Mark Charalambous, July 17, 2007
On the final day of the Supreme Court's session this year, Bush voters finally got their money's worth. The high court now has a majority that sides with... the majority of Americans. Opinion polls consistently show that Americans of all stripes oppose racial preferences.
Hiring, admission policies, and school assignments that use race, ethnicity or sex as a factor to promote 'diversity' are not only morally and ethically despicable, but counterproductive — as in harmful — not only to those discriminated against, but also to those given the advantages. They breed resentment for those suspected of receiving preferential treatment. Furthermore, they cultivate in minorities the mindset that they cannot compete with whites on a level playing field. Affirmative action can breed suspicion and fear in the workplace that ultimately creates a corrosive atmosphere that undermines morale and productivity. This last point might be lost on academicians with no real-world experience in the private sector.
Reverse discrimination justified by 'diversity'
'Diversity' was invented as the end-to-justify-the-means of racial quotas after the Supreme Court's inconvenient Bakke decision, which introduced the concept of 'reverse discrimination' into the vernacular of racial politics. Allan Bakke is a white man who was denied admission to the University of California-Davis Medical School because of his race, while lesser qualified, non-white applicants were admitted. He appealed all the way to the high court and eventually prevailed. But rather than ruling that racial quotas are, indeed, racial discrimination—even when the goal is considered laudable—the court gave their stamp of approval for racial preferences as long as the correct euphemism, 'affirmative action,' was invoked, and the appropriate politically correct totems were supplicated.
|Presently in college campuses across the nation, the word 'diversity' serves as an instruction to stop thinking. Signs extolling and celebrating 'diversity' are literally everywhere. Once the Holy Word is intoned, all logical and rational thought must cease.|
Racial discrimination under its politically correct guise 'affirmative action' could now be justified to promote 'diversity,' which, in and of itself, was deemed to be of compelling state interest. In plain language, it was asserted that the benefits derived by sitting next to a student of a different race outweighed any injustices to any better qualified applicants denied admission.
Presently in college campuses across the nation, the word 'diversity' serves as an instruction to stop thinking. Signs extolling and celebrating 'diversity' are literally everywhere. Once the Holy Word is intoned, all logical and rational thought must cease. In your typical scholastic literature, be it from teacher's unions or the administration, I am convinced there is a quota system in place for its use. Like the three ubiquitous slogans from George Orwell's "1984", 'affirmative action' and 'diversity' join a distinguished list of slogans coined for the express purpose of shaping public thought by canceling common sense. 'Manifest destiny' from my generation's youth and 'pro-choice' in today's feminist politics are perhaps the best known examples of inconvenient truths given happy-sounding, friendly or innocuous new names.
College campuses intolerant of diversity of thought
It has become a cliché to point out that 'college diversity' is an oxymoron when considering diversity of thought — the most important kind. Opinions of faculty and staff on controversial social issues generally reflect the exact opposite of those held by the majority of Americans nationwide.
|It has become a cliché to point out that 'college diversity' is an oxymoron when considering diversity of thought — the most important kind. Opinions of faculty and staff on controversial social issues generally reflect the exact opposite of those held by the majority of Americans nationwide.|
I caution you that the language and logic of diversity-think is not for the squeamish. Apparently it takes years of advanced study and several letters after one's name to comprehend how 'affirmative action' policies that give quantitative preferences for 'women and people of color' are not actually what they appear to be: racial discrimination against whites—more often than not, against white males.
The average fourth-grader would balk at gibberish such as "one plus one equals three for large values of one," but I guarantee academicians could be found who would eagerly embrace such a concept if it was dressed up with sufficient politically correct claptrap.
Lani Guinier: the diversity spin-meister
Consider the contortions of reasoning employed by diversity advocate extraordinaire Lani Guinier to convince herself that merit is not really meritorious and equality shouldn't be manifested as equality under the law. To say that the civil rights attorney and law professor is obsessed with race and diversity would be an understatement. Guinier is tortured by the persistence of racial gaps in standardized aptitude tests.
They are crude tools that "cannot measure the capacity of students to solve complex problems or to lead others in resolving the complicated issues of our day. " In diversity-speak, they don't measure "emotional intelligence," something she believes is highly correlated with career advancement and leadership.
Guinier not only rejects standardized test results and prior academic performance as valid metrics for merit and predictors of success, but the language she uses to do so betrays a hostility lurking just beneath the surface. She casually writes off the SAT as "biased" and a "proxy for privilege." She speaks derisively of "pencil-and-paper tests" administered by the "testocracy" and "those who inflexibly administer selection criteria determined by others. "
|What Guinier and the diversity commissars want is a system that will be more unfair by orders of magnitude than one that relies on merit (using the word as the rest of the world understands it). Such malleable and interpretive standards as she envisions would lead to absolute politicization and corruption of the process. A politburo of leftist social engineers will dictate who deserves a college education.|
Guinier's solution is to redefine 'merit' and 'success.' If 'success' is redefined to reflect the beliefs of social-engineering liberals, then a better standard for 'merit' can be formulated that will be a better predictor of who will 'succeed.' 'Success' is expanded beyond financial and professional satisfaction to include community service and leadership. 'Merit' must be "functional," tied to the diversity objectives of the institution. The new definition of 'merit' will result in a different —i.e., more diverse — admission pool.
Commitment to diversity should govern admission process
For Guinier, 'diversity' is truly a Holy word. She insists that it be incorporated into every phase of the educational process. In admissions, she demands that students be required to write a diversity essay, "to explain why they should be admitted to a public university that values diversity... " Furthermore, "institutions must become more accountable for nurturing diversity in the curriculum or in pedagogy, not just in admissions " she writes.
