Affirmative Action

Progressives Need to Think About a Post-Affirmative Action World


I note in my debut column at The Week, where I'll be writing fortnightly starting today, that the Supreme Court might have tried to strike a Solomon-like middle ground in Schuette vs. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, but

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the fact of the matter is that the days of affirmative action are numbered. And this is not because evil, white, male Republicans in black robes occupy the high court.

 It is because the whole issue has become one big yawn for Americans. Indeed, to the extent that race-sensitive policies generate any momentum at all, it's on the side of banning them. The column points out:

Justice Sotomayor noted in her dissent in the Michigan ruling, such (race-neutral diversity) efforts have failed to boost minority numbers to desirable levels. Getting them to work would require redoubled commitment.

This, however, is going to be difficult to muster after the current crop of university presidents — such as U-Mich's 69-year-old Mary Sue Coleman, who authorized Descriptor Plus — retire. They grew up in the heyday of the Civil Rights Era, when the country was consumed with issues of racial justice. Their successors, however, will come of age around the presidency of Barack Obama, who is the fruit of that struggle. They might not share their predecessors' zeal for boosting diversity, especially since they'll confront a far more splintered minority community.

Asian Americans, diversity's big losers, are turning against affirmative action. Last month, they stopped California Democrats, who hold a legislative supermajority, from reinstating racial preferences. Justice Sotomayor's plaintive diversity defense obviously wasn't written with their interest at heart.

What's more, all these trends — grassroots apathy, decline of a committed university vanguard, and minority opposition — will be gathering steam just around the 2028 expiration date for racial preferences that Justice Sandra Day O' Connor set in her 2003 Grutter vs. Bollinger ruling.

So if progressives can get neither whites nor minorities excited about racial quotas, should they just pack up and go home?

Go here to find out.