It is time for affirmative action and quotas to end in America. And there is a solid chance this could happen later this year when the U.S. Supreme court hears the case Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard College, my alma mater. While there are many reasons for affirmative action and quotas to end, three stand out: 1) they denigrate the principle of merit; 2) they discriminate against “successful” minorities; and 3) they are a 500-lb anvil on the scales of justice.
First, affirmative action and quotas should end because they denigrate the principle of merit. One of the central tenets of the American creed is that people will be judged as individuals, not as members of groups, and therefore will rise or fall based on their individual character and competence. Indeed, this is precisely what Martin Luther King, Jr., fought for: that people would be judged on their merit rather than their skin color or any other inherent characteristic that has no bearing on merit. Affirmative action and quotas support the exact opposite principle, that race, ethnicity, sex, and the like should be taken into account when hiring, promoting, admitting to college, and awarding government grants to people. This is none other than a continuation of the discriminatory policies of Jim Crow in the South.
Second, affirmative action and quotas should end because they actually discriminate against “successful” minorities. For example, Americans of Asian descent are not considered “minorities” for college admissions because they are extremely qualified academically. Indeed, because they are so qualified affirmative action policies and quotas actually discriminate against them in admissions. This is why the Students for Fair Admission is suing Harvard College.
Third, affirmative action and quotas should end because they are a 500-lb anvil on the scales of justice. Proponents of affirmative actions and quotas are fond of saying that these policies are “just a finger on the scales of justice” and that minorities that are admitted to prestigious colleges, hired and promoted by companies, and given government grants are “just as qualified” as white and Asian applicants that were denied college admissions, jobs, and the like. Yet research shows that this is definitively false; affirmative action and quotas are not a finger by rather a 500-lb anvil on the scales of justices. For example, Harvard’s own Office of Institutional Research found that Blacks are admitted at 15 times the rate and Hispanics are admitted at 4 times the rate their academic qualifications would suggest. As Manhattan Institute scholar Heather MacDonald writes:
“If Harvard admitted students based on their academic qualifications alone, Harvard would be 43 percent Asian, 38.4 percent white, 0.7 percent black, and 2.4 percent Hispanic, according to a 2013 study by Harvard’s Office of Institutional Research. Instead, Harvard’s undergraduates in 2013 were 43.2 percent white, 18.7 percent Asian, 10.5 percent black, and 9.5 percent Hispanic.”
Likewise, Duke professor Peter Arcidiacono estimates that compared to a similarly qualified non-disadvantaged Asian male, an Hispanic applicant is 3 times more likely to be admitted to Harvard while a Black applicant is 4 times more likely to be admitted to Harvard. Arcidiacono writes:
“Race plays a significant role in admissions decisions. Consider the example of an Asian-American applicant who is male, is not disadvantaged, and has other characteristics that result in a 25% chance of admission… Changing his race to Hispanic (and leaving all other characteristics the same) would increase his chance of admission to 77%. Changing his race to African-American (again, leaving all other characteristics the same) would increase his chance of admission to 95%.”
Similar disparities have been found at other schools. For example, one study cited by MacDonald in her book The Diversity Delusion found that black applicants were up to 15 times more likely to be admitted to the UC Berkeley Law School than similarly qualified white applicants.
These statistics demonstrate that a person’s race really is playing a huge role in who gets into universities; clearly more than a finger is being placed on the scale.
Because they oppose the principle of merit, discriminate against successful minorities, and place a 500-lb anvil on the scales of justice, affirmative action and quotas need to end in America. And with the case Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard College, the Supreme Court has the opportunity to do just that. Let’s hope that the Court has the courage to do the right thing.