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June 23, 2003

AFFIRMATIVE ACTION....I don't have a lot of comment on the two affirmative action cases handed down today other than to say that, taken together, they seem about right to me. I'm happy that affirmative action as a concept was ruled constitutional, but I'm also happy to accept the idea that it needs to be moderate in scope — although the ruling seems to insist on a somewhat more stringent scope than I'd like. What's more, as Tapped points out, Sandra Day O'Connor's suggestion that affirmative action shouldn't be viewed as a program that lasts forever is also reasonable.

I support moderate affirmative action as a simple matter of equity, but I also believe that our real goal should be to make it unnecessary. The sooner we do this the better, but until then we need to keep it around as a necessary tool in the fight to overcome a centuries-old legacy of racism that continues to haunt us today.

Posted by Kevin Drum at June 23, 2003 08:48 PM | TrackBack


Under the current circumstances, this was probably the best ruling possible. I'll take it.

Posted by: Brian Schefke at June 23, 2003 09:55 PM | PERMALINK

I don't believe we can use affirmative action to overcome racism for the simple and obvious reason that affirmative action only serves to perpetuate the feelings behind racism on a steroidal incline and will continue to do so for years to come. How's that for building a new line of equity me thinks.

Posted by: Dougalsdomain at June 23, 2003 10:37 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think it will be possible to do away with racism until our society admits that it is still frequently racist. That means that racism needs to still be sought out and the people who practice it confronted. We won't get there by wishing/imagining/dreaming that we are already there as so many Republicans (and a number of other whites in particular) want to do.

Still, we are much, much closer than we were when I grew up in Texas in the 40's and 50's. We simply can't stop there, and we must not stop embarrasing people by forcing them to recognize their own racism. America has done more towards eliminating racism than any other nation on Earth. It would be a shame to quit with the job only partly done.

All in all, I am surprised at how well the decision went. I haven't looked at the vote yet, but I have no doubt that I can predict how Rhenquist, Scalia and Thomas voted.

Posted by: Rick B at June 23, 2003 11:39 PM | PERMALINK


Affirmative Action was not meant to end racism. It was designed as a rememdy to the effects of racism. With that in mind, I can agree with Kevin and Justice O'Connor, affirmative action should not last forever. Let's see: (1776 to 1865 = 89 years of slavery in the USA)+ (1865 to 1965 = 100 years of Jim Crow & de facto segregation) = 189 years. We're roughly 40 years into remedying the solution. Only 150 years of affirmative action to go. I can live with that.

Posted by: walter at June 23, 2003 11:50 PM | PERMALINK

I gotta agree with Rick on this. For the most part, America is still in denial about racism. There's a few more steps to go before we can begin to remedy the problem. . .

Posted by: epist at June 24, 2003 12:16 AM | PERMALINK

I maintain that Tocqueville was right and the problem is not "racism" but "the Negro problem". There is no "racism" problem in America with respect to Jews, Irish, Poles, Southeast Asians, Chinese, Indians and Pakistanis and not very much of one with respect to African and West Indian immigrants. What there is, is a problem with the only non-immigrant community of the USA; the descendants of black slaves.

Posted by: dsquared at June 24, 2003 12:16 AM | PERMALINK


Amadou Diallo, the African immigrant who was shot 41 times and killed by NYPD.

Abner Louima was a Haitian immigrant who was viciously abused by NYPD.

I don't know, but it seems like we also have an "Immigrant Problem"

Posted by: walter at June 24, 2003 12:31 AM | PERMALINK

I had a relative who worked many years in a public school system administration office. I was curious and asked, how the ethnic/racial classification of a student was determined by the school. The answer? The student's race was whatever the parent claimed when the parent filled out the student's paperwork.

So that suggests a simple solution to the affirmative action problem for disaffected 'whites'. They should just select whatever minority designation that they feel like when filling out a college application. After all, who could dispute such an action? It's not like America has some kind of racial purity board giving official race classification licenses. Or will clinging to affirmative action policies inevitably lead to such an authority?

Posted by: Brad at June 24, 2003 02:24 AM | PERMALINK

The University of Michigan was a moderate affirmative action program. If race can be used as a factor, but not the only factor, what other system does as well? The Supremes seem to object to the amount of points assigned to blacks. Picky, picky. Renquist stated that the problem with the UM system is that all qualified blacks who enrolled were accepted. I guess I'm stupid but I can't see where the problem is.

Posted by: LowLife at June 24, 2003 03:20 AM | PERMALINK

Seems to me that if people are wondering what kinds of reparations are appropriate for slavery, affirmative action is a pretty good solution. When you view it in that light it seems fine.

Anti-affirmative action types want to believe that we've fixed the world, that racism doesn't exist any more, and that we've got to eliminate all consideration of race to achieve a desired state of goodness.

Tell it to a black person in Tulia. The most disturbing comment I've heard lately was a Tulia resident complaining about the release of falsely accused blacks from prison: "You know, some of those people were guilty."

Posted by: Ross Judson at June 24, 2003 05:24 AM | PERMALINK

What would liberals do without (others') racism?
The question is not whether it exists but whether it is a cause of action. Since we have a good many laws in that area, the scope for racism's action in the real world is diminishing.
The person in Tulia who said that some of those people were guilty might be right. You don't know. Being falsely accused by virtue of hoked-up evidence doesn't mean that more work wouldn't have found real evidence. Until we know whether the speaker was speaking from genuine knowledge, there's no reason to consider it racist.
Why on earth should we need to equate the number of years to see if reparations were made?
How does letting a black kid into a university when he does not otherwise qualify repair the effects of slavery on the slaves? Doesn't and can't.
Anyway, as most of us have been saying would and should happen, the Supremes found the undergrad program to be illegal. UM has been spinning it as a gift in which the court gave them valuable directions, but of course....

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at June 24, 2003 06:05 AM | PERMALINK

As a regular reader of this blog and one who shares many of the sentiments expressed, I am afraid I have to say that your post on affirmative action, Kevin, reminds me of that scene in "Blazing Saddles" wherein the old toothless moutaineer "expresses" his opinion about how to save the town of Red Rock and is characterized as having provided an example of "genuine frontier gibberish."

Posted by: waxtoes at June 24, 2003 06:17 AM | PERMALINK

Richard, the laws against racial discrimination don't really reduce racism's scope for action. Discrimination is extremely difficult to prove, and the remedies are minor (back pay, I think).

In an old job I had, the person who was writing a classified ad said, "Should we put in Equal Opportunity Employer?" The boss said no, explaining that we probably didn't want to hire a black person because they might have to answer the phone.

This was in 1993.

Posted by: Matt Weiner at June 24, 2003 06:23 AM | PERMALINK

You missed it Richard Aubrey, Rehnquist said that it created a situation whereby ALL qualified blacks were accepted. Qualified isn't a difficult concept. The damage done by slavery and Jim Crow can be seen daily.

When the need for Affirmative Action is eliminated, there won't be any big debates or even any notice taken, it will just die of it's own accord because universities and employers (I am mixing in Equal Opportunity here) won't hire, fire or evaluate based on racial considerations anymore, the symptom of racism that these programs were initiated to remedy.

This isn't to say that there is no room for improvement in the programs. It may very well be that some programs place too high a value on race and this should be remedied. There may be other improvements that could be made. The object is to level the field making it more competitive and giving everyone the same educational and economic opportunities. Anything that accomplishes this goal is fine with me. Anything that tips the tables even more in favor of caucasians is retrograde and serves the agenda of racists.

If we didn't need AA and EO, they wouldn't exist.

Posted by: Phreddy at June 24, 2003 06:24 AM | PERMALINK

"There is no "racism" problem in America with respect to Jews, Irish, Poles, Southeast Asians, Chinese, Indians and Pakistanis and not very much of one with respect to African and West Indian immigrants."

D-Squared, you're one of the smartest bloggers around, but you're not from around here. We probably finally got the anti-Irish stuff under control, despite a horrendous history, but everybody else on your list very clearly still faces racism in this country.

Posted by: rea at June 24, 2003 06:52 AM | PERMALINK

I have no idea what Rehnquist was talking about. The UM undergrad AA program added enough point to otherwise unqualified applicants so that they qualified.
That, the court said, was illegal, or at least to the extent of having race be the most important factor in terms of points. Perhaps they think a smaller addition to the score would be legal.
AA and EEO will go away when there is no longer any money in them for anybody. Why should anybody give up freebies?

Who will decide that AA, just for example at UM, is no longer necessary? The problem with college admissions is the public school system, and most big-city schools, 1, get more funding than most other systems (a few exceptions) in their states, and 2, their grads rarely qualify for first-tier universities.
That means the kids nearly qualifying for UM are from pretty solid schools, either special schools in the big cities or suburban schools and are thus not among the disadvantaged. The difference is that the nearly qualifying white kid doesn't get the points.
We find that diversity for the sake of the white kids is the latest excuse. The idea that blacks have to be around white kids to get a good education has finally been seen as condescending and racist, but it had a good thirty years' run.
And the admissions folks know that quotas, which they would dearly love, are illegal. So they are saying, if anybody actually believed them, that they are hauling in black kids, who otherwise wouldn't qualify, for the use of white kids.
Whether black kids so honored have a certain weekly requirement of white-kid-educating to keep up has not been made public.
What happens to a black kid so honored who keeps to himself as much as possible or to the black-only groups, and restricts himself to trying to get an education? Is he expelled? Surcharged?
All of these questions are silly because we know the so-called compelling reason is a monstrous lie.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at June 24, 2003 07:07 AM | PERMALINK

"The UM undergrad AA program added enough point to otherwise unqualified applicants so that they qualified."

Wrong Mr. Aubrey--contrary to the stipulation of the parties in the case. Everyone who got into UM under the program was qualified--UM doesn't have enough room for all qualified applicants.

Posted by: rea at June 24, 2003 07:14 AM | PERMALINK

Richard, I think you'd have needed to hear the Tulia comment in its context. It was chillingly obvious that the woman speaking simply didn't care that innocent people were in jail. They didn't matter to her; their imprisonment was acceptable and perhaps even desirable. In a set of convictions that amounted to rounding up a goodly percentage of the town's black population, it speaks for itself.

On the issue of qualification, these kids are ALL qualified to go to these universities. It's all about composition.

I am more or less in favor of using economics as the primary discriminator, instead of or in addition to race. This will often result in the same thing due to the basic structure of our society at the moment.

Posted by: Ross Judson at June 24, 2003 07:29 AM | PERMALINK

Does anyone know the graduation rate of those minorities who were admitted only because they received the "bump-up" because of their minority status, in relation to the larger student body?

Posted by: raj at June 24, 2003 07:35 AM | PERMALINK

"The person in Tulia who said that some of those people were guilty might be right. You don't know... Until we know whether the speaker was speaking from genuine knowledge, there's no reason to consider it racist."

Richard, the evidence is so unbelievably lacking that the prosecution itself has (finally) determined that ALL of the cases should be dismissed. That's more than unusual - it's frankly astounding, especially in Texas, and it indicates that the drug "sting" was garbage from day one. There isn't any "genuine knowledge" on which to base speculation, in other words.

But the larger point is this: for some people, the takehome lesson of the Tulia atrocity is "well, some of those people are probably guilty." (To address your implausible caveat, I'll point out that I've heard this comment myself, more than once, from people NOT speaking from knowledge of the case, "genuine" or otherwise). How is that comment useful, to even the slightest degree? Given the horror of the situation, what's the point in speculating that someone is "probably" be guilty?

I'll tell you what the point is: that comment is an attempt to minimize the evil that occurred in Tulia, and distract attention from it. It shouldn't even be part of the discussion, but the fact that it is indicates that racism and racial ignorance are alive and well in this country.

As Kevin pointed out in a different post, emphasis is everything. The Tulia fiasco creates a rather striking context, but for many people, speculation about whether "some" of the victims are "probably" guilty is what's crucial. These individuals just don't want to hear or acknowledge that the criminal justice system screwed partiular Tulia residents over because those particular residents were black and poor. These individuals would rather focus on the miniscule probability that "some" (two? ten? who cares?) of the victims were guilty of something, and by implication deserved the treatment they got - as did, presumably, everyone else that got caught up in the web created by the "guilty" parties' phantom crimes.

That's what makes it an ignorant, racist comment.

Posted by: ryan b at June 24, 2003 07:43 AM | PERMALINK

The kids who are "all" qualified would be actually qualified to get into UM if the school were about six times bigger.
Some don't get in, based on something which might, in an honest world, be called qualifications.
In fact, UM looks at a pool of pretty sharp kids and takes the top ones. Those who don't make the cut go elsewhere, unless they're close to making it and are black so they get their points and are thus "qualified".
You could make the point that a good many kids who don't make the cut are pretty sharp, which is not the same thing.
If all the black kids were qualified, then they'd all get in and what are we talking about? We're talking about, on one hand, the admission that the academic requirements would have to be lowered to an unacceptable level to get the desired number of blacks. That's what the UM team said, and why they say they need the extra points.
I guess Rehnquist meant all blacks who get in by virtue of extra points are qualified--because when you add the extra points they are qualified. Presumably he missed the actual point of the case where the application of the extra points was at issue.
Or perhaps his comment is being mischaracterized.
I know which I choose.
I'll take the view of the person speaking in Tulia as being unacceptable.
If anybody is interested in true reparations for slavery and Jim Crow, not just feel-good gestures, then fixing inner-city public education is the place to start. But that's difficult, could be dangerous, and frequently thankless, not to mention requiring a modification of cultural relativism. Clearly, the extra points for college admissions is more desireable (less trouble).

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at June 24, 2003 07:51 AM | PERMALINK

True enough, Richard. I look forward to AA's most vocal opponents jumping en masse onto the "let's fix inner city public schools" bandwagon, and to them fighting for the funding to pull it off.

But I won't be holding my breath. Clearly, it's less trouble to oppose the extra points for college admission.

Posted by: ryan at June 24, 2003 07:58 AM | PERMALINK

Life on the plantation is affirmed by SCOTUS; whether the motivation is benevolent or malevolent is irrelevant.

Posted by: steve at June 24, 2003 07:58 AM | PERMALINK

Aubrey, you just have to spin this so that UM is admitting unqualified kids, don't you? Um instead recognizes that the tools for making distincitions among these kids--gpa, SAT, etc., aren't sharp enough to make that kind of distinction. No unqualified kids get into UM.

Posted by: rea at June 24, 2003 08:02 AM | PERMALINK

The problem would go away if there were sufficient funding so that there were room for all who are qualified to go to college could do so at the University of their choice.

The question of who is more qualified will always be subjective. Until we can figure out how to peer into the future to see who will succeed and who will not the argument over who gets in is specious.

These colleges also discriminate between applicants over other factors. Why is it the only one that causes people to turn green is race?


