May 8, 2013

"What's left to say about affirmative action?" Glenn Loury asks John McWhorter...

... on the occasion of the imminent Supreme Court opinion on the subject. Loury identifies himself as a former opponent of affirmative action who is now a defender. McWhorter says he's never had any problem with putting a "thumb on the scale" in order to get "a certain proportion" of diversity, but he objects to redefining "what qualifications are."

55 comments:

Pogo said...

What's left to say?

It has made racism permanent and state-run.

Lucien said...

Proponents of affirmative action should declare victory and go home. The enterprise has become too counterproductive.

Assume one opening (a job, a place in law school, etc.)with 100 applicants. 99 of them will be disappointed. If the opening is filled (or is viewed as being filled) based on affirmative action, the successful candidate may be benefited (maybe not, if the result is that he or she is in too difficult a situation). Meanwhile, a large proportion of the candidates who could not benefit from affirmative action may conclude that they were robbed of the opportunity by the use of affirmative action.
The US Supreme Court once said something to the effect of "The Constitution does not require that which it barely permits." (Was it in Adarand?) And that sums up the problem with the challenge to the Michigan initiative that is before the Court now. If affirmative action can barely squeak by on a strict scrutiny basis, how is it that a ban on that practice is unconstitutional?

Mitchell the Bat said...

It was maybe 15 or 20 years ago that some opinion leaders in the media were suggesting that affirmative action is a good thing so long as it's class-based and not race-based.

Those people are probably still around, somewhere.

I really wouldn't know.

X said...

you keep putting a thumb on the scale and the rest of us will keep taking that into account when calculating your actual weight.

ricpic said...

Translation: sticking it to whitey is honky dory.

bagoh20 said...

All decent people are opposed to treating some people unfairly based on skin color.

Sorun said...

It's a lot easier to put a thumb on the scale than it is to work and study hard.

Ann Althouse said...

"It was maybe 15 or 20 years ago that some opinion leaders in the media were suggesting that affirmative action is a good thing so long as it's class-based and not race-based."

Discriminating in favor of the poor is certainly acceptable. It's done all the time.

The case before the Supreme Court is actually Texas trying to get more affluent minority students into the mix.

jr565 said...

All decent people are opposed to treating some people unfairly based on skin color.


Hence my opposition to affirmative action along racial lines.

Dante said...

Do they pay their taxes?

Dante said...

All decent people are opposed to treating some people unfairly based on skin color.

I thought we had to make a constitutional amendment to stop governments from discriminating based on race.

ricpic said...

Discrimination in favor of the poor is acceptable. It's done all the time.

Massive theft in the name of compassion is acceptable. IT'S DONE ALL THE TIME.

Marshal said...

So essentially: racial discrimination is ok as long as why don't lie to ourselves that's what we're doing.

There's a certain honesty there, if not integrity.

LarsPorsena said...

Number me among the naive but I thought the idea was to reward merit not gender,income level, or race.

When did this idea die?

Hammond X Gritzkofe said...

...putting a "thumb on the scale" in order to get "a certain proportion" of diversity...

So...who gets to decide what classes there are (skin shade, hair shade, religious affiliation, angle of eye slant, sex preference, etc.)?

Who gets to adjudicate to which of the various defined classes an individual is properly assigned?

And who decides correct amount of diversity in each situation?

bagoh20 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bagoh20 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bagoh20 said...

Clearly we have a problem if they couldn't find two black academics to discuss this, and bloggingheads had to go find these two homeless dudes to talk it over.

DADvocate said...

What's left to say is to say again that affirmative action if ready proof that "moral high ground" liberals hate filled bigots that believe in racism, discrimination based on sex and race, punishing people for the sins of their fathers, etc, etc. And, that these bigots believe that if they talk in the right tone of voice and says the right things that all this hatred, racism, sexism and legalized discrimination is OK.

I tell my sons to give as little as possible to this country. It doesn't deserve their blood, sweat and tears.

Skyler said...

The two men are both racists. Racism is thinking that a person deserves special treatment solely because of his race.

Michael said...

Althouse:"The case before the Supreme Court is actually Texas trying to get more affluent minority students into the mix."

And why would they want to do that? Could it be that the results of affirmative action resulting from the rule that the UofT admit the top ten percent of graduates has had undesired outcomes? As a result of the 10% rule a considerable number of highly unqualified candidates have been admitted: candidates that are the product of minority schools who had sterling grades but not-so-sterling test results.

Minority students from better school districts might not be in the top 10% of their classes but they will be well ahead of those from the less wealthy districts in the state.

Admitting unqualified students, for however noble a reason, is a terrible idea. Students who have done very well their entire academic careers are suddenly reduced to C student or worse status. How else could they then perceive the larger society as anything other than racist and out to undermine them?

Peter said...

