Affirmative action is the new third rail of American politics

Has there ever been a social policy that caused more resentment for less of a positive return than affirmative action?  Steve Sailer takes an informed look at what the policy of compensatory racial discrimination has wrought in Taki's Magazine:

Affirmative action privileges for blacks and (to a lesser extent) Hispanics have been a near-universal feature of college admissions for what is now approaching a half century.

What have we learned since the late 1960s?

Perhaps the strangest result is that the biggest winners from racial quotas have turned out to be blacks who aren't descended from victimized American slaves but are instead descended from the slave peddlers, or from whites, or, as in the case of Barack Obama, from both.

If race were the key factor determining educational and career outcomes, there would be no difference between immigrant and African-American blacks.  That assumption, combined with the hypothesis that cultural bias accounted for poorer test scores among African-American students, has animated affirmative action efforts.

Sensitivity committees were hired to scour test questions for bias. Scoring was made easier on the SAT verbal test. Analogies were dumped. A writing test was added and then dropped.

And…nothing much happened. The gap between white and black test scores was slightly blunted, but persisted.

Similarly, it was hoped that race quotas would uncover numerous diamonds in the rough. But it turned out that students let in on racial quotas did about as badly as could be expected[.]

The diamonds that have been identified tend to have at least some roots outside the African-American experience:

[T]oday a remarkable fraction of the black beneficiaries of affirmative action are not descended from American slaves. Although quotas are often conceived of as reparations for slavery in America, a huge proportion of the beneficiaries of being black track ancestry either to a white parent or to non-American blacks (often to the triumphant tribes who sold fellow blacks into slavery).

In a 1999 survey by Douglas Massey of Princeton, 41 percent of black Ivy League freshmen had at least one foreign-born parent. At all private colleges, 27 percent of black freshmen were of immigrant background.

Sailer asks the question that is the new third rail of American politics:

Here's one important question that the superior performance of Africans and West Indians raises: Is something radically wrong with African-American culture? Why aren't black Americans doing better than blacks from much poorer countries? Is our American culture of inculcating racial resentment causing African-Americans to lag behind their distant cousins from abroad? Should we stop allowing so many foreign blacks to immigrate?

The explosiveness of this question is revealed by the reaction to an essay published in  the Philadelphia Inquirer by two law professors, Amy Wax of Penn and Larry Alexander of the University of San Diego, positing that the loss of "bourgeois culture" – deferring gratification, marrying and having children, etc. – is the source of many of our social ills.  The criticisms verging on persecution that the two professors have received reveal the level of debasement of academic life today.  Heather Mac Donald:

The 33 signatories cut and paste the most offending phrases from Wax's op-ed and subsequent interview with the Daily Pennsylvanian: "All cultures are not equal"; various social problems would be "significantly reduce[d]" if "the academics, media, and Hollywood" would stop the "preening pretense of defending the downtrodden"; "Everyone wants to go to countries ruled by white Europeans," because "Anglo-Protestant cultural norms are superior." Do the authors rebut these arguments? Do they offer counterevidence? No. Apparently the thesis of Wax's op-ed is so patently beyond the pale that it is enough for the signatories to assert: "We categorically reject Wax's claims." In the absence of any attempt at refutation, that is simply a case of virtue signaling. In a bizarrely coy conclusion, the protesting faculty assert that the "ideal of equal opportunity to succeed in education is best achieved by ... a commitment by all participants to respect one another without bias or stereotype. To our students, we say the following: If your experience at Penn Law falls substantially short of this ideal, something has gone wrong, and we want to know about it." Translation: Please provide us with instances of Wax's alleged "hate speech" against minorities so that we can build the case for removing her from teaching mandatory first-year courses. That effort is already underway. The law school's chapter of the left-wing National Lawyers Guild released a statement last week saying that Wax's endorsement of "white supremacy" should disqualify her from teaching first-year courses. Hilariously, the NLG students also cite her "lack of academic rigor, intellectual dishonesty, and failure to support her opinions with evidence." No thinker in the law or social sciences is more rigorous than Wax, a B.S. summa cum laude in molecular biophysics and biochemistry from Yale, a Marshall Scholar in Philosophy, Physiology, and Psychology at Oxford, an M.D. cum laude with distinction in neuroscience from Harvard, an editor at The Columbia Law Review, and a former assistant to the solicitor general of the United States. Wax can reason circles around her critics, certainly around the knee-jerk name-callers who have come out in droves against her.

Unfortunately for the mob that is attacking the two professors with torches and pitchforks, the underlying reality is not going away, and no amount of academic theorizing can contradict the commonsense observation that is a family raises a child with two parents and teaches the child the values of hard work, learning, and deferred gratification, that child is likely to do well.

Make no mistake: affirmative action is on the defensive now.  The hysteria in response to advocacy of bourgeois values is a tell, as is Maxine Waters unintentionally revealing the nagging price affirmative action takes on the psyches of its purported beneficiaries.

To me black people were ashamed of affirmative action and they would say to you, 'Well no, I got in on my own. I am not a benefit – I didn't benefit from affirmative action. I was smart enough.'

That is the entirely natural and human response to receiving preference in a competition.  And when it is combined with admission to a campus where the "beneficiary" is "mismatched" and unable to compete with students scoring hundreds of points higher on SATs, it leads to unbearable psychological tensions that often result in blaming "racism" for all of one's problems.

Probably, the mere fact of writing this brief commentary makes me a racist in the eyes of some.  But I am interested in seeing policies that have a chance of success in addressing the problems that bedevil the descendants of slaves.  Affirmative action was an experiment, one that has failed on the basis of 50 years of experience.  All we are missing is the courage to face facts and change minds about what is working.

