Wednesday, April 02, 2003

The Heart of Affirmative Action: The arguments are in the can, the briefs have been filed, and the court will get back to us on racial preferences. There's only one question that needs to be asked, though: When should affirmative action end? Put another way: At what point will it have succeeded? If the court upholds racial preferences under the emperor's new umbrella of diversity, it effectively means supporting an argument that affirmative action should never end. That is, instead of being a policy of remediation, it becomes a policy of construction and enforcement. We don't use AA anymore to force companies and schools to overcome bigotry, as was the original intent. UMich knows that to fall back on the original remediation argument would be to argue, "If you don't force this program on our admissions office, we will be unable to control our racist motivation and only accept whites." But they're not arguing that. They're arguing that part of their mission is to create an atmosphere of diversity, to help white kids from the 'burbs to meet and know black kids from Detroit. (In effect, it's the mixer hosted by Gomez Addams in West Side Story to get the whites and Puerto Ricans together.) This is social sculpting on an over-reaching scale. Give us this power, they argue, to create a "diverse" atmosphere, based on notions of diversity that are racist and divisive.

Take an example: An inner city white kid (trust me, they exist) and a middle-class suburban black kid apply to UMich. Now, according to the university, diversity is the goal here. So who should get the 20 points? It's like "Which twin has the Toni?" Who's got the diversity here? The black kid isn't underprivileged, probably went to a better school than the white kid, and is likely better prepared for a first-rate university. Most importantly, to argue that he brings diversity to the school because of his skin color, even though he grew up in the suburbs with the privileged white kids that the university accepts too many of, is based on an insidious kind of racism. It is reasoning along the lines of the one-drop rule: if you're black, you're black. Doesn't matter whether you grew up in Bed-Stuy or Park Slope, kid, or whether your dad was a pimp or a surgeon. If you have black skin, that makes you "diverse," which is just a another way of saying that you -- despite all the factors of nurture and socialization that we know have an enormous effect on humans -- do not transcend your race. Your race defines you. You are different. In this case we're saying we want you to come to our school because you're different. That's sweet and all, but it's still racism, and to avoid acknowledging that is to delude oneself on the issue. Go ahead and argue that it is a kind of good racism, beneficial racism. But don't try to deny what's plain.

No comments: