The Coming Attack on Affirmative Action is Futile and Ill-Advised

Jefferson Beauregard Sessions The Third is incensed about intentional ethnicity-based discrimination going on at American universities. That might have seemed a surprising and even hopeful development — an old Lilliputian Confederate dipping just one toe into the 21st century.

Until one realizes what Lil’ Dumbo is really up to. As the New York Times points out (after obtaining an internal Department of Justice memo on the matter), the only “intentional” ethnicity-based policies in existence around the country are race-conscious affirmative-action programs. So it seems that Beauregard The Third is set on protecting white people from the scourge of diversity in higher education.

Which the Supreme Court has already found to be a compelling state interest, by the way. You see, this issue has already been litigated and settled — as recently as last year. It is curious, then, what Beauregard seeks to achieve by hiring lawyers to investigate the existence of these programs and challenge them in court. That’s already been tried, and it’s already failed. So this will be another expensive, wasteful legal stunt undertaken by alleged fiscal conservatives for the purpose of vindicating important constitutional principles jacking up Trump’s base of white rubes.

The US Supreme Court has ruled that because many public-university affirmative-action programs do indeed take account of ethnicity, they are, like all ethnicity-based state policies, subject to the strictest judicial scrutiny. But unlike invidious programs designed to hold minorities down, affirmative-action programs are undergirded by exceedingly persuasive — and benign — purposes.

UMichWhen the Court took up a case from the University of Michigan in 2003, arguments in favor of affirmative action in higher education came from some surprising places. Whereas one might have expected such arguments from the NAACP, ACLU, and other progressive outfits, many came instead from Fortune 500 CEO’s and generals and admirals in the military. Since corporate executives and the military’s officer corps come largely from the ranks of the college-educated, these arguments went, we need to do a better job exposing students to diverse cultures and ethnic groups; it would be nice if Lieutenant Dan, before deploying to some exotic locale, had ever interacted with someone who didn’t look, pray, and think just like him.

The Court also made clear, however, that quotas and rigid numerical formulas for administering affirmative-action programs were impermissible. All a public university is allowed to do is consider ethnic-minority status “a mere plus” (as between applicants of roughly equivalent qualifications to begin with) if the university’s incoming class seems not to have reached a “critical mass” where minority groups are meaningfully represented. So it’s not, as Beauregard might think, as though there’s a tsunami of unqualified minorities washing away legions of put-upon white people.

I often note how, in the world of the modern conservative, everything seems to be its own opposite. In a choice between what 97% of the world’s scientists have concluded and what 3% of the world’s scientists have concluded, conservatives choose the 3%. In right-wing Bizarro World, Christians are the victims of a moral code imposed by gays, not the other way around; religious freedom belongs to government employees, not the people they serve; economic demand is driven by . . . tax cuts for the already rich; people with PhD’s are to be shunned, and mega-church soothsayers heeded.

And yes, in this upside-down world, it’s minorities who are the oppressors and the majority that is oppressed.

So it’s on: the Trump administration’s war on diversity.