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The Worst Day in Civil Rights History By: John H. McWhorter
Salon.com | Tuesday, June 24, 2003

This is the worst day in civil rights history since the Bakke case in 1978. First of all, black students do not like being used as pawns of diversity and class. You hear this from black students again and again, that it's a burden to be sought for your views on race in classrooms. I've heard this so often when I've given talks that it gets almost monotonous -- it's a standard opinion. I felt that way, too, when I was a kid. Second, poll after poll of African-Americans, when you ask them, "Do you agree with admitting black students to higher institutions with lowered standards?" they say no, overwhelmingly.

So what we've now seen is that the highest court in the land has ratified a policy that black people do not approve of, especially when really apprised of what makes up that policy. Instead, what we've got is the idea that it's OK to take race into account. Of course, many people think that in saying that, you're adding a little bit of nuance, and it's assumed people will follow that with a certain kind of forbearance. But since 1978 we've seen what actually happens: It gives the leeway to admit black people under the bar, even those who've suffered no particular disadvantage in their lives -- which is the case with most people admitted to higher institutions. Indeed, now it's been said that there can't be quotas, but frankly, that was already old news. The general idea that you can take race into account means that all of these [institutions] can continue admitting black students with lower standards. And they will.

So the status quo will continue: Good, smart white people deeply assuming that it's not cool to submit any brown-skinned person, regardless of ability or achievement, to the [high] standards they would submit their own kids to. That's tragic. Not to mention that the people who are mistakenly in favor of this policy are now going to have in their pocket the fact that the Supreme Court has ratified it.

For about 10 years the quota idea has been out of fashion. What the issue has required is finer minds, more judgment, more reflection and a broader view. This is the whole notion of diversity. Diversity is a cute way of saying, "Shall we submit black students to lowered standards?" And now it's, "OK, now you can't have a quota," but that doesn't mean the practice won't continue. Nobody who's seen that practice up close -- and I have spent a lifetime in higher education -- should consider this a good thing. Many of the people making the decisions about this have not seen how it operates close up. It's a hideous policy.

I'm saddened by this ruling, and I'm surprised that what we would regard as nine of the most sophisticated legal thinkers in the land could not come out in a majority against a policy that is so full of holes, so unjust, so condescending.

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