The Supreme Court will soon rule on a pair of cases that could put an official end to affirmative action in college admissions. If that happens, it will be a massive victory for the notion of merit, not identity, being the basis for success in this country.
However, the larger fight against racial preferences is far from over. Our elite universities aren’t interested in actual diversity. They want to create and perpetuate conformity to one worldview, alongside the appearance of racially “equal” outcomes.
Regardless of what the Supreme Court decides in Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard College and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina, one thing has become clear in all the debates about racial preferences: It’s an elite-driven project that’s strongly rejected by the American people.
When racial preferences are put up for a vote, voters have nearly always been against it, oftentimes by an overwhelming majority. Red state, blue state, it doesn’t seem to matter. Americans generally believe that our laws and institutions should be colorblind, that the potential merits of diversity don’t outweigh the negatives of a race-conscious system.
A Pew Research poll from June 8 found that 82% of Americans say college admissions shouldn’t consider race. That’s as close to a near-universal opinion as you are likely to get in this country nowadays. Yet, the Left and the institutions it controls are still insistent on forcing the idea on the American people.
The case of California is particularly illustrative of this dynamic.
Way back in 1996, California voters passed Proposition 209, which prohibited public institutions from considering race, sex, or ethnicity in employment, contracting, and academic admissions. It was broadly popular in the state, and evidence suggests that black and minority students who got into California schools improved in performance after the ban took place.
In 2020, left-wing activists tried to get affirmative action officially back on the books in the Golden State. They failed by an even greater margin than in 1996. It was unpopular among almost every demographic and every geographic region of the state apart from the bluest of blue enclaves.
Proponents of racial preferences made excuses for why the ballot measure failed, saying that it was due to bad timing, bad messaging, and poor organization. That all seems implausible, especially given the magnitude of Prop 16’s defeat.
Prop 16’s backers had considerable advantages. They outspent their opponents by a margin of nearly 20 to 1. They had an overwhelming number of nonprofit organizations and corporations publicly supporting the measure. The universities were all in.
Plus, they tried to pass it in 2020, at the height of the “racial reckoning,” the Black Lives Matter riots, and the “defund the police” movement. That was before those movements began crumbling under the weight of their own absurdities. California was bluer and more racially diverse than it had ever been.
If not then, when?
A summer of sermonizing about how America is a “structurally racist” country didn’t matter. Californians and Americans just weren’t buying the race-based system they were selling.
Nevertheless, the institutional elites persisted. They just can’t quit it. To abandon racial preferences is to abandon the faith, as The New York Times acknowledged recently. The Times highlighted that the Prop 16 vote presented an existential crisis for the Left.
“The 2020 campaign to restore race-conscious affirmative action in California was close to gospel within the Democratic Party,” the Times explained, suggesting that the landslide defeat in California shows a potential huge disconnect between liberal party elites and their own voters.
The Times speculated that another major blow, this one at the Supreme Court in the coming week, could untether the Democratic Party from the racial preferences agenda.
Count me skeptical.
It’s true that they may be less likely to put anything resembling race-conscious policies up for a vote. That’s a proven loser. Instead, they will rely on their institutional and bureaucratic power to get the outcomes they want.
Unfortunately, many schools in California and elsewhere have found workarounds for racial preference bans, lowering standards to ensure they get the racial mix they want. That’s been the issue at Harvard and elite schools that triggered the lawsuits.
As Heritage Foundation senior legal fellow GianCarlo Canaparo explained, evidence suggests that Harvard racially balances its student body. (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.)
“The share of Harvard’s student body that goes to each racial group is remarkably consistent over time,” Canaparo wrote. “The evidence also shows that black and Hispanic students are admitted at much higher rates than white and Asian students with the same academic credentials.”
If the Supreme Court does rule against affirmative action in the next week or so, will our colleges and universities accept that decision and move on? Not a chance.
“If race-conscious admissions fall, some better-resourced schools are expected to use household incomes, ZIP codes, targeted recruiting programs and other indirect methods to prop up their commitment to diversity,” Politico reported.
Make no mistake, their goal will continue to revolve around racial quotas, even if the Supreme Court rules against them.
There’s no doubt that it’s in higher education where the ideology leading to racial preferences is most powerful and unquestioned. That’s the locus of the movement’s power.
Regardless of the law, universities will continue to inculcate students—the pipeline of the West’s ruling elite—to accept the ethos that leads to a color-conscious society, where official and unofficial political and economic levers are pulled to ensure equal racial outcomes.
The institutions will resist, and the media will give them cover. It’s up to Americans and elected officials to continue to put pressure on them to cease and desist.
That means defunding diversity, equity, and inclusion departments and programs. It means making it easier to remove staff and faculty who indoctrinate and inculcate a highly racialized educational environment to the detriment of genuine learning and freedom of thought.
Opponents of race preferences need to go on offense at the locus of those noxious ideas.
The Supreme Court hopefully will strike a serious and historic blow to the racial preferences regime—but count on the machine to fight back.
The official end of racial preferences in college admissions won’t be the end of this fight. On this, as on so many other issues these days, it’s the people versus the institutions. Let’s help the people win.
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