Supreme Court Got it Right on Affirmative Action
The Supreme Court has ended Affirmative Action in terms of college admissions. That is a decision that is long overdue.
Affirmative Action was introduced by President Nixon as a means of countering the historic and flagrant prejudice against blacks at that time. I was serving in the White House when that program was enacted.
Even as it was being enacted, it was recognized to give unfair ADVANTAGE to black Americans seeking jobs and admission to colleges and universities. It was designed to bring institutional racism into a non-racist balance. More importantly, it was never intended to be permanent.
Even at the time, it was considered to be constitutionally questionable under the equal application of the law provision of the Fourteenth Amendment. Affirmative Action was a policy based on race – ergo racist — even if you supported the program, which I did. Operating to the disadvantage or advantage of a class of citizens based on race is two sides of the same coin. That should be obvious.
Latinos were included under the Affirmative Action umbrella even though they were not nearly the victims of racism as were blacks – and were mostly associated with the white community.
Affirmative Action has now been the law of the land for more than 50 years – and it has worked for the most part – along with a general public enlightenment on racial issues. If not completely eliminated, racism has been in remission to the extent that we can say that America is no longer a culturally racist nation.
Yes, there are still sentiments of racism among a very small portion of the populace. Despite the attention they garner, they have little influence on the nation as a whole. De jure institutional racism of the old solid Democrat southland was finally killed off with the rise of the modern civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s.
De facto institutional racism, however, has stubbornly clung to the politics of America’s major cities, where millions of blacks remain confined to segregated impoverished ghettoes – and Affirmative Action has not been as effective for them as was originally hoped and as many currently claim.
While colleges and universities did show improvement in the percentage of black students, studies show that they were disproportionately drawn from middle to upper class families – blacks who were able to have good education at the primary and secondary school levels. In other words, to meet their Affirmative Action quotas, the institutions of higher learning were picking the best and the brightest among the black and Hispanic populations –and those who could reasonably achieve at the college level.
That raises an important point. While Affirmative Action could increase black enrollment, it could not guarantee success. The failure and drop-out rate among minorities in college has consistently been higher than the white and Asian rates. That is because so many blacks and Latinos were enrolled based on race rather than achievement. The standards were lowered. I have long believed that Affirmative Action should have been means-tested to focus on those least able to afford college – as are many scholarship programs.
In terms of education, the real racial problem is not based on diversity at the university level, but at the failure of the urban public-school systems to provide equal education to segregated blacks and Latinos.
Affirmative Action was no longer providing the intended benefit of leveling the playing field. That has been accomplished. It was time for the nation to return to the promise of the Constitution – and to put back the meaning of “equality under the law.”
So, there ‘tis.