“Affirmative action” is a euphemism for preferring one job candidate or college applicant over another based on race. The actual name for this government policy is racial preferences. It’s also racial discrimination.
The policy began many years ago (see brief history) when the government sought to “cast a wider net” to include in the hiring and admitting process black Americans who’d historically been excluded. The idea was to find well-qualified racial minorities. But that plan unraveled when they couldn’t find enough to reach their goal. Under affirmative action, the government lowers standards to hire and admit more of certain kinds of minorities.
The problem is obvious. Hiring or admitting individuals based on race means other candidates are rejected based on race. It is inherently unfair, and all Americans should reject government-sanctioned racial discrimination in contracting, hiring, and college admissions. Law and government policies should be racially neutral; all taxpayers should demand it.
Students of East Asian descent tend to outscore whites, blacks, Hispanics, and other ethnic applicants, so college admissions committees use a higher standard to evaluate them. But things could change for the better. President Donald Trump reversed Barack Obama’s “guidelines” that called on colleges and universities to consider an individual applicant’s race when making decisions to admit or reject.
Some argue that this policy goes beyond discrimination. It harms the so-called beneficiaries.
UCLA law professor Richard Sander (and Stuart Taylor) argued that applicants with lower academic credentials would perform better if they were admitted to colleges that matched their academic performance. Instead, they’re accepted to schools too rigorous for their aptitude and end up at the bottom of their class. This is the “mismatch” effect.
And there are the assumptions associated with racial preferences. Kenny Xu, writing at the Daily Signal, told a story about Justice Clarence Thomas and affirmative action (emphasis added):
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas once recounted the time when his Juris Doctor degree from Yale Law School was dismissed from nearly every law firm he considered.
The interviewers, believing him to be a beneficiary of Yale’s aggressive affirmative action policies, which de-emphasized LSAT scores and grades for black students, questioned him pointedly about his qualifications and “doubted I was as smart as my grades indicated,” Thomas wrote in his memoir.
According to Thomas, Yale’s affirmative action quotas had relaxed the standards for his race so much that his achievements were stigmatized and not acknowledged by high society.
After this experience, Thomas pasted a 15-cent sticker he got from a pack of cigarettes next to his Yale Law School degree, as an indication of the mistake he made going to Yale.
Such assumptions about racial preferences are rational.
Rejected students have sued over the years. More recently, a group called Students for Fair Admissions sued Harvard University (a lawsuit backed by the Trump administration’s U.S. Department of Justice) for racial discrimination, accusing the school of favoring black and Hispanic applicants over white and Asian applicants.
Xu gets to the why of racial preferences, despite the obvious problems.
Part of the reason is that diversity sells. Colleges care deeply about their brand and image, and one of the most effective ways to reach socially conscious prospective students’ (and their parents’) hearts and wallets is tout the surface-level diversity of their class.
Increasing racial diversity supposedly is important enough to violate the U.S. Constitution, denying individuals jobs and school placement based on the color of their skin, a government practice Americans fought and died to end during the 1960s civil rights movement. But liberals of all colors love it, and they continue to support it.