The twilight of affirmative action?

The utter failure of affirmative action racial preferences is creating a national conversation on ending the state-sponsored discrimination that has been public policy for decades.  The only question is how vicious the defenders of the failed policy will be in denouncing those who dare to think forbidden thoughts.

Michel Barone makes the case in the Washington Examiner for ending affirmative action racial preferences:

When a policy has been vigorously followed by venerable institutions for more than a generation without getting any closer to producing the desired results, perhaps there is some problem with the goal.

That thought was prompted by a New York Times story headlined "Even with Affirmative Action, Blacks and Hispanics are More Underrepresented at Top Colleges Than 35 years ago." It presented enrollment data from 100 selective colleges and universities – the eight Ivy League schools, nine University of California campuses, 20 "top" liberal arts colleges, 14 "other top universities" and 50 "flagship" state universities. (They total 100 because UC Berkeley appears in two categories.)

Barone identifies the assumption that must be questioned:

In 2015 as in 1980, when these statistics were first gathered, blacks and Hispanics are, in the words of the Times' headline, "underrepresented."

In that single awkward word is embedded an important assumption: that in a fair society, the ethnic balance in every institution should resemble that of the larger society. This assumption underlies the affirmative action policies that college and university admissions offices have been following with something resembling religious devotion since well before 1980.

That assumption of absolute proportionality is both completely unrealistic – contrary to human experience throughout recorded history – and utopian, meaning that it can never be realized but will be held up as a standard against which society can always be denounced as "unfair" or "oppressive," or whatever other concepts are currently fashionable on the left (heteronormative, transphobic, and terms yet to be invented).

But as long as the white majority is the group being racially discriminated against, the left hoped and assumed that the game could continue.  For historical reasons, denouncing the white majority and penalizing it is politically palatable to many on the left.  Whites, as the founders and operating majority of the nation, can be demonized almost without limit, because they are "oppressors" – even the impoverished inhabitants of Appalachia or the rural South.  However, thanks to the very "diversity" the left champions, something awkward has happened.  Asian-Americans deriving from countries whose culture includes respect for learning are vastly outperforming other ethnic groups in America (with the possible exception of Jews, who are relegated to consideration as "whites" in most statistical compilations).  So enforcing racial quotas has had the practical outcome of discriminating against Asian-Americans, a racial minority group that has its own history of severe discrimination, up to and including concentration camps enforced by Franklin Delano Roosevelt against Japanese-Americans in the mainland USA.

Now that the Trump administration is open to consideration of change, a case the Obama administration chose to ignore is moving forward.

K.C. Johnson in City Journal:

[P]erhaps the most significant short-term effect of any shift in Justice Department policy will pertain to lawsuits already filed, alleging that racial preferences discriminate against Asian-American applicants: the Justice Department confirmed Wednesday that its new hires would in particular work on a complaint to the Education and Justice Departments. That 46-page complaint, which the Obama administration declined to investigate, claimed that "Harvard and other Ivy League Colleges have discriminated against Asian-Americans in their college admission processes, in the form of fixed enrollment numbers, and under the influence of racial stereotypes and prejudices."

In the 2016 election, Trump lost the Asian-American vote by almost 40 points; it's unlikely his standing with the constituency is much stronger now. However, using the power of the Justice Department to demand greater transparency in the admissions process could, in addition to promoting ideals of racial equality and merit, generate significant shifts in the electoral realignment that is already taking place.

The media will do their best to ignore this case, but if it moves forward, it is potential political dynamite.  Grassroots parents of Asian extraction tend to see education as the main chance their children have for a better life, while the leaders of various racially based organizations of Asian-Americans tend to think first of their own status as leaders of an (aggrieved) minority, so racial solidarity with other minorities comes to mind first.  This played out in California already, as Johnson describes:

[A]s California Democrats learned, ignoring the grassroots concerns of Asian-Americans on this issue can be politically problematic. In 2014, Democrats in the California State Senate voted to put on the ballot a repeal of Proposition 209. The vote came despite California's status as a state where (in 2012) 14 percent of high school graduates, but 49 percent of first-year students at Cal-Berkley, were Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders. Asian-Americans saw the move as threatening the educational future of their children, and a grassroots campaign from this overwhelmingly Democratic constituency helped kill the repeal effort.

Opponents of affirmative action will always be denounced as racists.  After all, the policy itself has been counter-productive, mismatching students with campuses where they cannot compete with those who received no preferences.  This creates impossible psychological pressures that all too often lead to heightened resentment on all sides.

If this battle is to be fought in the open, the defenders of A.A. will be forced to confront the failures of the policy.  Moreover, the voting patterns of America's fastest growing minority, Asian-Americans, will be up for grabs.

Stay tuned.