While eight percent of Harvard undergrads are black, they’re the wrong blacks, critics said at a black alumni weekend. According to Lani Guinier, a Harvard law professor, and Henry Louis Gates Jr., the chairman of Harvard’s African and African-American studies department, “the majority of them — perhaps as many as two-thirds — were West Indian and African immigrants or their children, or to a lesser extent, children of biracial couples,” reports the New York Times. Guinier herself is the daughter of a Jamaican father and a white mother.
If their figures are correct, affirmative action is helping students whose families didn’t suffer from American slavery or segregation. And not just at Harvard.
Researchers at Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania who have been studying the achievement of minority students at 28 selective colleges and universities (including theirs, as well as Yale, Columbia, Duke and the University of California at Berkeley), found that 41 percent of the black students identified themselves as immigrants, as children of immigrants or as mixed race.
In another survey, nine percent of college-age blacks describe themselves as of African or West Indian ancestry.
A Harvard sociologist quoted in the story says West Indian immigrants, are “less psychologically handicapped by the stigma of race” because they come from majority-black countries. Gates points to cultural values.
“This is about the kids of recent arrivals beating out the black indigenous middle-class kids,” said Professor Gates, who plans to assemble a study group on the subject. “We need to learn what the immigrants’ kids have so we can bottle it and sell it, because many members of the African-American community, particularly among the chronically poor, have lost that sense of purpose and values which produced our generation.”
Many academics want to duck the issue that Gates and Guinier have raised. If immigrants’ children don’t count, it’s too hard to make the diversity numbers come out. Students of all colors from poor or working-class families rarely qualify for elite universities.
The Supreme Court ruled that racial preferences are OK to promote diversity but not to remediate past injustice, writes On David Bernstein on Volokh Conspiracy. Discriminating against immigrant blacks is probably illegal. Discriminations wonders if preferentialists are getting a clue that race is not a reliable proxy for diversity.