Within colleges and universities the existence of racial quotas and preferences, unacknowledged but understood by everyone, tends to make relations between blacks and whites more tense and distant. We see all-black dorms on campus, separate orientations for students of color, separate graduation ceremonies -- everything but separate drinking fountains.
In addition, the obvious unfairness of racial quotas and preferences has led to the adoption of speech codes, to suppress any criticism and prohibit any statement that makes someone feel uncomfortable. Campuses that were once havens of free speech are now patrolled and regulated by thought police. Intellectual dishonesty has become a job requirement for university administrators.
The argument for racial quotas and preferences is that every sort of talent and ability is equally distributed among every conceivable category of persons, but that quotas and preferences are needed to identify qualified members of groups that were objects of discrimination in the past.
But the idea of equal distribution of talents and abilities, as Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray showed definitively in their 1994 book "The Bell Curve," is simply factually wrong.
The ordinary American knows this -- and knows also that that is not a rational basis for discriminating against members of any group. It's not very hard to understand that beneath any group average there is a wide range of individual abilities.
Why are university and legal elites so determined to preserve racial quotas and preferences? One reason, I suspect, is that they can't bear to see lower percentages of blacks in the institutions they run than you find in the U.S. Army or many local police departments.
Such attitudes help explain the Sixth Circuit decision and indicate that, even if it is overturned, racial quotas and preferences will remain intact, if unacknowledged and disguised, in higher education.
In 2003, O'Connor suggested that we might need such policies for only another 25 years. I'm betting they'll be around a lot longer than that.