Victor Davis Hanson

Sometimes doctrines just vanish, once they appear as naked as the proverbial emperor in his new clothes.

Something like that seems now to be happening with affirmative action. Despite all the justifications for its continuance, polling shows the public still strongly disagrees with the idea of using racial criteria for admissions and hiring.

Its dwindling supporters typically include those who directly benefit from it, or who are not adversely affected by it. Arguments for the continuance of affirmative action are half-hearted and may explain why some supporters descend into name-calling directed at those who dare question its premises.

The Supreme Court, by a 6-2 majority, recently upheld the decision by Michigan voters that their state would neither favor nor discriminate against applicants to the state's public universities on the basis of race.

Recently, a group of liberal Asian-American state lawmakers in California -- a state that is over 60 percent non-white -- successfully blocked a proposed return to racial considerations in college admissions.

Asian-American students are now disproportionately represented in the flagship University of California system at nearly three times their percentages in the state's general population. If race were reintroduced as a consideration for admission, Asian-Americans would have had their numbers radically reduced in the California system at the expense of other ethnic-minority students, regardless of their impressive ethnically blind grades and test scores.

Expect more such pushback.

In the 1950s, when the country was largely biracial -- about 88 percent so-called white and 10 percent African-American -- and when the civil rights movement sought to erase historical institutionalized bias in the South against blacks, affirmative action seemed to be well intentioned and helpful.

But more than a half-century later, and in a vastly different multiracial America, affirmative action has been re-engineered as something perpetual and haphazardly applicable to a variety of ethnicities.

Class divisions are mostly ignored in admissions and hiring criteria, but in today's diverse society they often pose greater obstacles than race. The children of one-percenters such as Beyoncé and Jay-Z will have doors opened to them that are not open to those in Pennsylvania who, according to President Obama, "cling to guns or religion."


Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.