Posted by: Marie Foster at June 24, 2003 08:21 AM | PERMALINK

How does letting a black kid into a university when he does not otherwise qualify repair the effects of slavery on the slaves? --

Richard, you use the exact same lie that most opponents of affirmative action do - the purpose of affirmative action isn't to bump marginal candidates up to admitted candidates. The purpose, as stipulated by UM and virtually every college that uses it, is to select among the qualified applicants a pool of racially and ethnically diverse candidates for admission.

THe big question that most anti-affirmative action activists can't answer is - why did "less qualified" white candidates get into the UM law school over the plaintiffs in the case? It couldn't have been affirmative action, yet the school wasn't sued for whatever process put those "unqualified" white students in.

It betrays something very nasty to automatically assume that if you're a minority candidate, you're automatically not qualified.

Posted by: jesse at June 24, 2003 08:23 AM | PERMALINK

Marie asks: "Why is it the only one that causes people to turn green is race?"

Because it is the least valuable in assessing, subjectively or objectively, the ability and potential of the candidate. Race is the most superficial of differentiators - in fact many people mistakenly use it as a synonym for skin color.

If we set aside every other qualifier, knowing the race of an individual tells you nothing about their ability, background, motivation, and potential - especially in a heterogeneous society such as that which exists in the United States.

Posted by: steve at June 24, 2003 08:36 AM | PERMALINK


These colleges also discriminate between applicants over other factors. Why is it the only one that causes people to turn green is race?

The narrow answer to that question is that of those other factors (with the possible exception of sex), only the racial factor is a constitutional one, due to the fact that civil rights legislation and Constitutional amendments refer to it specifically.

The broad answer is, well, I don't know.....I suspect it's partly because many, if not most Americans are uncomfortable talking about race and its impact on American society; I'll freely admit I still am.

Posted by: Brian Schefke at June 24, 2003 08:45 AM | PERMALINK

"There is no "racism" problem in America with respect to Jews, Irish, Poles, Southeast Asians, Chinese, Indians and Pakistanis and not very much of one with respect to African and West Indian immigrants."

D-Squared: I believe it's a misconception that AA is to address racism, as in the kind of racism that is exhibited with racial slurs. With that sense of racism, you are probably largely correct. AA is designed to challenge institutional racism, the kind that results in direct correlation between minority racial status, poverty, and poor access to education.

AA is an acceptable salve until the real problems, begun with Reconstruction, are finally addressed. Minorities, black in particular, must become fully integrated members of the community, and I believe the only way this can be accomplished is by dislocating school funding from local property taxes (wealthy districts, wealthy schools). Until that happens, American society will continue to owe the minority community for the fact that, with Reconstruction (and of course slavery), racism was institutionalized and those effects have never been exorcised.

Posted by: Kriston at June 24, 2003 08:55 AM | PERMALINK

Good points. Opponents of AA are extremely interested in inner-city education. That's why they keep running for office in big cities, a thankless job. But "fighting for funding" isn't the key. Look at the per-pupil expenditures in the big city and the surrounding systems. Hell, my system has the second-lowest in several counties, and the second-best results. Our spending is far below the nearest big city. The keys are other items, including ending corruption, turfing out incompetent principals, getting books from warehouse to classroom before Thanksgiving. Every proposed solution runs into an entrenched constituency eager to play the race card. How much money does it take to audit principals? See Detroit. Not much.
One of the worst systems in our area has the highest travel budget for the board, not to mention, I am told, that any member of a certain fraternity can get a job and a paycheck in administration. How much political effort from the local government for the process of fixing things. Not much there, either.
We do not automatically think all minority candidates are unqualified. As you know. Cheap shot, not uncommon.
If all black kids who get into UM are qualified, why do we have the AA issue? Where do the extra points go?
Yeah, I know. The tests aren't sharp tools. But the other issues, like leadership, or overcoming difficulties, or whatever, are also possessed by white kids. Now what?
Is there a particular black thing? Rhythm, maybe, that white kids don't have?
Sorry, folks, that extra twenty points awarded for melanin were not awarded for achievement, determination, grades, scores. In fact, those points were added so that the total would be sufficient for admission, which means the total wihtout them wouldn't have been sufficient. In fact, that's one of UM's points. They can't get enough black kids in by using the usual measures, including academic standards.
There are black kids who didn't need the points, but they got them anyway.
If you want to insist that all are qualified, then some must be said to be more qualified while others are less qualified. Among the latter case, the black kids get a boost.
Keep in mind the excuse. Diversity is a compelling interest for the white kids.
Like we all believe that.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at June 24, 2003 09:27 AM | PERMALINK

Saddest thing about AA in California is that it attempts to address institutional racism by discriminating against Asian students.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at June 24, 2003 09:32 AM | PERMALINK

"People turn green" because "race ... is the least valuable (criterion) in assessing, subjectively or objectively, the ability and potential of the candidate."

This is pretty darn debatable - how about legacy points, awarded if your parents attended U-M, or athletics points, in relation to a candidate's academic potential? These might form the basis of lawsuits from rejected students whose parents didn't go to university, or who had physical disabilities preventing them from being 'sufficiently athletic'.

