Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Do University Affirmative Action Policies Reduce Injustice?

By Tom Kando

A recent article by Russell Nieli reviews an impressive new study by Princeton sociologists Thomas Espenshade and Alexandria Radford , on what used to be called “affirmative action,” but is now often under the heading of “diversity.” It is titled “How Diversity Punishes Asians, Poor Whites and Lots of Others”

The study documents meticulously many things we have known for a long time. The gist of it is that (elite) universities’ admission policies, guided by “diversity” criteria, give enormous preferential treatment to blacks and Hispanics, while discriminating against Asians, (poor)whites and some other categories.

When controlling for other variables, being Hispanic confers an admission boost equivalent to 130 SAT points over comparable whites. In other words, two equally qualified applicants apply for admission to Harvard - one Hispanic the other one classified as “white.” They both scored 1350 on their SAT combined. In order for the two to have equal chances of being admitted, the “white” applicant would need a score of 1480.

Being black rather than white confers a staggering 310 SAT point advantage.

On the other hand, Asians suffer a 140 point penalty.

I pride myself for having been a critic of affirmative action from its very inception. I published articles against this racial policy as far back as the landmark Bakke Supreme Court decision in 1978. So it’s not that the findings and conclusions of this study should surprise me.

But there is more. It’s not just that affirmative is “reverse discrimination” against whites. This has been said for decades. Sometimes, this reeks of a “white power” argument, which can be ugly.

No. What is really appalling is that elite universities’ affirmative action policies discriminate against poor whites only. Rich whites still take care of themselves quite nicely. Less than well qualified rich whites still have no trouble getting into Harvard or Yale (think of George W. Bush).

As I have been saying for over 30 years, affirmative action and current “diversity” policy are abominations because they are based on race and utterly fail to recognize social class, thereby compounding social inequality and injustice, instead of alleviating them, as the study shows.

There are two kinds of people who criticize affirmative action:
(1) those whose self-interest is threatened by affirmative action (e.g. white males). After all, when have white conservative males been concerned about social justice, except when it suits them? Only after the table of privilege has been turned, do they begin to clamor for a “merit system.” To some extent, the debate over affirmative action is a case of whose ox is being gored.

(2) the moralists, who don’t understand that they may be morally right, but that they are pragmatic losers.

Affirmative Action is not meant to rectify injustice, certainly not economic injustice. The reality is that America is the world’s most diverse society, and becoming more so every day. So what is the elite to do, in order to prevent instability and fragmentation, and hold on to the reigns of power? It designs policies which contribute to ethnic integration, without contributing one iota to greater economic equality. The peace is preserved. No more Watts and South Central LA riots. Poverty increases, especially among whites. But class consciousness has never been a factor in this country, and it never will be. Poor whites and poor blacks will turn on each other before they will ever join hands. This is called Pragmatism. It is ugly, it is hypocritical, it is political. It works and it is American. leave comment here