Jewish World Review May 1, 2014 / 1 Iyar, 5774
Finally, the end of affirmative action
By Victor Davis Hanson
JewishWorldReview.com | Sometimes doctrines just vanish, once they appear as naked as the proverbial emperor in his new clothes.
Something like that seems now to be happening with affirmative action. Despite all the justifications for its continuance, polling shows the public still strongly disagrees with the idea of using racial criteria for admissions and hiring.
Its dwindling supporters typically include those who directly benefit from it, or who are not adversely affected by it. Arguments for the continuance of affirmative action are half-hearted and may explain why some supporters descend into name-calling directed at those who dare question its premises.
Recently, a group of liberal Asian-American state lawmakers in
Asian-American students are now disproportionately represented in the flagship
Expect more such pushback.
In the 1950s, when the country was largely biracial -- about 88 percent so-called white and 10 percent African-American -- and when the civil rights movement sought to erase historical institutionalized bias in the South against blacks, affirmative action seemed to be well intentioned and helpful.
But more than a half-century later, and in a vastly different multiracial America, affirmative action has been re-engineered as something perpetual and haphazardly applicable to a variety of ethnicities.
Class divisions are mostly ignored in admissions and hiring criteria, but in today's diverse society they often pose greater obstacles than race. The children of one-percenters such as Beyoncé and Jay-Z will have doors opened to them that are not open to those in
Race itself also is increasingly a problematic concept in 21st-century America. The more we talk about Latinos, blacks, Asians and others as if they were easily distinguishable groups, the less Americans fit into such neat rubrics. In an age of intermarriage, assimilation and global immigration, almost every American family has been redefined by members who are one half this or one quarter that.
Yet if verifiable hyphenation is to be our touchstone to career or academic identity, how do we certify minority status in an increasingly intermarried and multiracial society where there soon will be, as in
Affirmative action once was defended as redress for the odious sins of slavery and
In a zero-sum, multiracial society, how do we best appreciate past suffering? How do we compare the Jewish-American whose grandparents were wiped out in the Holocaust with the grandchildren of those Japanese who were interned during World War II?
If compensation is not historically based, what then are the criteria that calibrate ongoing victimization? Would a European-Argentinean immigrant with a Hispanic name better qualified for affirmative action than the Bosnian Muslim refugee?
Affirmative action was also predicated on America's history of discrimination. It was never intended to apply to those who had recently arrived in America without proof of past discrimination in this country.
Who among the newly arrived immigrants from
There is also not always consistency in the application of affirmation action. Late-night talk-show hosts are not proportionally racially diverse. Neither are
The public is confused about why we might consider ethnic criteria in hiring in the college anthropology department, but not so much when selecting transatlantic airline pilots, neurosurgeons or nuclear plant designers.
Should gender considerations be used to encourage more males on campuses? Female bachelor degree recipients now far outnumber their male counterparts and are skewing notions of gender equality.
Given these complexities and contradictions, the public, the
The advice of
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Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution and Stanford University.
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