I don't know why the University gives points for these, but they seem equally objectionable. Points based on the parents' university attendance, in particular, seem to be diametrically opposed to fairness and opportunity for all.

My guess why race is the hot issue now is that it has been _the_ problem for decades - or longer - in the States, because of slavery and segregation and the measures needed to end them. In the U.K., class is the perennial issue par excellence, hence there are endless controversies over why this or that Oxford college rejected this or that 'public school' (i.e. posh private school) or 'comprehensive' (i.e. mediocre publically funded school) pupil.

Posted by: Thomas Dent at June 24, 2003 09:54 AM | PERMALINK

Some people here seem to be under the impression that, were it not for race, the debated U-M system would be solely based on academic qualification and would be a meritocratic one. This is quite inaccurate - any arguments that the race points undermine a principle of pure academic competition are bogus, since there never was such a principle.

The old U-M system, where a maximum of 110 out of 150 points are academic, includes such things as 10 points for MI residency, 6 points for an 'underrepresented MI county', 10 points 'at the Provost's discretion', etc. etc. Clearly it's a big hodgepodge in which there is no overriding principle, although academic qualification plays the major part. If you're really committed to the better academic student always winning over the worse, you'd have to make a hell of a lot more changes than just discarding the race-based points.

So, Mr. Aubrey, tell us whether you would like U-M, and dozens of other colleges, to switch to a rigidly academic criterion.

Posted by: Thomas Dent at June 24, 2003 10:14 AM | PERMALINK

Richard says: "Sorry, folks, that extra twenty points awarded for melanin were not awarded for achievement, determination, grades, scores. In fact, those points were added so that the total would be sufficient for admission, which means the total without them wouldn't have been sufficient."

Achievement? Determination? You just rattled off an extensive list of problems in the inner city school systems. Doesn't the fact that a minority kid somehow managed to beat his way through all of that mean he/she has achieved something?

I don't mean to imply that all minorities go through this experience, but there are certainly a lot who do.

You keep arguing that there is a LINE somewhere, firmly established, razor thin. Once you cross the line you're in; otherwise you're not qualified. It simply isn't so. The line is wide and blurry and depends on a lot of factors, race/socioeconomic status being one of them. These are all "maybe" kids, from the perspective of the university. They'll all succeed at the school.

We simply don't know enough about white kid A and black kid B to compare in a general sense. There is no simple formula. As such, we should LET universities do what they want.

Posted by: Ross Judson at June 24, 2003 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

Ross, you don't understand. Even a valedictorian at an inner-city school might not come close to qualifying for UM.
The qualifiers and near-qualifiers are, by definition, not educationally disadvantaged. They come from good schools where the determination you describe does not apply. It might apply regarding other issues, but, unfortunately for your point, those other issues are not race-specific. Broken home? Check. Death of a sibling? Check. Chronic ill health? Check. Frequent moves? Check. HOw about a white kid in an impoverished rural school? Crime? They aren't all Mayberries out there. School facilities? Some are okay, some not. Kalkaska district Michigan's northern lower peninsula stopped school in the spring several years ago because they ran out of money. You want maybe to apply your determination qualifier here? Didn't think so.

And I don't have a problem with a rigidly academic set of requirements for admission. Schools are quite clearly in different tiers, academically speaking, and the value of a top-tier education depends on its being actually top tier.
When the less-qualified are admitted, getting them to graduate in numbers which would protect the U from a suit about graduation figures is a problem which might dilute the academic rigor. The solution is race-specific tutoring plans, which, as it happens, have been recently been ruled illegal. If you don't have race-specific plans, then everybody gets the same tutoring boost and those who are less capable graduate in the expected numbers rather than the required numbers. That's why the race-specific tutoring programs were installed in the first place. It was to provide an extra, race-specific, boost. Now don't be telling me that I think all minority students are unqualified. The race-specific admissions criteria were not my idea. I think the universities had that idea first.
The problem is that race is much higher in admissions value than something like income level or location. And we have a constitution and a body of related law which address the issue of race, not residence in the Upper Peninsula.
Be that as it may, the Supremes said the the U's undergrad program doesn't cut it. The first one they had--which they attempted to keep secret--was so bad that a judge in a lower court observed, in passing, that while he thought the current program acceptable, the earlier one was not.
I recall the president of Rutgers, discussing the possibility of making permanent the then-temporary lower requirements for blacks, said something to the effect of "what about those who don't have the genetics....?" He spent a good deal of time abasing himself for having let on what was in his good little liberal heart.
As if there's any surprise here except that somebody was unguarded enough to 'fess up.
With friends like that....

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at June 24, 2003 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

Affirmative action is being applied at the wrong end of the educational systems. When minorities need their SAT scores boosted by hundreds of points to qualify for entrance, then they are under-prepared for the courses that follow. If they are going to graduate at the same rate as whites and asians, then they are going to have to perform way above their SAT scores, or they are going to need their grades boosted all the way through college. What happens, in reality, is that they drop-out at greater rates than whites or asians, or they take longer to graduate.

