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Most discussions of affirmative action center on whether it is legal. Can universities give special advantages to groups that are supposed to be “disadvantaged,” especially blacks? From a libertarian standpoint, private institutions should be free to set whatever admission requirements they want. State-run universities raise more complicated issues, but this isn’t what I want to discuss. We need to ask, is affirmative action a good idea?
Thomas Sowell tells us why it isn’t. “The human tragedy, amid all the legal evasions and frauds, is that, while many laws and policies sacrifice some people for the sake of other people, affirmative action manages to harm blacks, whites, Asians and others, even if in different ways.
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Students who are kept out of a college because other students are admitted instead, under racial quotas, obviously lose opportunities they would otherwise have had.
But minority students admitted to institutions whose academic standards they do not meet are all too often needlessly turned into failures, even when they have the prerequisites for success in some other institution whose normal standards they do meet.
When black students who scored at the 90th percentile in math were admitted to M.I.T., where the other students scored at the 99th percentile, a significant number of black students failed to graduate there, even though they could have graduated with honors from most other academic institutions.
We do not have so many students with that kind of ability that we can afford to sacrifice them on the altar of political correctness.
Such negative consequences of mismatching minority students with institutions, for the sake of racial body count, have been documented in a number of studies, most notably ‘Mismatch,’ a book by Richard Sander and Stuart Taylor, Jr., whose sub-title is: ‘How Affirmative Action Hurts Students It’s Intended to Help, and Why Universities Won’t Admit It.’
When racial preferences in student admissions in the University of California system were banned, the number of black and Hispanic students in the system declined slightly, but the number actually graduating rose substantially. So did the number graduating with degrees in tough subjects like math, science and engineering.
But hard facts carry no such weight among politicians as magic words like ‘diversity’ — a word repeated endlessly, without one speck of evidence to back up its sweeping claims of benefits. It too is part of the Supreme Court fraud, going back to a 1978 decision that seemingly banned racial quotas — unless the word ‘diversity’ was used instead of ‘quotas.’
Seeming to ban racial preferences, while letting them continue under another name, was clever politically. But the last thing we need in Washington are nine more politicians, wearing judicial robes. See this.
Michelle Obama illustrates Sowell’s point that affirmative action leads to the admission of unqualified students. “In 1985, Michelle Obama presented her senior thesis in the sociology department of Princeton University. Although Michelle drew no such conclusion, the thesis is a stunning indictment of affirmative action. Those who benefited from it, Michelle most notably, may never recover from its sting.
Her thesis reads like a cry for help. ‘I have found that at Princeton no matter how matter how liberal and open-minded some of my white professors and classmates try to be toward me,’ she writes, ‘I sometimes feel like a visitor on campus; as I really don’t belong.’
She didn’t. Michelle should never have been admitted to Princeton. Thanks to the ‘numerous opportunities’ presented by affirmative action, however, Princeton is where she found herself. ‘Told by counselors that her SAT scores and her grades weren’t good enough for an Ivy League school,’ writes biographer Christopher Andersen, ‘Michelle applied to Princeton and Harvard anyway.’ Sympathetic biographer Liza Mundy writes, ‘Michelle frequently deplores the modern reliance on test scores, describing herself as a person who did not test well.’
She did not write well, either. She even typed badly. Mundy charitably describes the thesis as ‘dense and turgid.’ The less charitable Christopher Hitchens observed, ‘To describe [the thesis] as hard to read would be a mistake; the thesis cannot be “read” at all, in the strict sense of the verb. This is because it wasn’t written in any known language.’
Hitchens exaggerates only a little. The following summary statement by Michelle captures her unfamiliarity with many of the rules of grammar and most of logic:
The study inquires about the respondents’ motivations to benefit him/herself, and the following social groups: the family, the Black community, the White community, God and church, The U.S. society, the non-White races of the world, and the human species as a whole.”
