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Jewish World Review July 3, 2003/ 3 Tamuz, 5763

Larry Elder

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Colorblindness rejected by the Supreme Court | In the University of Michigan Supreme Court "affirmative action case," the court reaffirmed the use of race as an admissions criterion. The court struck down the specific way the University of Michigan undergraduate school uses race -- automatically assigning 20 points to a Hispanic, black or Native-American applicant. (Asians presumably lose their status as minorities given their irritating habit of doing well.) But the court bought the school's argument which called diversity a "compelling state interest," and reaffirmed the use of race to achieve that goal.

Compelling state interest -- for a tax-supported institution to use race as a criterion?

University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman called "racial diversity" important for classroom discussion. Do students live in hermetically sealed classrooms? Do students lack "diverse" friendships? Do students, somehow, avoid any interaction with those who look, act and think differently?

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, curiously, in the 5-4 majority decision, wrote: "The court expects that 25 years from now the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today." Interesting. Twenty-five years from now?

In 1963, then National Urban League President Whitney Young proposed a "Marshall Plan" for blacks. He expected "the Plan" to last 10 years. Thus, according to Young, he expected "affirmative action" to end in 1973, not by 2028, as envisioned by Justice O'Connor.

Twenty-five years from now?

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In 1963, A. Philip Randolph, founder of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, said, "Negro youth must offer the future the same things that white youth offer and they must have the faith that there is no basic racial difference in potential for achievement -- moral, intellectual, or spiritual. The future holds great opportunity for those who are prepared to meet and face the challenge of this age of science, technology, and industrialism, and social, economic, and political change." Hmmm . . . nothing about race-based preferences.

Almost 140 years ago, black abolitionist Frederick Douglass, when asked how the country could help blacks, said, "In regard to the colored people, there is always more that is benevolent, I perceive, than just, manifested towards us. What I ask for the (N)egro is not benevolence, not pity, not sympathy, but simply justice. The American people have always been anxious to know what they shall do with us. . . . I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! (Y)our doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us! If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, if they are worm-eaten at the core, if they are early ripe and disposed to fall, let them fall! . . . And if the (N)egro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone! . . . Your interference is doing him positive injury."

Justice Clarence Thomas, in his dissent in the Michigan case, said, "Like Douglass, I believe blacks can achieve in every avenue of American life without the meddling of university administrators."

Arthur Ashe, in "Days of Grace," said, "Affirmative action tends to undermine the spirit of individual initiative. Such is human nature; why struggle to succeed when you can have something for nothing?"

Black economist and JWR columnist Walter Williams, chairman of the Department of Economics at George Mason University, noted the rapid black economic progress before the advent of "affirmative action." According to Williams, "Among young, intact, husband-wife families outside the South, black family income in 1959 was 78 percent of white family income. By 1969 this figure had increased to 91 percent, and 1970 saw the figure reach 96 percent. In fact, among families where both spouses worked, black couples earned 4 percent more than white couples in 1970. In 1971 they earned 5 percent more. Notably, this progress all occurred before affirmative action became a widespread phenomenon in the United States, and before it became synonymous with racial preferences."

Black former Federal Reserve Board member Arthur Brimmer, after conducting a study on the impact of affirmative action, concluded, "I would say that most blacks I know did not get (their jobs) because of affirmative action, but it's impossible (to determine the exact number)."

In "America In Black and White," Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom even argued that "affirmative action" retards the progress of blacks: " . . . the growth of the black middle class long predates the adoption of race-conscious social policies. In some ways, indeed, the black middle class was expanding more rapidly before 1970 than after. . . . Many of the advances black Americans have made since the Great Depression occurred before anything that can be termed 'affirmative action' existed. . . . In the years since affirmative action, (the black middle class) has continued to grow, but not at a more rapid pace than in the preceding three decades, despite a common impression to the contrary."

Oh, well, 2028 is just around the corner.

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JWR contributor Larry Elder is the author of, most recently, "Showdown: Confronting Bias, Lies and the Special Interests That Divide America." (Proceeds from sales help fund JWR) Let him know what you think of his column by clicking here.

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© 2002, Creators Syndicate