The underlying problem is that the school system does a poor job preparing minorities for college, starting at Kindergarten. Even when minorities are in good school systems, they do not perform as well as their peers. John Ogbu identified cultural factors and peer pressure as factors that prevent minority students from working hard at school (acting white).

Fixing the schools and negative minority attitudes to education would make affirmative action unnecesary, but that would mean vouchers or taking on the teachers' unions.

Posted by: Pat D at June 24, 2003 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

Richard, somewhere around 12% of the population of this country is black. Without race (or equivalents) as a tool in University admissions, various universities have indicated that black admissions would drop to around 1% or so.

According to your pure merit ideas, this is just the way it is, and only around 10% of blacks are capable of "keeping up" with everybody else, on this level playing field. So they're somewhere around 10% as smart, according to that metric.

That seems pretty ludicrous to me, and it probably seems ludicrous to you as well. After all, we're all human. So how do we try to explain that 10x difference in rates? We look to systemic factors -- it's the only thing that makes sense.

A race-based adjustment is a single coarse mechanism for applying a delta to accomodate a series of historical/cultural/systemic problems that have led to the 10% situation.

Or do you think that the 1% admission rate for blacks is about right?

I really want to apologize for putting words in your mouth, and I don't want to polarize the debate too much. I do NOT accuse you of any hidden subtext here -- I am just trying to put it in starkly mathematic terms.

I think we can argue extensively about the degree to which affirmative action should be applied. I must confess that I was startled the first time I saw the scoring system placing race far beyond the SAT score, for example. Scoring is just arguing about how far the dial should be turned, not whether the dial should be turned at all.

This administration displays a distressing love of convenience when selecting its firmest moral positions.

Posted by: Ross Judson at June 24, 2003 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

"When minorities need their SAT scores boosted by hundreds of points to qualify for entrance, then they are under-prepared for the courses that follow."

Pat, it doesn't happen. Affirmative action doesn't lead to people being admitted with SAT scores getting boosted hundreds of points

We see in this thread a series of posts by people like Pat and Aubrey, who don't want to confront the reality of the programs they are attacking--they'd rather attack straw men. Let me repeat, the parties to bothe UM cases,INCLUDING THE PEOPLE WHO WERE REJECTED AND SUED, stipulated taht the UM programs did not ever lead to admission of someone who wasn't qualified to be admitted. If you can't accept that fact, then you're off in your own alternative universe, not discussing issues that arise in this one.

Posted by: rea at June 24, 2003 12:37 PM | PERMALINK

There are two issues.
One is whether we "owe" to somebody or some group or to some Great Principle a mathematically-based set of admissions, or participation in any other enterprise. I don't think so.
The issue is whether we give special privileges based on group membership.
Once the basic issue of K-12 education is fixed, the admissions issue will straighten itself out. Until then, forcing it has a number of negative consequences, among them being figuring out how to manage graduation rates.
The experience of California contradicts the worst expectations of the folks who think that only 1% of black high school grads would actually make it to top tier schools.
That expectation, as it happens, runs headlong into the assertion that nobody got in who wasn't qualified.
Anyway, the negative consequences IMO are worse than the benefits. These kids who were only twenty melanin points away from making it to UM could have gone to MSU, say, with no help, or any of the other state schools and gotten a good education with less chance of flunking out and less requirement that their graduation rates be managed.
The problem for them is that graduating from UM puts them under a negative scrutiny. We know they got twenty points, we know there are special programs. How will they do, the employer must ask, in the real world with no extra points and no extra programs? The answer is that those who didn't need either are a better bet. One use of a college degree is an indicator that one is trainable. Some need special programs and some do not and which would you prefer to hire?
While there is a stipulation that nobody got in who wasn't qualified, how come somebody who was qualified didn't get in? The point is that there is no minimum, but a choice from the top down. As some kids who are near the top with raw points are overtaken by kids who weren't so near until they got extra points, some of the first group, although "qualified" doesn't get in while those in the second group, with lower raw points, do.
If you want to say that all are qualified, you can. But it's irrelevant. The question is who is more qualified, and one way to get to be more qualified is to get the twenty points. Which, as the court said, is illegal.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at June 24, 2003 01:37 PM | PERMALINK

Rea, you well know that stipulations are a matter of tactics and not necessarily reality. Here is a link to the UM 'factors'

Being a minority is worth 20 points

Getting the lowest possible score on the SAT is worth 0 points. Getting the highest possible score on the SAT is worth 12 points.

Getting a 3.0 GPA is worth 60 points, getting a 4.0 is worth 80 points.

Therefore, according to the UM criterea, Race is worth more than the difference between getting the worst possible score on the SAT and the best possible score on the SAT. Does that help your 'all are qualified argument'? I think not. According to the UM system the a difference in race is worth the difference of an entire GPA level. Does that help your 'all are qualified argument'? No.

Your criticism of Pat seems unfounded. The UM certainly seems to think that minorities need "SAT scores boosted by hundreds of points to qualify for entrance" They believe it so much that they are willing to make SAT scores count less than race.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at June 24, 2003 01:42 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, come on rea. Every top-tier univeristy has bare-bones "qualifications" for admission. But students who are actually admitted far exceed these qualifications.

