Thomas Sowell

Now that the Supreme Court has agreed to rule on affirmative action in college and university admissions, will this issue be settled at long last or will the justices come up with some murky compromise, like the Bakke decision of 25 years ago, which has led to a quarter of a century of confusion, hypocrisy, resentments, and polarization?

The late Justice Lewis Powell's much-praised opinion in the Bakke case said many worthy and thoughtful things. But the bottom line was that colleges and universities could keep on using racial quotas -- so long as they didn't call them racial quotas.

The dishonesty that is incidental to other policies is central to affirmative action. Most of what is said in support of this policy is either wholly unsubstantiated or demonstrably false.

What about the notion that affirmative action has helped blacks rise out of poverty? The black poverty rate was cut in half before affirmative action -- and has barely changed since then.

What about the notion that blacks would not be able to get into colleges and universities without affirmative action? After group preferences and quotas were banned in California's state universities, the number of black students in the University of California system has risen.

Fewer are attending Berkeley and more are attending other universities, whose normal admissions standards they meet. These students are now more likely to graduate, which is the whole point. Before, they were being used like movie extras to create a background -- until most either dropped out or flunked out.

What about the magic benefits of "diversity" -- a word repeated endlessly, without a speck of evidence of those benefits? If diversity is so essential, how does a nation like Japan, with a homogeneous population, manage to get its students educated (better than ours), its work done, and its people living in more harmony than we have?

The assumption that there is something strange about not having different groups "represented" in various occupations and institutions in proportion to their share of the population will not stand up to the slightest scrutiny. Massive scholarly studies of countries around the world have failed to turn up a single country in which the different racial or ethnic groups are proportionally represented in occupations or institutions -- except where governments have imposed quotas.

Do either basketball or hockey have racial balance -- or even the same imbalance? Are third basemen and center fielders racially the same? How is it that four of the top five career home run totals in the history of baseball are by black batters?

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate