Race as a Discriminant of Merit

A Wall Street Journal editorial gets at this as the editors urge the Supreme Court to take up Students for Fair Admissions v Harvard, a case in which Harvard uses race explicitly as a meritorious discriminant for admission.

Harvard personnel actually insist they aren’t discriminating against Americans of Asian descent; they’re merely favoring Americans with black or brown skin. Anyone not chewing the halls’ ivy can see the obvious disingenuousness of that claim; the WSJ‘s editors are entirely correct to push the Court to take up the case.

The larger stakes are whether the Supreme Court will wink as America divides in ways that have proved so destructive in the past.


In America today the principle that drove the civil-rights movement—equality for all—is fast giving way to the view that race must be a dominant factor in every decision from college admission to eligibility for a federal farm program to the makeup of corporate boards to who gets priority for a Covid vaccine.

But then the editors wander astray.

It is true that the racial discrimination alleged in Harvard isn’t the same as that of the Jim Crow South. In that era federal government intervention was required to break the state-enforced discrimination against black Americans. Race preferences were rooted then in the false claim of African-American inferiority.
No one thinks Harvard is discriminating because of animosity toward Asian-Americans, much less because it believes they are inferior.

The discrimination is so closely related, though, as to be a conjoined Siamese twin of Jim Crow. Harvard management personnel are setting race-based preference in favor of blacks, rather than against them, precisely because those school managers still believe the claim of African-American inferiority; the school’s management personnel still believe[] [blacks] are inferior.

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