The intellectual hornet's nest of affirmative action


In a hair-splitting ruling yesterday in Fisher v. University of Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that universities could devise "race neutral" admissions policies to achieve racial diversity as long as the "race neutral" policies achieved "about" the same racial result.

Ouch. Just writing that hurt my head. Welcome to the intellectually dishonest world of affirmative action.

In a nutshell, universities may use race to select students and achieve racial diversity. The modern version of this means qualified white students -- such as Abigail Fisher -- may be selected against by universities -- like the University of Texas -- for less-qualified minority students.

If there's a silver lining in the ruling last week, it is that the Supreme Court justices seemed to acknowledge the intellectual hornet's nest of quotas and ruled that diversity in schools is important and it doesn't have to be achieved by flat-out discriminatory race policies. It can be achieved in other ways so long as it achieves "about" the same result.

Justice Ginsburg, however, acknowledged that devising an admission policy not using race but still aimed at producing racial diversity is in the end dishonest. She'd rather that admission policies just use straight-up racial discrimination to achieve diversity.

But if you are looking for consistency, your best bet is to read Justice Clarence Thomas's concurrence who argues against using race at all in admission policies.

All of the arguments used by the University of Texas, he says, to permit racial preferences were once used by segregation advocates. The court righteously shot those arguments down. Thomas invoked the arguments of the plaintiffs in Brown v. Board of Education: "No state has any authority under the equal-protection clause of the 14th Amendment to use race as a factor in affording educational opportunities among its citizens."

For a good and sober reconciliation of yesterday's ruling, I refer you here.