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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

America is not black and white any more

Affirmative action was created at a time when most Americans belonged to a white majority or a black minority, writes Megan McArdle in the Washington Post.

"In 1960, more than five out of every six accounted for in the census were White — and of the remainder, the overwhelming majority were Black," she writes. Hispanics weren't counted separately until 1970, but were unlikely to be as high as 5 percent.

Unsurprisingly, our civil rights architecture was primarily structured to equalize the relations between a Black minority that had suffered centuries of state-sponsored racial oppression and a majority group that had perpetuated that manifestly unjust system. The civil rights establishment ended up with a dual mandate to prevent discrimination while narrowing the lingering gaps that reflected past injustice.

"Diversity" was used to avoid admitting the real goal is racial balancing, writes McArdle.

But immigration has changed the demographics, she writes. (There's a lot more intermarriage too.) The old framework creates new absurdities.

. . . a Pakistani is “Asian,” but an Afghan born a few miles across the border might be coded “White”; the daughter of a Spanish doctor is Hispanic, eligible for various private and government-sponsored affirmative action programs, while the child of an Italian janitor, who might be visually indistinguishable from the doctor’s child, is presumably in no need of help.
. . . American descendants of enslaved people are our most disadvantaged citizens, with enduring gaps in education, income and wealth, but African immigrants are much better educated than average.

The children of Asian immigrant families are qualifying for elite universities by grades and test scores in large numbers. They don't get in on legacy preferences, rarely on sports. The daughter of non-English-speaking restaurant workers gets no admissions "tip." She's not seen as "diverse."

Asian-American students would be 43 percent of Harvard's admitted class, if only academics were considered, the university's researchers concluded. The actual number that year was 19 percent. Admissions officials assign subjective "personal" ratings to candidates that invariably rate Asian Americans lower than other groups.

Racial discrimination is clear, writes Wenyuan Wu on Minding the Campus. Students for Fair Admissions, which is suing to end racial preferences, found that an Asian-American applicant to Harvard with a 25 percent chance of admissions would have a 35 percent chance if he were white, a 75 percent chance if Hispanic, and a 95 percent chance if he were black.

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