by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
George Leef of the Martin Center promotes a new book that tackles problems associated with racial preferences.
Last year, advocates of racial preferences in California, where they’d been banned since 1996, attempted to change the law so that state colleges and universities could again give admission advantages to certain groups. Despite outspending opponents by about 15-1 and with backing from big business, labor, and other organizations, the effort at repealing racial neutrality failed by 57-43 percent.
That result underscores a point that opinion polls have shown for decades—that Americans on the whole oppose racial favoritism. The California result suggests that the case for preferences is on thin ice.
A new book is going to help further melt that ice.
Law professors Gail Heriot and Maimon Schwarzschild have edited a volume entitled A Dubious Expediency: How Race Preferences Damage Higher Education. Its eight essays deliver a crushing blow to the case for racial preferences. Not only do preferences fail to achieve their proclaimed goals of improved education, racial healing, and improved social mobility for allegedly “marginalized” groups, but they do palpable harm. They promote divisiveness, erode academic standards, and hinder many of the students who supposedly benefit from them.
Any fair-minded reader of this book will come away lamenting that America ever left the path of color-blind merit and started down the path of, well, discrimination. Never mind that racial preferences were intended to be “good discrimination” that would remedy the effects of many years of bad discrimination. Good intentions don’t matter. The results have been ruinous.
In the first essay, “Starting Down the Slippery Slope” by UC-Santa Cruz Professor John Ellis, we read about the earliest days of racial preferences, when the university decided to take federal money that was available, provided that the school begin to look “diligently” for women and minority students and encourage them to apply for grad school. Ellis explains that he never thought that doing so would mean compromising academic standards, but once the process began, it was unstoppable.