The always thoughtful, always interesting former U.S. Rep. Artur Davis of Alabama has a superb essay on affirmative action, in response to the Supreme Court announcing it will hear a new case challenging race-based admissions. Davis is more in the middle on the issue than I am — I am dead set against using race as a factor in any way, pro or con, because I believe in absolute legal color-blindness — but he does make good points to the effect that the lack of ANY racial consciousness probably would have the short-term effect, at some schools, of a lower rate of black admissions and enrollments.
One thing he missed, though, is the strong evidence that black students, or any students for that matter, admitted to more competitive institutions than they otherwise would qualify for tend, in turn, to fail at higher rates — whereas if they went to slightly less competitive institutions, they succeed, and end up better off in the long run. In fact, in the Texas case heading to the Supreme Court, three members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (Gail Heriot, Peter Kirsanow, Todd Gaziano) make that point exactly.
Without discussing that point, though, Davis still notes that there are plenty of less competitive, but perfectly competent schools, that will indeed take students turned down by, say, the Ivy League schools, and then writes:
But the reflexive instinct that ending race conscious college admissions is a disaster in the making? It’s no longer a serious claim. Even a full-scale retreat would hardly disenfranchise African American students or consign them to sub-par schools that lack adequate resources. The market of higher education is much too robust for that.
This is great stuff. Conservatives do need to recognize that it is important, in one way or another, to ensure that opportunities are not closed, for cultural or whatever other reasons, to black Americans. (Other reasons might include semi-legitimate practices such as preferences for “legacy” candidates.) Those of us who oppose affirmative action should always keep in mind that even if racism isn’t at work, black Americans proportionately do seem to suffer from fewer opportunities, in practice, than white ones. This doesn’t mean the law should discriminate in their favor, but it does mean the culture still needs work.
Meanwhile, let’s hope the high court does the right thing and strikes down the racial preferences in Texas…..