethnic Preferences

June 26, 2013

Colleges, of course, are never going to admit students at random. The Fisher case decided so limply by the Supreme Court this week emanates from Texas, where George W. Bush (funny how his name keeps coming up) tried to get around a now overturned Seventh Circuit judicial ban on racial quotas by imposing his own “non-racial” gimmickry on University of Texas admissions. Every student in the top ten percent of his or her high-school class would be eligible.

Not surprisingly, this brought in many students from the worst high schools in Texas and excluded the Barack Obama-type upper-middle-class blacks. The black students, especially black males, who thrive at a competitive college tend to be those whose parents expensively sheltered them from ghetto culture. But they seldom can come close to the top of the class in upscale high schools. For example, the president got only fair-to-middling grades at the Punahou School, where the average IQ of students according to a 1966 Joan Didion essay was 125.

Nice white parents might talk about how much they value diversity, but they are talking about Obama-like diversity. They don’t want their children stuck in a university full of inner-city blacks (scary) and rural Mexicans (boring). So UT added an explicitly race-based program on top of Bush’s Top Ten rule in pursuit of the much lusted-after Obama-like upper-middle-class non-Asian minorities. It’s often suggested that colleges could still find a way to admit NAM students using “race-neutral” techniques, but the reality is that the numbers have been studied for decades and it can’t be done.

The more cunning colleges have figured out that the solution to their “black lack” is to give affirmative action to “African Americans” who aren’t very black and/or aren’t very American. (Barack Obama is the very model of the modern affirmative-action admittee.) In 2004, black Harvard professors Henry Louis Gates and Lani Guinier estimated that only one-third of black Harvard undergraduates were (like Michelle Obama) descended from American slaves through all four grandparents.

The bottom line is that America is highly unlikely to get rid of racial preferences for African-Americans. Blacks aren’t closing The Gap and white Americans aren’t going to stop feeling sentimental and optimistic about their troubled but charismatic fellow citizens. (The same is probably true of American Indians, too, although their natural taciturnity means whites have largely lost interest in them.)

Blacks have sacred status in the 21st-century American mythos and the Supreme Court is not going to do much to take away their special privileges. What we need to focus upon is taking away legal privileges from groups that are currently conniving to acquire similarly sacred status, such as the rapidly growing number of Hispanics.

The best solution therefore would be to abolish all racial and ethnic preferences except for the descendants of American slaves and for registered members of American Indian tribes (i.e., those who are genuinely Indian enough to get a cut of a tribe’s annual casino rake-off). Slaves and Indians are the two main historical victims of America, so let their descendants have their privileges. But nobody else should get any.

There’s a simple bureaucratic method for accomplishing most of this reform. Merely have the Office of Management and Budget abolish the category of “ethnicity.” At present, only Hispanics get counted as an ethnicity, and everybody else is lumped into “non-Hispanic.” If the government stops counting by ethnicity, then ethnic preferences immediately start to fall apart. There are no disparate-impact lawsuits over religious bias, for instance, because the Census Bureau decided in 1956 to never count people by religion.

In the meantime, we could try not making the problem worse by not increasing immigration.

 

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