For example, the University of Michigan requires incoming freshman to be high school graduates who have completed taken four years of English, three years of math, and two years of science. All incoming freshmen must also take the SAT and have their scores sent to the University.

Obvioulsy, under that definition, probably 98% of high school graduates are "qualfiied" for admission to the unviersity.

However, the average high school grade point average at the U of M is between 3.6 and 3.8, and the average SAT score is between 1210-1380.

So while minority students may, in fact, meet the minium "qualifications" established by the U of M, the fact is that most non-minority students far exceeed these minium qualifications.

The whole argument that affirmative action programs only admit "qualified" students is therefore disingenuous. It's a rhetorical smokescreen designed to hide the shameful truth. The problem is, no one is fooled. Whites aren't, and, worse yet, minorities aren't either.

Posted by: Joe Schmoe at June 24, 2003 01:42 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, Joe.
How come you think they think we are fooled?

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at June 24, 2003 01:51 PM | PERMALINK

But the other issues, like leadership, or overcoming difficulties, or whatever, are also possessed by white kids. Now what?
Is there a particular black thing? Rhythm, maybe, that white kids don't have?

Richard, a comment like that invalidates every point you're trying to make. Why in the world would you say such a thing, and why in the world should I listen to anything else you say?

Posted by: Kriston at June 24, 2003 02:19 PM | PERMALINK

Look. We certainly need more integration on
our campuses, both in terms of race and
gender. This need is clearly borne out by
the CNN picture showing the President and Vice President of the U. of Michigan student body, both African-American females, celebrating the Supreme Court decision.

Posted by: melk at June 24, 2003 02:42 PM | PERMALINK

What's the problem? The entire UM pitch presumes some particular black thing the white students need to be better educated.
I don't know that there is such a thing, but then, I'm not advocating for UM's diversity pitch.
You should ask them.
Of course, there isn't really any point, because the diversity argument is only the argument the U figured would fly. Quotas are illegal. Diversity so as to put white kids next to black kids for the latters' benefit is racist and condescending.
So the only thing they could think of was to fudge the facts about the benefits of diversity. See the reports. Or, try to see the reports. The U has stonewalled them. There are no objective reports of benefits, and the subjective reports are pretty much the statements, probably carefully vetted, of some of the participants.
See Chetley Zarko's report of buried data conflicting with the U's stated position.
But, then, it doesn't really matter. The SCOTUS acted as if it were an entitlement matter and ignored the diversity argument altogether.
One writer said this is the liberals' version of WMD as the argument most likely to fly.
Anyway, if you are going to pretend to buy the diversity argument, you have to be able to point to a benefit. And since we're not talking about conservative professors as diverse, nor, say, ex-grunts (UM would sooner have a chapter of NAMBLA before they had a VFW post on campus), nor, say, points for being evangelical, you're stuck with explaining what the black thing is that diversity is supposed to provide for the white kids.
Go ahead.
Start right in.
Any time.
Now is good.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at June 24, 2003 06:50 PM | PERMALINK


Does anyone else wonder why conservative adult males raise the issue of NAMBLA so often? It almost seems that they have a fixation about adult male on child male sex.

Very strange.

Posted by: raj at June 25, 2003 06:09 AM | PERMALINK

Cheap shot, Raj. No surprise.
Conservative adult males are strongly against child rape. Perhaps that's why we are in the minority.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at June 25, 2003 07:12 AM | PERMALINK

"what the black thing is that diversity is supposed to provide
for the white kids"...

Note that Michigan is about the most highly segregated state
of the 50 in terms of the separation of where people live.
Think of Benton Harbor vs. Grosse Pointe. U-M doesn't want
'diversity' for the _enjoyment_ of the white kids, or so
that they study better, it wants diversity so that students
grow up in a definitely non-segregated environment and
hopefully become better citizens. Maybe this involves some
degradation of academic standards, but this is a price they
are willing to pay.

Posted by: Thomas Dent at June 25, 2003 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

"Cheap shot, Raj. No surprise."

Cheap shot? I doubt it.

A few years ago, I monitored (and even posted on) the web site. I was amazed that virtually every thread that involved gay people would devolve into rants about NAMBLA and how gay people (gay men, of course--the people posting there would largly ignore gay women) wanted to molest children. I have a couple of theories as to why they believed that--the only one that made any sense is that they were projecting.

"Conservative adult males are strongly against child rape. Perhaps that's why we are in the minority."

Maybe so. I suspect that most of the rest of us are strongly against rape of anyone. Even adult males.

BTW, during the height of the catholic priest child sex abuse scandal, I did a little research on the internet a couple of years ago and was amazed at what I found out about child abuse among conservative protestant clergy. Mostly abuse of underage females, but there was more than a bit of abuse of underage males.

Moreover I was appalled about this story in this morning's Boston Globe:

>Dozens in Scout program abused by police, study says

>At least a dozen teenagers assigned to work with police departments as part of the Boy Scouts' Law Enforcement Explorers program have allegedly been sexually abused by officers during the past year. In the past five years, such molestations number at least 25, according to criminologists' research being released today. Sponsors have promised changes to the program, which attracts tens of thousands of teens annually.