Defenders of affirmative action say that we need it because America is a “racist” nation. Vasko Kohlmayer shows that we aren’t: “‘Racism in America is not the exception – it’s the norm,’ read a headline from the British Guardian the other day.
‘2 viruses — COVID and racism — devastate the black community and threaten America’s stability,’ declares an ABC News piece.
‘Not just George Floyd: Police departments have 400-year history of racism,’ headlines an USA Today article.
‘We need to tackle racism, and we’ve never really dealt with it,’ asserted a protester at one of the many rallies that have taken place in recent weeks.
A great deal, indeed, has been recently said from many quarters about the alleged oppressiveness and racism of American society. Even though these denunciations have been delivered in impassioned voices and accompanied by much violence, there is one problem with such claims: They are not true. The opposite is actually the case.
The fact is that there is no institutional or systemic discrimination against black people in American society. Contrary to the assertions we hear today, in the last half a century America has gone into untold lengths to support and assist its black community. During this time, American society has launched countless programs and initiatives and spent hundreds of billions of dollars aimed specifically at uplifting the African American demographic. The support that the black community receives from American society comes in every form conceivable: legislative, financial, educational, commercial, human, material.
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To ensure that there is no systemic or institutional discrimination, America went so far as to implement affirmative action and racial quotas in education, employment, government contracts, housing and other areas of life. This means that our laws and codes of conduct grant more protection, privileges and guarantees to colored people than they do to their white counterparts. So eager and willing has America been to elevate its black minority that it actually subjected the majority to reverse discrimination. To redeem itself and correct a legacy of past discrimination, the United Sates has bent backwards to advance its black population. The amount of resources, protection and goodwill that America’s black minority receives from our society is completely unprecedented in the annals of world history.
Nowhere in the world do black people enjoy more freedom and greater financial, employment and educational opportunities than they do in the United States. This is the reason why so many black people from all over the globe seek to come and live in this country. Such great are their numbers that we can only accept a tiny fraction of those who wish to live here. If America was such a racist and oppressive nation, why would they want to come so badly?
The reason they want to come is because they know that America treats black people well and that nowhere else in the world black people have it as good as they have it here. When black people whose vision has not been distorted by the demagoguery of the so-called civil rights leaders look at America they see freedom and opportunity. They look at America and they see a society that displays immense generosity and good will toward its black population. They look at America and see a country that has recently awarded the most coveted, powerful and prestigious job in the world – the presidency of the United States – to a black man. And this not once, but two times. Would a racist nation ever do something like that?
Conversely, we do not hear stories of African Americans leaving this ‘racist’ ‘oppressive’ country and then returning with tales of lands where black people lead better lives of more freedom, affluence and dignity. Have you ever heard such a testimony? Let us see one country in the world that is more generous and caring towards black people than this one. Let us find one nation where black people receive more freedom and protection than in the United States of America. Tellingly, we cannot find a single predominantly black country where its citizens enjoy more rights and affluence than the black people in the United States. Isn’t it paradoxical that the United States treats its black people better than black nations treat their own? The immense lengths – involving both effort and treasure – into which this society has gone to help and accommodate black Americans are surely worth pondering. In a healthy society, this would draw at least sporadic expressions of gratitude and appreciation.
If truth be told, African Americans are the most favored and legally privileged demographic in American society. Enjoying the benefits of a host of protective measures and mechanisms incorporated into the fabric of our societal existence, African Americans are neither systemically oppressed nor are they institutionally discriminated against. An eye-opening expression of this took place last week during the ‘anti-racism’ protests in Washington, DC. There a local black woman by the named Nestride Yumga confronted a group of protesters promulgating their stock racist slogans against this country (watch here). In the course of the exchange, the woman chastizes a white protestor:
‘You say blacks are oppressed. I am black and I am not oppressed. I am free!… Stop forcing on people to accept that they are oppressed… You are forcing a rhetoric into their minds which is not true… Shame on you, I am free!’
