PROF. ROBERT STEINBUCH: Measuring qualifications by merit.
In 1996, California aptly decreed that the state may no longer discriminate by granting preferential treatment on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, and public contracting. That is, California eliminated affirmative action in public entities.
Eight other states have done the same, creating an interesting mix of strong blue states (California and Washington), purple states (Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, and New Hampshire), a lean red state (Florida), and a strong red state (Oklahoma) prohibiting this insidious prejudice. Arkansas has not.
During the initial application of affirmative action in the 1960s, minority candidates were given a slight bump up–“a thumb on the scale”–when they applied for jobs or to be students. As President Lyndon Johnson famously said, “You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, ‘you are free to compete with all the others,’ and still justly believe that you have been completely fair.” True enough.
But affirmative action hasn’t come close to Johnson’s vision for decades. It didn’t take long for affirmative action to devolve into race-based quotas. And when the Supreme Court ostensibly banned numerical limits, schools and other left-leaning entities often lied by simply characterizing as “holistic” their admissions and hiring processes that still employed race quotas.
You can call admissions programs a “banana” for all I care. These Orwellian euphemisms don’t alter reality. If race dominates consideration towards target outcomes, that’s race-based quotas. And the problem for advocates of such smokescreens is that the overwhelming role of race is blatant.
No longer is race a thumb on the scale. It’s a cinder block, crushing the weight of all other factors, chief among them merit. This awful behavior is rampant in both hiring and admissions in higher education in Arkansas. It’s a travesty of law, equity, and justice.
Oh wait, I forgot–we’ve redefined “equity,” haven’t “we”? Now it means equal outcomes (quotas). Darn! I still haven’t memorized that little red DEI-to-English dictionary provided “free” during one of those toothpick-assisted eye-opening re-education gavages.
The outcomes of these racialized policies are terrible. I collect and study evidence of the effects of affirmative action in law schools. In one large Arkansas dataset, the first-time bar-exam failure rate for the largest minority group was double that of whites; 40 percent of the Black graduates failed on their first try.
Objective merit is bad because it limits the discretion of people in power, thus hampering their ability to favor people they like and harm people they dislike.
Related: Law School Admissions Without LSATs.