>Among the recent cases:

>The East Ridge (Tenn.) Police Department suspended its Explorer program after Officer Keith Maynard, 31, was charged with two counts of statutory rape and two counts of aggravated child molestation. He was accused of having sex with a 15-year-old girl in the program. He is awaiting trial.

>In Haltom City, Texas, former police officer John Ross Ewing, 28, was indicted by a grand jury in March on charges that he sexually assaulted two male Explorer scouts, ages 15 and 16, at his apartment.

>In San Bernardino, Calif., Freddie Lee Johnson, 34, pleaded guilty in April to having sex with a 16-year-old girl on a scout-related camping trip. According to court records, the girl woke up and found the officer on top of her. He was sentenced to 60 weekends in jail.

I doubt if these people are particularly liberal.

(I split the link between the two lines)

One might seriously ask why you specifically referenced NAMBLA?

Posted by: raj at June 25, 2003 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

We're not saying that it's a matter of enjoyment.
But the point would be meaningless if there were not something the black kids had going that white kids should learn.
Now, the problem with this is that the black kids, even if they need each and every one of those twenty points, are still going to have come from pretty good homes and pretty good schools. How, given the actual similarity, they differ from white kids to an extent that they have something going that white kids should learn is hard to conceive.
In reality, if there were any truth to the diversity argument in the first place, there isn't much diversity in prospect. It will all be the usual types, except for melanin. And everybody will be happy. But no useful diversity.
As I say, diversity is not wanted. Racial quotas are wanted and diversity is the argument UM thought would fly.
Can you imagine, as I say, the shouts of glee with which UM would welcome young combat veterans? There would be some diversity. But that's not what they want. Most especially not what they want.
Evangelicals? That would be diverse in Ann Arbor.
Nope. Just the desired ratio of black and white faces.
For that they are willing to degrade academic performance? Great choice, guys.
But I do have to congratulate you for being the first to acknowledge that it's a price they will pay.
Not the only one, of course.
I don't know about Michigan's residential segregation. Going from Benton Harbor to Grosse Pointe is about 250 miles. Benton Harbor vs. St. Joseph next door would be a better point. They're on the same lake, anyway.
But many of the Detroit suburbs are integrated. Anybody with money left Detroit because of high taxes, lousy schools, crime, and poor services. Not all blacks are poor and they moved out, too. Ditto Flint. I don't get around Lansing or Grand Rapids much, so I can't say about them.
But to presume UM is trying to overcome that supposed issue is to presume something they didn't say.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at June 25, 2003 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

I picked NAMBLA, Raj, for one particular reason. And it's not because of some particular fascination, which is, of course, your implication. That's why I called it, and still call it, a cheap shot.
But since you're pretending to a legitimate inquiry, I will pretend you're serious and answer it that way.
I picked NAMBLA because it is the vilest and most despicable organization I can conceive of which is going to get a "not so fast" from liberals. Not a break, I don't think (but I am used to being surprised), but a tepid defense. Not because liberals sympathize with child rape, but because they are constitutionally disposed to defend sexual abnormality. Perhaps they think an attack on child rape would morph into an attack on gays. Perhaps they are constitutionally disposed to defend anything conservatives attack.
If NAMBLA wanted to start a chapter on UM campus, I would expect opposition, but also some talk about liberty, freedom of speech, and so forth. I would not expect any of the mages of wonderfulness at UM, or their novices, to say anything similar if there were opposition to a VFW post.
Okay now?
Point is, UM doesn't want, does not want, diversity. They want the proper ratio of dark faces, as long as the faces got dark in the proper way. I'd be interested in knowing if they gave twenty points for a Caribbean immigrant kid. Given their goal, probably not.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at June 25, 2003 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

You probably missed the other "points" that are non-merit based, but still benefit primarily whites. Namely, the 20-point "Lower income" category, which CANNOT be stacked with the Minority category, even though it is supposed to help disadvantaged minorities. So essentially, it is lower-class WHITES that benefit.
But wait, there's more! There's the 16-point "Upper Penn" benefit. The Upper Penn is prominently white. Again, preferential treatment for a white group. That's a 36-point advantage white groups right there. Even though they are very good Affirmative Action criteria, how come it is the Minority category that goes under scrutiny?

To me, from a university's perspective, diversity IS a laudable goal; it allows them to be seen as rich in substance, with numerous views and backgrounds. Of course, we all know that most colleges do things in their own interest. It's no less than, say, MIT merely wanting the most ambitious students, or Yale wanting to uphold its image.

And do you offer ANY evidence that U of M (Or ANY college, for that matter) is using quotas of minorities? Or is it just simply another accusation without any substance?

And comparing GLBT with pedophilia and rape is nothing more than sickening.

Posted by: Assamite at November 25, 2003 10:14 PM | PERMALINK

In response to dsquared 6/24/03, the Irish are almost racially identical to the English, being compried of the descendents of Celts, Normans and Viking. I wouldn't really classify the Poles as a racial minority either!

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