'LarsPorsena' wrote, "but I thought the idea was to reward merit not gender,income level, or race."

Practically everyone still says that. It's just that when the numbers don't come out right, some discover a need to re-define what constitutes "merit" (or perhaps "adjust" how merit is measured) until the numbers come out right.

Thus, if we can say that everyone with a certain minimum score on a qualifying exam is "qualified" (and there's no such thing as "more qualified") then perhaps we can make the numbers work.

Or if we decide that seemingly objective measures of readiness and capability (e.g, SAT/ACT/GRE/LSAT/MCAT) are biased then admissions can be move to a largely subjective, "holistic" process in which ... the numbers can be made to come out right.

Because once one accepts that having the numbers come out wrong is prima facie evidence that merit must have been measured incorrectly, merit must be redefined until they do!


And thus, Affirmative Action corrupts everything and everyone it touches.

Dr Weevil said...

Dante (9:14am):
"'All decent people are opposed to treating some people unfairly based on skin color.'

I thought we had to make a constitutional amendment to stop governments from discriminating based on race."

No, we didn't have to do that. Our great-great-great-great grandfathers (give or take a great or two) had to do that. If bagoh20 had written "All decent people are and always have been opposed . . .", you would have a point.

edutcher said...

Affirmative Action, back when it was known as the Philadelphia Plan, was originally justified "because people didn't want to take the time and trouble to enforce the Civil Rights Acts".

Thus, it was always a bad idea.

Fernandinande said...

"It's a competition," says Mohsen. "We want to have more power over other ethnicities."

rcommal said...

I tell my sons to give as little as possible to this country. It doesn't deserve their blood, sweat and tears.

DADvocate, I'm curious: What do your sons say in response to that?

X said...

the simplest, fairest solution would be to use the internet to transcend the numerical limitations of bricks and mortar and make higher ed at public institutions that are funded by the public available to all of the public, but a problem with that is that you wouldn't need vast layers of diversity bureaucrats, so the universities stick with a 19th century model. does Amazon have an admissions office?

cubanbob said...

... on the occasion of the imminent Supreme Court opinion on the subject. Loury identifies himself as a former opponent of affirmative action who is now a defender. McWhorter says he's never had any problem with putting a "thumb on the scale" in order to get "a certain proportion" of diversity, but he objects to redefining "what qualifications are."

Hmmm such decisions when alloting available seats: black hetero male, black gay male, black hetero woman, black lesbian woman. Afro-Hispanic hetero male, Afro-Hispanic gay male, Afro-Hispanic hetero female, lesbian Afro-Hispanic female. Throw in permutations for additional racial mix, economic mix, religious mix ( Wiccan, Muslim,Budhist anything else other than Judeo-Christian), foreign born and then come up with a formula to determine who gets on first base first.

mccullough said...

Middle and upper class blacks and Latinos need to work harder. Do what the Asians do. Until then, go to A&M.

bagoh20 said...

Isn't AA really just helping stupid people jump in line ahead of smarter ones, and using race as an excuse? Let's just admit it. You're not really smart enough, but we need more dumb surgeons. Hell son, if you fill out enough applications and check the right boxes (we'll get you some help with that) you could be President.

cubanbob said...

Isn't AA really just helping stupid people jump in line ahead of smarter ones, and using race as an excuse? Let's just admit it. You're not really smart enough, but we need more dumb surgeons. Hell son, if you fill out enough applications and check the right boxes (we'll get you some help with that) you could be President.


Not only do you have to be highly intelligent, very well educated, certified sane you also have to pass a very rigorous back ground check to command a nuclear submarine. Too bad those aren't included in the minimum requirement to be president and vice president.

DADvocate said...

What do your sons say in response to that?

They largely agree with what I'm saying. They most often bring the subject up, not me. They've grown up in an educational system where minorities and females get preferential treatment. When they went to college they listened to the liberal inspired student orientation presentations where males are demonized. They've actually experienced affirmative action in action much more than I have. They've been "unfaired against" many times.

Both are very smart and will do well. And, I doubt they will have great love for a country that besmirched them with no cause.

virgil xenophon said...

hammond x, cubanbob (both times) and bagoh20@10:13 get my vote..

Balfegor said...

Re: Mitchell the Bat:

It was maybe 15 or 20 years ago that some opinion leaders in the media were suggesting that affirmative action is a good thing so long as it's class-based and not race-based.

My recollection is that at least in California, Democratic leaders were pretty open that class-based affirmative action was a no-go, because the whole point of affirmative action is to put the thumb of the scale for Blacks and (to a lesser extent) Hispanics. Class-based affirmative action would just make it even easier for poor Asians with good grades and high scores and limited English proficiency to take all the slots at the University of California. It's hard enough as it is for the racists to keep the Asian numbers down with Prop 209, which banned consideration of race, sex, or ethnicity in public education and led Asian enrollment rates in the UC system to jump.

virgil xenophon said...

