Affirmative Action

Racial Preferences in Universities Won't Work in a Diverse America

They will also splinter the Democrats' minority base


Democrats in California are in a state of shock at the defeat of their effort to reinstate racial preferences in university admissions. That's because the defeat was led not by evil Republicans but a loyal Democratic constituency: Asian Americans.

But what this episode demonstrates is that the zero-sum politics of divvying up a fixed pie—rather than expanding it—is a losing game for Democrats, precisely because America is becoming more diverse.

California became the first state to ban race (and gender) preferences in government admissions and hiring when it passed Prop 209, something that has always bothered liberals. So now that they have a supermajority in the state legislature, they decided to do something about it.

The state Senate approved 27-9 a measure to ask voters in November to overturn the ban. Little did it expect the backlash that ensued.

California's politically sleepy Asian American community, in defiance of its own civil rights leaders, mounted a massive grassroots campaign to kill the measure. It made phone calls, wrote letters, blanketed the airwaves. Ultimately, not only did the Assembly abandon the proposal, but three Asian senators who originally supported the measure reversed themselves.

Liberals are trying to smear these people as the Asian equivalent of (allegedly) loudmouthed Tea Party activists who don't represent the true views of their community.

That is complete nonsense.

The liberal idea of racial justice is proportional representation under which each group is represented in proportion to its population at universities and other institutions. The whole point of scrapping Prop 209 is to hand university officials the power to ignore student test scores and grades to create a more balanced student body based on racial criteria.

Setting aside the moral objections to putting groups rather individuals at the heart of a scheme of social justice, such racial balancing is profoundly at odds with Asian American interests. They represent the single largest ethnic group among the University of California's 173,000 undergraduates. They form about 12 percent of the Golden State's population, but in 2008, they constituted 40 percent of the student body at UCLA and 43 percent at UC Berkeley—California's most selective public universities—as well as 50 percent at UC San Diego and 54 percent at UC Irvine. They have an admission rate of 73 percent compared to 63 percent of all in-state applicants.

Also, they tend to value education as the road to success more than other groups. Yet, with each passing year, getting into top universities gets harder and harder. For example, between 1982 and 2004, the number of applicants to selective private four-year colleges increased 36 percent but enrollment increased 0.7 percent. Things are a bit, but not a whole lot, better in public universities.

Under such increasingly competitive circumstances, it'll be a losing battle to ask Asians to conform to the mentality of white liberal guilt. They won't apologize for their success or abandon their dreams — especially since they themselves have been repeatedly subjected to white discrimination. Remember the Asiatic Exclusion League and the Anti-Coolie Act?

Trying to perform a racial balancing act in a country that was neatly divided into two main groups—the white discriminators and the black discriminated—was one thing. But pulling it off in a diverse country with diverse groups with diverse histories and diverse interests is quite another. Foisting preferences on a diverse America will pit various groups against each other—as well as against Democrats, as the fight in California amply demonstrates. Diversity and racial preferences are directly antithetical, contrary to liberal orthodoxy.

The right approach to maximizing inclusion, a worthy goal, would be to increase capacity at elite and other schools—both public and private—to keep up with population increases and rising demand. Trying to push out one group to make room for another is neither right nor workable. Better to expand the room.

This column originally appeared in the Washington Examiner


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  1. maybe we can finally stop pretending that diversity is some Holy Grail in and of itself. Proportional representation for its own sake is bullshit and one more bit of evidence of how this multi-culti business is ridiculous.

    At some point, we have to treat people on merit rather than on the basis of skin color, genitals, ethnicity, or some other Census check block.

    1. “At some point, we have to treat people on merit rather than on the basis of skin color, genitals, ethnicity, or some other Census check block.”

      Unlikely. Without exception, every group whining about other privileged groups are attempting to set themselves up as a privileged group. Hell will freeze before all the victims of the world give up that strategy.

      1. The problem is that being a “victim” is only valuable if most people are not. Once everyone becomes a “victim” then effectively no one is.

        The other problem is that counting heads was easy when it was just about blacks and whites. There never has been that much intermarriage between blacks and white in this country.

        But once you get into other groups, you really can’t tell who is who or prevent people from cynically lying about who they are. It is just a matter of time before people start marking various ethnic groups on their applications in order to obtain preference. Who are you to say my grandfather wasn’t a Pacific Islander? That is what mom always said.

