Affirmative Action -- A Thoroughly Useless Idea

The U.S. Supreme Court in a June 29 ruling struck down affirmative action in college admissions. Colleges can no longer consider race when determining which applicants to admit, the court ruled in lawsuits involving Harvard University and the University of North Carolina. This decision supports the conclusion of my new book, The War on Whites, that affirmative action is a bad idea.

The hiring obstacles to minorities that existed 50 years ago have been swept away. Competent Blacks and Hispanics have no difficulty getting jobs or being admitted to college. In today’s job market, says Heather Mac Donald in When Race Trumps Merit: How the Pursuit of Equity Sacrifices Excellence, Destroys Beauty, and Threatens Lives if people of color are not hired in greater numbers it is not because of racism, but because they don’t meet the job qualifications.

Employers are jumping up and down for a chance to hire minority applicants. “One would have difficulty finding an elite institution today that does not pressure its managers to hire and promote as many blacks and Hispanics as possible,” Mac Donald said. This is especially true in our universities. “There is not a single faculty that is not desperately trying to find underrepresented minorities or women to hire.”

If you are a qualified person of color, you don’t need affirmative action. Only unqualified people need affirmative action. Affirmative action means lowering standards. The Left would like to see our standards lowered across the board, which would “level the playing field” and reduce our competitiveness in the world. Should we seek “social justice” by lowering the standards to the lowest denominator via affirmative action, or should we require the lowest denominator -- minority students, for example -- to meet the higher standard? Lowering standards has given us an educational system that is producing substandard results. Statistics that show the U.S. lagging behind in educational accomplishments are proof that the Left is succeeding.

Attorney and former Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz brings up another negative outcome of affirmative action -- it is anti-White. Qualified White job candidates are regularly passed over for minority candidates with fewer qualifications. For example, Heather Mac Donald found that Blacks and Hispanics are promoted ahead of Whites in the New York City Police Department. “Blacks and Hispanics became detectives almost five years earlier than whites and took half the time as whites did to be appointed to deputy inspector or deputy chief.”

A UCLA study revealed that colleges that allow racial preferences give Blacks more than a 5-1 advantage over Whites in the admission process. “Students are encouraged in their application to indicate that they are nonwhite in order to gain entry,” says Scott Greer in No Campus for White Men: The Transformation of Higher Education into Hateful Indoctrination. Unfortunately, it does not always do justice to the intended beneficiaries. Blacks, the strongest defenders of affirmative action, can suffer negative consequences from racial preferences.

Affirmative action recipients at colleges and universities experience a high dropout rate. Mismatch theory describes the many minority students who are accepted at schools beyond their aptitude, creating a sense of failure, depression, and alienation. “The students struggle academically because they got into a school that was beyond their skill level thanks to racial preferences in college admissions,” Greer explains. “Instead of blaming a system that judges them by their skin color, or their own failures to study, they blame the invisible systemic racism of the schools they attend for why their grades aren’t so great.”

In The Diversity Delusion: How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermine Our Culture, Heather Mac Donald describes the history of affirmative action at California universities, that offers an accurate view of what is taking place nationally. The results have been predictable: affirmative action students meet with failure. One Berkeley professor confessed that “they admitted people who could barely read. There was a huge drop-out rate of affirmative action admits by mid-terms. No one had taught them the need to go to class. So we started introducing BS majors, in an effort to make the university ready for them, rather than making them ready for the university.”

Arguments for affirmative action omit the question of why minorities need racial or gender preferences in the first place. Students are not rejected for admission to elite universities because they are the wrong race, but due to inadequate educational preparation and lack of family support for education as a worthwhile goal. Affirmative action doesn’t work because it fails to address either of those issues.

Another major drawback of affirmative action is the implication that minorities are inferior and therefore unable to achieve without special assistance. “Affirmative action,” says Shelby Steele in White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era, “explicitly violates many [American] principles -- equal protection under the law, meritorious advancement -- that the King-era civil rights movement fought for.”

Merit -- not affirmative action -- is enforced in the NBA, whose players are 74 percent Black. All that matters is how well you play basketball. For the same reason, merit ought to be applied to airline pilots, Marines, and brain surgeons. When I am flying over the Pacific Ocean, I want the most qualified pilot at the controls. At 30,000 feet, who wants an affirmative action pilot sitting in the cockpit? As a former Marine, I appreciate that combat units should not have their standards lowered simply to accommodate women or transgenders. When I am being operated on for a brain tumor, I don’t want to look up and see the winner of this year’s social justice award.

Affirmative action may have looked good in 1970, but the country has moved on.

Ed Brodow ( is a conservative political commentator and author of the No. 1 Amazon Best Seller, THE WAR ON WHITES: How Hating White People Became the New National Sport.

Image: Elvert Barnes

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