@DaDvocate/

I have a blogging friend in Maine (ex-military) that tells his sons to fill out EVERY govt form of ANY kind on race as being "black" just to screw up the data base if nohing else--let alone any advantage that might accrue to them. His attitude is: (anticipating Fauxahontas Liz Warren by years): "Let 'em jump thru hoops to prove they're NOT black." lol.

virgil xenophon said...

Balfegor/

Your recollection is correct..

furious_a said...

What's left to say about affirmative action?"

"The way to end discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race."...will do quite nicely.

furious_a said...

The case before the Supreme Court is actually Texas trying to get more affluent minority students into the mix.

Say whaaat?

Balfegor said...

Re: furious_a --

I think the reason Texas wants that is that they wanted a facially neutral policy on state university administrations that would nevertheless have a substantial discriminatory effect in favour of Black and Hispanic students. Their solution was something like automatic admission for the top X% of every class from every high school. So if you have Black and Hispanic students concentrated in crappy schools, the top X% of those schools' graduating classes can all attend. But the result of this policy is that your Black and Hispanic university students are going to be coming disproportionately from crappy schools, and be unprepared for university study, which has the unfortunate effect of confirming all kinds of negative racial stereotypes. So they want to be able to put in lower performing minorities from posh schools. They'll be better prepared than students from crappy schools, and because they're posh, interacting with them will actually combat, rather than reinforce, negative stereotypes.

I think I've got that right. It's kind of amusing, actually.

rcommal said...

I think Balfegor has summed up the reality nicely.

n.n said...

So, Affirmative Action is about keeping the less affluent members, whether they are white, black, brown, or other, of society down.

Perhaps it's time to review the motivations of the civil and human rights corporations. They have a selective interest in preserving individual dignity. It's almost as if they the litigating and public relations arm of an elite minority.

Howard said...

The solution is simple, work in areas where women and non-Asian minorities are not a factor... e.g., all the high paying technical, dirty and death-defying jobs.

Isn't that what real men do. You know, the ones who obey their Cro-Magnon wetware.

Larry J said...

Not long ago, I saw someone try to argue that being "colorblind is racist", meaning if you don't look at the color of people's skin and use that to make decisions for or against them, you're a racist.

George Orwell would've been so proud of such nonsense.

There's only one race and that's "human." The color of one's skin or other secondary genetic considerations (shape and color of the eyes, etc.) are trivial.

rcommal said...

"Cro-Magnon wetware"?! God, I LOVE that. I'm going to try that one out tonight when my husbanf comes back after a three-month trip.

As in: "Come here, you great big hunk of Cro-Magnon wetware, you!"

Can't wait to see his face. LOL.

Crunchy Frog said...

The original intent of AA was to give a leg up to deserving minorities who, through no fault of their own, were trapped in crappy schools in crappy neighborhoods. The thought was that once they were freed from that environment, they would be able to excel through their own merit.

AA in practice had the perverse effect of favoring the Cosby kids and other affluent minorities who have suffered no ill effects due to perceived racial discrimination, and doing absolutely nothing for those who were supposed to be the intended beneficiaries.

The Texas 10% plan is the true implementation of what AA was supposed to be about. If the unintended consequences are that more unprepared students get admitted, so be it. At least we've now identified the problem, and stopped papering over it and pretending everything is hunky dory.

(Personally, I don't think that's the issue. I think it's that all of a sudden there's too many country rubes, with inconvenient backgrounds and viewpoints - you know, actual diversity - for the liberal prep school atmosphere in Austin.)

One thing the 10% plan will do after a few years is to increase the competitiveness amongst the top kids in schools statewise. Now there is an actual incentive for the highest achievers in crappy schools in crappy districts to work hard. They have skin in the game now.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Balfegor,

I think the reason Texas wants that is that they wanted a facially neutral policy on state university administrations that would nevertheless have a substantial discriminatory effect in favour of Black and Hispanic students. Their solution was something like automatic admission for the top X% of every class from every high school. So if you have Black and Hispanic students concentrated in crappy schools, the top X% of those schools' graduating classes can all attend. But the result of this policy is that your Black and Hispanic university students are going to be coming disproportionately from crappy schools, and be unprepared for university study, which has the unfortunate effect of confirming all kinds of negative racial stereotypes. So they want to be able to put in lower performing minorities from posh schools. They'll be better prepared than students from crappy schools, and because they're posh, interacting with them will actually combat, rather than reinforce, negative stereotypes.

The assumption embedded here is that the only way Black and Hispanic kids would ever get into the top 10% of their class is if there weren't any white or Asian-American kids in the school.

The argument UT/Austin made is in fact an argument for race-norming. They want the top X% of all applicants, sorted by race. They want the best Black students, up to the percentage of Black candidates in Texas; they want the best Latino students, ditto. About white and Asian-American students, I'm not so sure. I've never seen a university try to hold its Asian-American admits actually to the percentage of Asian-Americans in the candidate pool (or in the population). Tamping the numbers down, though, sure. Getting into an elite school is harder if your surname is "Chen" than if it's "Jones," and certainly harder than if your front-name is something like LaTonya.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Crunchy Frog, yes, exactly. This is all about minority parents in wealthy suburbs being upset that their kids -- who are probably in the top 10% of the state's kids per test scores, but not in the top 10% of their own schools per grades -- don't get in, while minority kids (undeserving minority kids!) from poor counties do. The argument is that "I worked my ass off to get my kid into a good school, and so now she loses her spot at UT/Austin to some kid from the sticks, just because she wasn't at the top of her class."

Yes, but why wasn't she?

Balfegor said...

Re: Michelle Dulak Thompson:

The assumption embedded here is that the only way Black and Hispanic kids would ever get into the top 10% of their class is if there weren't any white or Asian-American kids in the school.

Slightly different -- the assumption is that you won't get enough, not that you'll get none. Given the distribution of test scores by race, that's generally the case. In addition, racial score gaps also prompt a certain amount of racial self-sorting. In California, for example, Whites will sometimes take their children out of schools that are becoming majority Asian because they're worried their children won't be able to compete.

The argument UT/Austin made is in fact an argument for race-norming. They want the top X% of all applicants, sorted by race. They want the best Black students, up to the percentage of Black candidates in Texas; they want the best Latino students, ditto.

Really? Up to the percentage of candidates of Race X or Y in Texas? That sounds like an illegal quota to me. If that's the argument they made, how did they get to the Supreme Court?

Sam L. said...

ricpic at 8:46 for Comment Of The DAY!

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Balfegor,

Slightly different -- the assumption is that you won't get enough, not that you'll get none. Given the distribution of test scores by race, that's generally the case. In addition, racial score gaps also prompt a certain amount of racial self-sorting. In California, for example, Whites will sometimes take their children out of schools that are becoming majority Asian because they're worried their children won't be able to compete.

You know, well-off folks putting their kids in under-performing schools was once thought to be a good thing. Only then it was coerced, and was called "busing." Now that it is not coerced, and parents are freely moving their kids from competitive schools where they haven't a hope of making the top 10% to weaker schools where they do, it's a bad thing. Why do the old rationales for busing not apply here?

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Balfegor,

I forgot to comment on this:

Slightly different -- the assumption is that you won't get enough, not that you'll get none.

So, how many of a given minority group is "enough"? As many as are need to make your campus look exactly like your state's population, Benetton-style? But then you'd better be sure to limit Asian-American admittees to the exact proportion of Asian-Americans in your state. Right?

Oh, you don't want to do that? My bad.

Jack Wayne said...

Dear Ann, can we dispense with the 10% canard? That's the law but the reality is 5%. What's really going on is more minorities at the expense of whites and Asians. The SCOTUS is going to rule on a lie. As usual.

Balfegor said...

Re: Michelle Dulak Thompson:

So, how many of a given minority group is "enough"? As many as are need to make your campus look exactly like your state's population, Benetton-style? But then you'd better be sure to limit Asian-American admittees to the exact proportion of Asian-Americans in your state. Right?

In the past, I was generally more charitable towards supporters of affirmative action (or at least tried to be), but increasingly, I have come to suspect that this is the secret goal of many affirmative action supporters.

Low scoring Blacks and Hispanics are not a competitive threat to their children. High scoring Asians are. If you're an upper middle class White and you can handicap Asians in the name of Blacks and Hispanics, isn't that ideal?

But perhaps this is just paranoia on my part.

MCD said...

Balfegor puts it well. We would prefer to see preference given to students disadvantaged by poverty, not ethnic background. We also resent the preferences given by elite colleges to rich kids, legacy kids, athletes and the children of Senators and celebrities. It makes middle-class parents feel as itf their kids are being pushed to the back of the line. Asians get the worst of it.

The University of California, arguably still the country's best public university, is now 40 percent Asian at UCLA and Berkeley, over 50 percent Asian at UC Irvine. No huge public outcry. It has led UC to reach out to poorer black and Hispanic students (though alas not lower-class Anglos, alas) to ready them for college.

My son is at Berkeley and competing well in STEM classes. His friends range mostly from Jewish to Middle Eastern to Asian. He said recently that the Asian students "cheat like crazy." Don't know what to make of that..

kentuckyliz said...

Have you ever noticed, that while we have had affirmative action, there has been a corresponding escalation in qualifications? Upscaling of degrees. Perhaps it is an unconscious way of limiting opportunity to the riffraff. The price of entry reserves these plummy occupations to those who can afford to pursue them.