Minority Merits: The U.C. System Proves Minorities Can Compete Without Aid
The best thing that can or should be said about Affirmative Action is what the Democratic civil rights champion Sammy Davis Jr. purportedly said when asked why he hugged Richard Nixon at a 1970 Republican fundraiser: “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”
Why not fight racism with reverse racism? If a racist and corrupt system discriminates against minorities then one means of righting this wrong is to reverse the racism by discriminating for instead of against said minorities. This is precisely what the University of California system did in its admissions policy until Proposition 209 passed 54% to 45% in 1996, prohibiting the state from discriminating against or giving preferences to anyone on the basis of “race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education or public contracting.”
Here we have the basis for a social experiment in which one set of variables is altered: before 1996 the University of California system discriminated against whites and in favor of minorities in their admissions policy; after 1996 students were admitted based on their merits alone. Opponents of Prop 209—believing that minorities lack the merits to make it on their own—predicted that minority admissions would decrease after 1996. Proponents of 209—believing that minorities are just as smart, creative, and hard working as any other group—predicted the opposite. What happened?
Admissions for the Fall of 2010 for the University of California reveals that the number of minorities in both absolute numbers and percentages exceeds that of 1996:
African American 1996: 4% (1,628) 2010: 4.2% (2,624)
Latino 1996: 15.4% (5,744) 2010: 23% (14,081)
Asians 1996: 29.8% (11,085) 2010: 37.5% (22,877)
Native Americans 1996: 0.9% (360) 2010: 0.8% (531)
Whites 1996: 44% (16,465) 2010: 34% (20,807)
So it would appear that a meritocracy in educational admissions works, and in this (the University of California), one of the largest educational laboratories in the world. Blacks and Latinos in particular do not need affirmative action, special favors, handouts, proportional set asides, or any other discriminatory practice in order to succeed. And how insulting to ever to have implied that they do! Did anyone believe that the only way minorities could succeed in American education would be for the government to step in and order educational institutions to discriminate on their behalf? Yes, they did, and they still are: the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action filed a lawsuit this year to overturn Prop 209. Why? According to the suit: “The percentage of Latina/o, black and Native American students in the UC as a whole has not kept pace with the rising percentage of those groups among high school graduates of the state.”
So the purpose of higher education is to be an extension of K-12 education, matching percentages precisely or else? And that “or else” should include a top-down, government enforced racist policy of discrimination based on high school racial demographics? Is this what American higher education has come down to? If the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action has its way it will, because, in fact, the full name and mission of this organization, according to it’s web page, is: “The Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration, and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) is building the new civil rights movement. We are a primarily student- and youth-based organization of leaders in our schools and communities, committed to making real the promises of American democracy and equality.” Read that ominous acronym again: By Any Means Necessary. If the law is not overturned, what other means do these folks have in mind? Violence? The threat of violence?
I am white. My “race” lost a full 10 percentage points in U.C. admissions after the passage of Prop 209. Will BAMN step up and demand that the U.C. admissions office set aside a fixed number of admits for whites regardless of SAT scores, GPAs, student essays, and the like? Somehow I doubt it, but if they did, and I were applying to college, I would give the same response that any self-respecting individual should today to such racist policies:
“No thanks. I don’t need your racist discriminatory policies to succeed in life. And how insulting that you would think otherwise—I can make it on my own without your snobby elitist attitude that without your help I will fail. I don’t need you or any other patronizing thugs to threaten a university to let me in or else they will be in violation of a law that could land them in jail for choosing to not admit me. And if that were the reason they did let me in, I wouldn’t go. I am smart. I am creative. I am hard working. I am responsible for my actions. I will make my own way in life, and if I succeed then I succeed on my own merits, and if I fail then I fail on my own lack of merits. Period. If you don’t understand that, then get lost.”