Judging people by the color of their skin is never benign. It is never a good thing to say that race defines the person, for better or worse. When government allots benefits to some based on race, it necessarily means that government discriminates against others who don't share those racial characteristics. It was wrong when government behaved in this fashion for more than 200 years to favor whites. And it is no less wrong when government does it today to disadvantage whites -- and, importantly, Asians, who faced discrimination under the old system and still face it in most affirmative action plans.
In those states that have banned racial preferences, black and Latino students are doing just fine. In fact, in California, which banned preferences in 1996, not only have the numbers of black and Latino students attending the prestigious UC system increased, but they are graduating at rates 20 to 25 percent higher and have better grades than they did prior to the ban.
We are supposed to have progressed to the point that skin color doesn't matter. Wasn't that the whole point of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s? So why is it that we still allow life-altering decisions to be made on the basis of race?
Unless the court decides the Michigan case broadly and decisively -- upholding the state ban on preferences and deciding that government should never use race to pick winners and losers -- this issue will continue to divide America. The time to end racial discrimination is long overdue. The court must act now.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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