When underqualified black students are granted admission to extremely selective schools, they tend to drop out at extremely high rates and to find the work very challenging. In their 1997 masterpiece "America in Black and White," Stephen and Abigail Thernstrom described the drop-out problem: "Although almost half (45 percent) of African Americans in the 25 to 29 age bracket today have been enrolled in college, barely one out of seven holds a bachelor's degree. The drop off here -- 45 percent at the starting gate but only 15 percent reaching the finishing line -- is disturbing."
As many keen observers like Shelby Steele, Thomas Sowell and the Thernstroms have shown, racial preferences, while certainly providing a ticket to prosperity for many, also exact a high psychic price. Beneficiaries can never derive the pride and self-confidence true achievement imparts. And those who would have succeeded without preferences are forever denied the level of respect that they deserve.
Finally, where you stand on racial preferences comes down to what you think are the causes of the test score gap. I believe that one of the reasons blacks have continued to lag behind whites and Asians is the existence of preferences. Why push yourself when you know you don't have to? James McWhorter's excellent book "Losing the Race" is an eloquent treatment of this idea.
If preferences were eliminated from higher education, black students at every level of education from primary through middle and high school would have to take academic performance more seriously. A society concerned about getting higher numbers of blacks into elite colleges would be forced to consider sweeping reforms at the primary school level, perhaps even including school choice. And everyone would be freed from the totalitarian truth suppression that now characterizes large swaths of academia.
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