|(40) Secrets and Lies (about affirmative action)
Racial preferences spawn a culture of concealment
Cathy Young (04/28/01)
|Secrets and Lies (about
Affirmative Action) (04/28/01)
Excerpted from the Salon.Com
"The most pernicious thing about racial preferences is the culture of concealment that they spawn."
"The latest setback took place in Michigan late in March. Judge Bernard Friedman of the U.S. District Court in Detroit ruled that the admissions system at the University of Michigan Law School was illegal because it favored black and Hispanic applicants. [See especially UMich Law Quotas Illegal.] The decision, the implementation of which is on hold pending appeals, came less than four months after another federal judge in Detroit, Patrick Duggan, handed defenders of affirmative action a rare victory, upholding the university's even more race-conscious undergraduate admissions policies. [See especially UMich Undergrad Quotas Illegal - Sort Of.] One or both cases could end up before the U.S. Supreme Court -- which, given its current leanings, may well deliver a death blow to racial and ethnic preferences in college admissions.
"Affirmative action's defenders, too, have always thrown a smoke screen around the subject. For the most part, they staunchly and indignantly deny that there are any such things as quotas, race-based admissions or lower standards for minority applicants.
"Yet, apart from the question of whether government institutions should sort citizens by race to any degree at all, the claim that race has been merely a "plus factor" in admissions to public universities does not withstand factual scrutiny -- which is why universities have long tried to keep these policies under wraps.
"The two lawsuits against the University of Michigan (filed by white applicants who claim that they were unfairly denied admission while less-qualified blacks and Latinos were accepted) provide some of the strongest evidence that at many schools, race or ethnicity has not been merely one of many ingredients in admissions but often the key ingredient."
Writer Cathy Young notes that UM's "old" undergraduate quota system used different academic standards for admitting whites and Asians than for blacks and Hispanics -- a system which admitted blacks and Hispanics with lower academic standing than many rejected white and Asian applicants.. In 1998, in a vain attempt to avoid more reverse discrimination lawsuits, the university devised a 150-point system for evaluating applicants: a black or Hispanic applicant gets a 20 point bonus just for the color of their skin, whereas any applicant only receives 12 points for a perfect SAT score!
Ms. Young also notes that the Law School quota system is equally as obvious when one studies the admissions statistics: She reports that a black applicant is 3 to 50 times more likely to be admitted than a white applicant with the same academic record. For example, she notes, in 1995, all black applicants "with an LSAT score of 159-160 and a GPA of at least 3.0 were accepted, compared with just 2 percent of whites and Asians. Hispanics also benefited from preferential treatment, though less markedly."
"Originally, affirmative action was explained as a temporary measure to help blacks overcome the obstacles posed by racial oppression and social disadvantage. But that justification has become hard to sustain 37 years after passage of the Civil Rights Act, when the beneficiaries of racial preferences in higher education are often children of middle-class professionals. So defenders of affirmative action have taken a new tack: Now, the argument is that diversity on campus enriches the experience of higher learning for everyone, and is so essential an educational benefit that it justifies racial classifications."
But the diversity rationale is based upon a statistical falsehood, as revealed in a recently released study by the National Association of Scholars. The NAS, and other statisticians, have failed to show any positive correlation between enforced diversity and academic achievement. [See especially NAS Study: Diversity Has No Educational Benefit.]
"According to advocates of colorblind policies, these costs include not only the injustice to white and Asian victims of reverse discrimination but the harm that affirmative action in its present form is doing to its original goals of racial equality and integration. Racial preferences, critics say, have the perverse effect of helping keep blacks in the back of the bus -- and perpetuating the very racial gap in educational achievement that makes it impossible to achieve diversity without lowering standards.
"The argument that racial preferences stigmatize their own intended beneficiaries, sending them a none-too-subtle message that they can't compete with members of other groups, has been made by a number of black conservatives, from Clarence Thomas to Shelby Steele. It is given a new twist in the powerful, controversial recent book "Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America" by John McWhorter, a black associate professor of linguistics at Berkeley.
"Racism isn't the explanation [for black academic underachievement] argues McWhorter, since the black children of West Indian and African immigrants generally do quite well in school (a fact that should also rebut theories of genetic racial differences in intelligence). In his view, the real problem is that African-American culture is infected by a "virus" of hostility toward learning and academic excellence -- a product of internalized racist stereotypes of black mental weakness combined with distrust of the values of the dominant culture. A smart, bookish black kid risks being taunted for "acting white."
"The result, according to McWhorter, is that even middle-class black students who seem to value educational opportunities often perform far below their potential -- not because of laziness but because of a "cultural disconnect," a lack of commitment to schoolwork.
"The system of racial spoils not only fails to challenge black students but also puts them in an environment where they are likely to lag behind their white and Asian peers -- which is bound to have a further demoralizing effect."
"Affirmative action opponents such as Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom, authors of "America in Black and White," argue that minority students are far better off at schools where they can get in without special treatment. For many, this means less prestigious schools; under colorblind admissions in the University of California system, African-American and (to a lesser extent) Latino enrollment has shifted from UCLA and Berkeley to UC-Santa Cruz and UC-Davis. At the third most selective school, UC-San Diego, black admissions are down about one-fifth from the affirmative action era. Yet, as University of San Diego law professor Gail Heriot reported in the Weekly Standard, black students are now about as likely as whites to make the dean's list, from which they were virtually absent five years ago. Under racial preferences, some of those UC-San Diego honors students might have been floundering at Berkeley instead.
"What's more, while preferences make the campus population more diverse, they may also exert a pull toward racial Balkanization rather than integration. At many colleges and universities, "diversity" dogma includes programs that smack of separatism -- special minority housing, special counseling, separate freshman orientation sessions and workshops -- and often encourage students to develop an identity rooted primarily in race.
"...Other examples [of reverse discrimination] abound. At California State University at Sacramento, Janine Jacinto, a white student turned down by the graduate program for social work, learned about the central role of race in admissions (a straight-A average was worth three ratings points, while minority status was worth five) by sheer chance. While discussing her rejection with a professor, she was accidentally overheard by another student who had, apparently just as accidentally, picked up a photocopied ratings sheet in her advisor's office, mistaking it for a handout. Jacinto sued the university, which eventually agreed to accept her, pay her legal fees and end race-based admissions in the graduate program -- but tried to impose a gag rule on Jacinto as a condition of the settlement.
"...Already, bans on racial preferences have spurred a quest for alternative ways to admit more minority students, from de-emphasizing or even abandoning the SAT (recently proposed by University of California president Richard Atkinson) to "percent solutions" under which state universities must admit anyone who graduates in the top 10 percent of his or her class (as the law now mandates in Texas). Interestingly, Judge Friedman [in the UM lawschool lawsuit] explicitly suggested in his ruling that the University of Michigan Law School could have chosen such racially neutral ways of achieving a diverse student body.
"...In the short term, however, there are alternatives to watching the numbers of blacks at top schools dwindle while waiting for better times. Glenn Loury, a black conservative economist who has recently broken rank with his ideological comrades, partly over affirmative action, now supports some race-conscious remedies as long as they aim to improve performance rather than relax standards. His proposals include not only special summer courses but "provisional admission of black students to the state university, conditional on their raising their academic scores to competitive levels after a year or two of study at a local community college."
"...In the end, the question facing us is not whether America should do more to expand opportunities for blacks. It's whether African-Americans deserve equal citizenship or benign white paternalism."
Last known link to the complete
Cathy Young piece at Salon.Com:
UMich Undergrad Case (Gratz v.
UMich Law School Case (Grutter v.
Terms and Definitions (Adversity.Net Special Section)