Has there ever been a social policy that caused more resentment for less of a positive return than affirmative action?  Steve Sailer takes an informed look at what the policy of compensatory racial discrimination has wrought in Taki's Magazine:

Affirmative action privileges for blacks and (to a lesser extent) Hispanics have been a near-universal feature of college admissions for what is now approaching a half century.

What have we learned since the late 1960s?

Perhaps the strangest result is that the biggest winners from racial quotas have turned out to be blacks who aren't descended from victimized American slaves but are instead descended from the slave peddlers, or from whites, or, as in the case of Barack Obama, from both.

If race were the key factor determining educational and career outcomes, there would be no difference between immigrant and African-American blacks.  That assumption, combined with the hypothesis that cultural bias accounted for poorer test scores among African-American students, has animated affirmative action efforts.

Sensitivity committees were hired to scour test questions for bias. Scoring was made easier on the SAT verbal test. Analogies were dumped. A writing test was added and then dropped.

And…nothing much happened. The gap between white and black test scores was slightly blunted, but persisted.

Similarly, it was hoped that race quotas would uncover numerous diamonds in the rough. But it turned out that students let in on racial quotas did about as badly as could be expected[.]

The diamonds that have been identified tend to have at least some roots outside the African-American experience:

[T]oday a remarkable fraction of the black beneficiaries of affirmative action are not descended from American slaves. Although quotas are often conceived of as reparations for slavery in America, a huge proportion of the beneficiaries of being black track ancestry either to a white parent or to non-American blacks (often to the triumphant tribes who sold fellow blacks into slavery).

In a 1999 survey by Douglas Massey of Princeton, 41 percent of black Ivy League freshmen had at least one foreign-born parent. At all private colleges, 27 percent of black freshmen were of immigrant background.

Sailer asks the question that is the new third rail of American politics:

Here's one important question that the superior performance of Africans and West Indians raises: Is something radically wrong with African-American culture? Why aren't black Americans doing better than blacks from much poorer countries? Is our American culture of inculcating racial resentment causing African-Americans to lag behind their distant cousins from abroad? Should we stop allowing so many foreign blacks to immigrate?

The explosiveness of this question is revealed by the reaction to an essay published in  the Philadelphia Inquirer by two law professors, Amy Wax of Penn and Larry Alexander of the University of San Diego, positing that the loss of "bourgeois culture" – deferring gratification, marrying and having children, etc. – is the source of many of our social ills.  The criticisms verging on persecution that the two professors have received reveal the level of debasement of academic life today.  Heather Mac Donald:

The 33 signatories cut and paste the most offending phrases from Wax's op-ed and subsequent interview with the Daily Pennsylvanian: "All cultures are not equal"; various social problems would be "significantly reduce[d]" if "the academics, media, and Hollywood" would stop the "preening pretense of defending the downtrodden"; "Everyone wants to go to countries ruled by white Europeans," because "Anglo-Protestant cultural norms are superior." Do the authors rebut these arguments? Do they offer counterevidence? No. Apparently the thesis of Wax's op-ed is so patently beyond the pale that it is enough for the signatories to assert: "We categorically reject Wax's claims." In the absence of any attempt at refutation, that is simply a case of virtue signaling. In a bizarrely coy conclusion, the protesting faculty assert that the "ideal of equal opportunity to succeed in education is best achieved by ... a commitment by all participants to respect one another without bias or stereotype. To our students, we say the following: If your experience at Penn Law falls substantially short of this ideal, something has gone wrong, and we want to know about it." Translation: Please provide us with instances of Wax's alleged "hate speech" against minorities so that we can build the case for removing her from teaching mandatory first-year courses. That effort is already underway. The law school's chapter of the left-wing National Lawyers Guild released a statement last week saying that Wax's endorsement of "white supremacy" should disqualify her from teaching first-year courses. Hilariously, the NLG students also cite her "lack of academic rigor, intellectual dishonesty, and failure to support her opinions with evidence." No thinker in the law or social sciences is more rigorous than Wax, a B.S. summa cum laude in molecular biophysics and biochemistry from Yale, a Marshall Scholar in Philosophy, Physiology, and Psychology at Oxford, an M.D. cum laude with distinction in neuroscience from Harvard, an editor at The Columbia Law Review, and a former assistant to the solicitor general of the United States. Wax can reason circles around her critics, certainly around the knee-jerk name-callers who have come out in droves against her.

Unfortunately for the mob that is attacking the two professors with torches and pitchforks, the underlying reality is not going away, and no amount of academic theorizing can contradict the commonsense observation that is a family raises a child with two parents and teaches the child the values of hard work, learning, and deferred gratification, that child is likely to do well.

Make no mistake: affirmative action is on the defensive now.  The hysteria in response to advocacy of bourgeois values is a tell, as is Maxine Waters unintentionally revealing the nagging price affirmative action takes on the psyches of its purported beneficiaries.

To me black people were ashamed of affirmative action and they would say to you, 'Well no, I got in on my own. I am not a benefit – I didn't benefit from affirmative action. I was smart enough.'

That is the entirely natural and human response to receiving preference in a competition.  And when it is combined with admission to a campus where the "beneficiary" is "mismatched" and unable to compete with students scoring hundreds of points higher on SATs, it leads to unbearable psychological tensions that often result in blaming "racism" for all of one's problems.

Probably, the mere fact of writing this brief commentary makes me a racist in the eyes of some.  But I am interested in seeing policies that have a chance of success in addressing the problems that bedevil the descendants of slaves.  Affirmative action was an experiment, one that has failed on the basis of 50 years of experience.  All we are missing is the courage to face facts and change minds about what is working.

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