        1. Just ask Senator Fauxcohontas – it worked for her.

          1. Yup. And I am sure she is not the first or the last person it will work for.

        2. That’s why I took the ostensible bad guy in that cartoon to be the good guy?the one who said, “When everyone is special, noone will be.” I cracked up on hearing that line because I gathered that was the whole point of the movie, and that its writer meant it the way you did.

      2. I sort of agree with you but as the races mix this kind of racial group v. racial group should disappear. Well, lets hope anyways.

    2. Having just gone through the college application process with my child, who is not Asian, I wish they would have not asked his race nor his gender. I usually tell my kids to write “human” when asked for their race. Unfortunately, because college selection is so competitive and they are looking for reasons to reject you, he couldn’t do this.

      I could care less if all UCs were 100% Asian or any other race. If you work hard and take your education seriously then these top kids deserve spots at UC.

  2. It is only a problem for Democrats if blacks are not willing to take one for the team and continue voting Democratic. I am pretty confident they will. The Democrats own the entire media and popular culture and are able to harness it to send the consistent message to all blacks that white people hate them and voting Democrat is the only way to save themselves.

    Blacks have been getting totally screwed by the drug war, welfare and pretty much every other Prog policy for 60 years and they still vote Democrat. Why would that change now?

    1. Well, LBJ did predict a century spanning voting bloc…

      1. Until blacks stand up for themselves and give politicians a reason not to just fuck them over, they are going to continue to be fucked over.

        1. John|3.24.14 @ 11:28AM|#
          ‘Until *Californians* stand up for themselves and give politicians a reason not to just fuck them over, they are going to continue to be fucked over.’

          Works just as well.
          CA pays ‘way more in Fed taxes than it gets, Obo shows up, picks the pockets of dim-bulb libs, dim-bulb libs vote the D ticket.

          1. Yes. The observation is not particular to black people. Any group that mindlessly and reliably votes for one team or the other is going to get fucked since the party they vote for will always sell them out knowing that they won’t lose their votes and the other party will sell them out because they know they won’t get the group’s vote no matter what they do.

    2. How have blacks been “getting screwed over by welfare”? Nobody is forced to go on welfare. The whole idea was that people were innately driven to want to work and succeed and any time they weren’t doing so, there was some impediment.

      Welfare was giving black mothers the same chance to stay at home and nurture their kids like white mothers. Once nurtured, they would do just as well in school as white kids. All welfare programs are based on the false premise that nobody really wants to be on welfare.

      1. You mean unmarried mothers the same chance as married ones.

        1. No I was putting it in the context of “blacks being screwed by welfare”.

  3. The media has been gloating over asian support for Democrats. Now it seems asians want something in exchange for their votes. Sucks, doesn’t it?

    1. I just wanted to point out that it isn’t ALL Asians that toe the D line. My Asian F-I-L voted Ron Paul in the last election, worked well past 65 to put his kids through school debt-free, and still remembers what it was like to live part of his youth in a fucking cave back home because the government in power decided that it was a good idea to appropriate his family’s lands and home.

  4. The right approach to maximizing inclusion, a worthy goal, would be to increase capacity at elite and other schools?both public and private?to keep up with population increases and rising demand.

    No, sorry. We’re past the point where college ed made sense as such (if it ever did). Any remaining value of a degree is now maintained only by its (fleeting) scarcity. It really is 0-sum, a means for some to outrank others, rather than self-improvement.

  5. I agree with the article, but not this:

    “increase capacity at elite and other schools?both public and private?to keep up with population increases and rising demand. Trying to push out one group to make room for another is neither right nor workable. Better to expand the room.”

    Asian American students want access to elite schools because these schools are selective. Let too many people in & the school loses its reputation for exclusivity. A degree becomes less scarce and less valuable. If everyone gets a Stanford degree, we all might learn a ton but far less than half us will obtain the good jobs. Kids of all races seek admission to elite schools mostly to gain a career advantage over peers.

    1. Exactly. A major portion of what makes a top-tier school degree valuable is the screening process at the beginning. A degree from MIT is shorthand for “top 1% technical mind – with some decent training”.