Finally, Guinier cuts to the chase: "admissions decisions could be tied to evidence of a long-term commitment to public service, leadership, and group problem-solving skills —especially those involved in overcoming obstacles or working with diverse communities — and an ability to contribute to a successful multiracial educational experience for other students. "
What Guinier and the diversity commissars want is a system that will be more unfair by orders of magnitude than one that relies on merit (using the word as the rest of the world understands it). Such malleable and interpretive standards as she envisions would lead to absolute politicization and corruption of the process. A politburo of leftist social engineers will dictate who deserves a college education.
An admission process that treats everyone the same, where each applicant takes the same test, and all grades are evaluated by the same standard, will most definitely produce an application pool that doesn't reflect the identity politics that the diversity droids seek—but there is no fairer alternative. Once you jettison standardized evaluations you open the door for real mischief. Like democracy, it may be the worst form of evaluation... except for all the others.
U. of Michigan a case study in liberal arrogance
I was struck by an interview with Mary Sue Coleman, President of the University of Michigan, on National Public Radio's Fresh Air earlier this year. The Supreme Court had earlier upheld racial preferences in the school's graduate law program (Grutter v. Bollinger, 2003), splitting the difference on two separate lawsuits challenging the admission policies of both the undergraduate and graduate programs. But the people of Michigan, through the initiative process, would not be deterred. On November 8, 2006, they approved Proposal 2, 58% to 42%, which expressly banned such preferences as a factor in any public hiring or school admission policy.
|Fresh Air host Terri Gross asked Coleman if she didn't feel that she was "out of step" with the people of her state. "No," she replied. In her mind, the people of Michigan will eventually return to the fold after they come to their senses.|
In a rousing speech to the campus on Nov. 8, the day after Prop. 2 passed, President Coleman sounded like a southern preacher defending her flock against the devil himself:
"[Diversity] matters at Michigan, today more than any day in our history. It matters today, and it will matter tomorrow. It will always matter because it is what makes us the great university we are.
I am deeply disappointed that the voters of our state have rejected affirmative action as a way to help build a community that is fair and equal for all.
But we will not be deterred in the all-important work of creating a diverse, welcoming campus. We will not be deterred.
We believe so strongly in affirmative action that we went before the United States Supreme Court to defend its use, and we prevailed.
Today, I pledge that the University of Michigan will continue that fight. I guarantee my complete and unyielding commitment to increasing diversity at our institution. "
And indeed, the aptly-named anti-Prop 2 organization, "By Any Means Necessary" (BAMN), has filed lawsuit after lawsuit, first to prevent the petition going forward, then to prevent its implementation. The proponents of affirmative action continue to fight the will of the people in the only forum where elitist, social-engineering causes win: the courts.
|Lani Guinier, Mary Sue Coleman & Co. do not—and cannot—honestly argue that racial discrimination is fundamentally wrong. The best answer they can give to the question "Is affirmative action racial discrimination?" is a "Yes, but..."|
Keep in mind that NPR is not what liberals have in mind as they flirt with trying to bring back the 'Fairness Doctrine' to balance the alleged preponderance of conservatives on talk radio. Fresh Air host Terri Gross asked Coleman if she didn't feel that she was "out of step" with the people of her state. "No," she replied. In her mind, the people of Michigan will eventually return to the fold after they come to their senses. This arrogance is what conservative talk show hosts rightfully mock as 'liberal elitism.'
Supreme Court set to strike down all racial preferences
As for the future of affirmative action and racial preferences, it looks like the handwriting is on the wall. With the judgment against the Seattle and Louisville, Kentucky school districts, the high court has not yet banned racial preferences outright, but it appears to be gaining the testicular fortitude to do so.
Diversity drones take notice! This might be a good time to explore alternative career opportunities before that grant runs out! Recently it's been reported here in Massachusetts that many school districts can't find a way to operate without slashing important programs such as art, music and athletics. If educators would embrace the sense of the Supreme Court's decision now rather than be dragged kicking and screaming in the future, they might be able to balance their budgets with a few simple pen-strokes.
Is racial discrimination wrong, or just sometimes wrong?
Perhaps every noble cause contains within it the seeds of its own destruction. A struggle becomes corrupt when it is impossible to distinguish between the right side and the wrong; when the tactics of the antagonists become indistinguishable. When you become your enemy. Lani Guinier, Mary Sue Coleman & Co. do not—and cannot—honestly argue that racial discrimination is fundamentally wrong. The best answer they can give to the question "Is affirmative action racial discrimination?" is a "Yes, but..."
They have constructed a Gordian Knot of gobbledy-gook reasoning and convoluted logic to argue that racial discrimination can be both good and bad. What they fail to see is that any and every form of discrimination based on the circumstances of one's birth can be justified. The ultimate form of discrimination, slavery, was justified by both the scientific paradigms and the religious beliefs of the day. Just as legal scholars and academicians now justify affirmative action based on today's social science. Furthermore, it is not difficult to envision what form future discriminatory policies may take based on, for instance, advances in medical science... if it is not stopped once and for all.
Let's hope that the Supreme Court's next 5-4 decision on affirmative action is also the last. Let's hope for an Alexander-like cut through the Knot to state clearly and unambiguously that racial discrimination is wrong and henceforth illegal across the nation. Period.
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Mark Charalambous is a Massachusetts resident and adjunct college instructor. He writes on social issues and is active in the Fathers Rights movement.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.