Standing in front of them with outstretched arms, Nestride’s words have a stunning effect that leaves the startled demonstrators groping for a reply. The impact of her utterance is so powerful, because what she says is so obviously and undeniably true. Unlike rioters and protestors we see shouting untruths from our screens, this young black woman truly speaks truth to power. And what a power hers is. Turning toward the black members of the crowd, she excoriates them, ‘You guys are not oppressed. You are lazy, that’s all it is. Go get jobs, work!’
Blindsided by this unexpected petard of stark truth, the dazed demonstrators weakly attempt a couple of hollow clichés and some heckling by way of response. Hit with such a healthy dose of reality, they are unable to mount any kind of coherent answer. The black woman’s reproof rips off the cloak of righteous falsehood from their faux cause and they stand there exposed, clutching pitiably to the shreds of their specious lies. Befuddled and confused, they pack up their protest paraphernalia and decamp. As they retreat, the intrepid lady sends them on their way with her last salvo ‘you guys have been cowards.’
But what about the issue of the systemic police brutality against black Americans, the latest example of which we just witnessed in the lamentable death of George Floyd? It has been repeatedly demonstrated, however, that such incidents are actually very rare and not a manifestation of pervasive racism in our law enforcement. As Tucker Carlson notes, in 2019 ten unarmed African Americans were shot dead by police officers in the United States. Nine of them had serious criminal records. On the other hand, less than two weeks ago on May 31, 18 black people were murdered in the city of Chicago by mostly black criminals. More black people are thus shot and killed by black people in one day in one city than they are killed by the police across the United States in one whole year. The talk that we sometimes hear of the police committing ‘black genocide’ is absurd beyond belief. As Theodore Dalrymple points out a ‘policeman is about fifteen times more likely to be killed by a black man than to kill a black man.’ And most of the small number of black men killed annually by the police are dangerous felons who are killed in the process of committing a crime.
Moreover, more white people are shot by the police than black people, and likewise more white people die in arrest-related incidents than black people. The narrative that the police routinely rounds up innocent peaceful black men in the streets is a complete myth that no one in their right mind can believe, not least black people themselves. According to Pew research, more than half of black Americans have ‘a lot’ or at least ‘some’ confidence in the police. As a point of comparison, less than one third of the American population approve of the way Congress is handling its job. In other words, far more black people have confidence in their local cops that we have in our elected representatives in Washington, DC. Most upright black Americans want our law enforcement and government officials take a strong stance against lawlessness no matter by whom it is perpetrated. The latest evidence of this is Donald Trump’s record approval rating among likely black voters in the wake of the riots. Tellingly, Donald Trump has been one of the few government figures who has not pandered to the looting mobs.” See this.
The extent to which affirmative action has taken over, especially at so-called “elite” institutions, is amazing. As the great Ron Unz notes, “Less visible shifts had even greater potential future impact. For decades our elite universities have served as a direct funnel to the commanding heights of American business, finance, law, and media, and in 2020 black enrollment at Harvard College jumped by more than a quarter from the preceding year, representing an astonishing rise of nearly 75% since 2015, by far the fastest such increase in Harvard history. This growth was driven by extremely high acceptance rates, with blacks being 14.8% of the students admitted in 2020 and a whopping 18% of the 2021 admissions.
As a consequence, the per capita enrollment of blacks at our most elite college is probably now several times greater than that of the white Gentiles who had founded that school and still constitute America’s majority population, although the latter have far higher test scores and grades. The increasing numbers of blacks at many of our other most elite colleges such as Yale, Princeton, and Stanford had followed similar trajectories, though generally less extreme.”
Let’s do everything we can to combat the “affirmative action” hoax.
About the Author
Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. [send him mail], former editorial assistant to Ludwig von Mises and congressional chief of staff to Ron Paul, is founder and chairman of the Mises Institute, executor for the estate of Murray N. Rothbard, and editor of LewRockwell.com. He is the author of Against the State and . Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Article cross-posted from Lew’s blog.