      When I couldn’t afford top hires out of school I found the same sort of people at community colleges. My eventual Director of Technology came to me as a geeky trailer park girl who bucked her family’s expectations and got some work in at a community college. She was a 170 IQ super-find. Most places wouldn’t hire such folk for tech jobs – preferring certifications and other such – but 5 minutes in an interview and I knew I had a diamond in the rough.

      But most HR departments can’t put that much effort in to the process of panning for gold. They look for top universities as a shorthand for “someone else already vetted this candidate as a high performer”.

  6. increase capacity at elite and other schools

    This assumes facts not in evidence, namely, that the total supply of elite students exceeds the capacity of elite schools.

    I understand that the number of people who want an elite sheepskin exceeds the supply, but that’s not really the question, IMO.

  7. RC DEAN,

    I agree with your specific objection (that the article assumes an unsubstantiated fact), but, personally, I beleive the supply of students with elite academic ability sometimes exceeds the number of seats avaialable in our top 10 schools. I know there is significant variation in the number of children born each year + the number of immigants admitted varies from year to year. I suspect (w/o evidence) that the % of children blessed w/ high innate intelligence and work ethic varies somewhat from year to year. If so, in certain years, we’ll have too few seats to admit all the elite applicants — even if we ignored the legacies & judged applicants on merit. In other years, we’ll have excess capacity & desks would sit unused if we limited admission to applicants with elite ability.

    Unless of course, for semantic reasons, you prefer to define “elite” as a rolling average (e.g. top 5% of those born in a given year).

    1. That’s not exactly the point. There are always fewer seats at the top schools than there are qualified and interested candidates. Kinda by definition. If a school ever faced a situation where they had to lower admission standards to fill their quota they would not be “elite” any longer.

      The elite schools are not necessarily the schools that have the best educational opportunities or the best teaching, they are the ones that attract the best students. Kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy. (having attended several elite-ish schools and a couple of average schools, I can say that the best teachers are definitely not all concentrated in the top schools)

      Of course in our current environment pretty much any decent school has more applicants that are qualified for the school than they have available slots. With all of the public money flowing into the system in the form of loan guarantees, etc. and the perception that a bachelor’s degree is the minimum starting level of training for most decent jobs there’s a lot of people trying to get into college.

  8. I fail to comprehend how a clearly racist policy can be promoted by the same party that is forever calling for racially equality.

    Humans make no logical sense at all.

  9. my roomate’s step-aunt makes $67 /hr on the laptop . She has been laid off for ten months but last month her payment was $16399 just working on the laptop for a few hours. site link……

  10. Not a small amount of Asians support affirmative action. To be honest, if a school said “We’ll shut out more white applicants to make room for more blacks and Latinos, but we won’t touch Asian applicants”, many Asians will be fine and dandy with it.

    But it really doesn’t matter. Asian population and applicants will continue to grow, but more universities are accepting international and out of state students to make money. Non white people from outside your state and country are still non white, so the university can argue they “diversify” the field.

    With or without AA, it’ll be harder for Asians to get in. And if there’s any dramatic improvement in academic performance by blacks and Latinos who are perennially gunning for more spots in top tier schools, Asian dominance will be seriously challenged.

    Historically, coalition made of different groups with competing interests will eventually experience fractions from within. Race wars happen even in America, as the LA riots prove. It’s just one of the reasons why I don’t think the Dem party will completely take over.

  11. This says a lot about the hypocrisy of democrats (particularly Asian dems). Institutionalised racial discrimination is only good until it affects our own people.

    1. Even assuming, arguendo, that Americans living today should foot the bill for slavery and past racial discrimination, it’s unjust for Affirmative Action to disadvantage (penalize) Asian Americans kids in 2014. These kids’ ancestors (perhaps without exception) never owned black slaves. Even if a fair number of immigrants from Asia harbored racist views, the majority (excluding the Clovis people, the original builders of Monte Verde, etc.) arrived in North America too late to participate in the vile institution of slavery. Furthermore, Asian Americans endured plenty of well-documented ethnic discrimination upon arrival. Because most Asian immigrants to North America were the victims of immoral discriminatory polices (not the beneficiaries of these policies), it makes no sense to punish their descendants for said policies. See also Irish.

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