This evening, I am sitting in my home study, drinking a cup of strong, freshly brewed black coffee, reading through the news, studying the annual reports of some of the major oil and natural gas companies, and, in a few moments, about to embark on a new game of Civilization V. One of the stories I came across was from the Associated Press. It is called California Affirmative Action: Campus Diversity Suffers Under Race-Blind Policies. It was written by a reporter named Terence Chea. It is an interesting read.
Here is the back story. In 1996, the voters of California passed a constitutional amendment called Proposition 209. It prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, sex, or ethnicity. The prohibition on discrimination included public employment, public education, and public contractors doing business with the state government. The idea behind the civil rights act was that merit should be all that matters. The best people should win, regardless of whether they are men or women, black, white, Asian, or Hispanic.
By definition Proposition 209 changed the ways that college boards for state schools were allowed to admit new freshman. Under the changed California constitution, the admissions boards had to look at grades, attendance, extracurricular activities, and test scores only. The best students got in, those who didn’t measure up to their peers didn’t. The chips would then fall where they may.
In the news article, Chea goes back and examines where, precisely, those chips fell.
Asian Students Are Thriving In Race Blind Admissions Thanks to Proposition 209
Turns out, Asian families prioritize education. Asian students thrived in the post Proposition 209 world. As Chea puts it:
With affirmative action outlawed, Asian American students have dominated admissions. The freshman class admitted to UC Berkeley this coming fall is 30 percent white and 46 percent Asian, according to newly released data. The share of admitted Asians is four times higher than their percentage in the state’s K-12 public schools.
But traditionally underrepresented Hispanic and black students remain so. In a state where Latinos make up half the K-12 public school population, only 15 percent of the Berkeley students are Hispanic. And the freshman class is less than 4 percent African Americans, although they make up 7 percent of the K-12 students. [snip]
Voters in Arizona, Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Washington and Nebraska have since approved similar bans with similar results.
What I find absolutely insane is this passage:
Affirmative-action advocates say Proposition 209 has created a “new Jim Crow regime” in California, where elite public colleges are dominated by white and Asian students while black and Hispanic students are relegated to less prestigious campuses.
Seriously? In a pure meritocracy, Asian students took 4x the spots at the best schools in California compared to what their underlying demographics in the general population.
Common sense tells you that in a pool of limited acceptance letters, fewer white, black, hispanic, and mixed race students got in who otherwise would have. White students are underrepresented relative to state demographics. Black students are underrepresented relative to state demographics. Hispanic students are underrepresented relative to state demographics.
Why is this a problem? If the Asians students studied harder, if the Asian students got better test scores, if the Asian students did what was necessary to succeed, then the Asian students should get the degrees. They should get the higher paychecks. They should get the social prestige. They won. They won fairly. They won squarely. They were academically better. To deny them the rewards of those labors solely because of their race is unjust.
No one was “relegated” to any subpar school. They didn’t do what was necessary to secure a top spot. If you live in a state that doles out educational opportunity based on grades and test scores, the recipe for winning is self-evident: Get higher grades and score better on tests. To argue any other approach is lazy, entitled whining.
Simple reason says that, if California is allowed to factor race into its admissions policies, some Asian kid who had higher grades and better test scores is going to be turned down from a spot they earned ethically and honestly. To argue against Proposition 209 is outright racist. It is bigoted. It is anti-equality. It baffles the mind to think that a decent human being could look at some eighteen year old Asian girl who spent nights and weekends buried in an advanced organic chemistry book and tell her that she lost her spot because of her race. “We’re sorry. We know you did the work and scored better than everyone else but we have too many Asians so you don’t get to go to school here.” It’s just morally reprehensible. She should get the welcome letter.
I know I shouldn’t be surprised at intolerance and bigotry in the world. Between the fight for marriage equality and the anti-immigration nut cases on the far right obsessed with people who want to come to the United States for a better life (I’m not talking about supporting rational immigration reform, I’m talking about the people that basically want America to be nothing but a bunch of blond haired, blue-eyed protestants), nothing should surprise me. But to oppose race-blind admission policies so meritocracy rules? To not even attempt to hide the fact that the end game is to try and reduce the total Asian admissions that are granted? It’s just so hateful, entitled, lazy and racist. If my kids want to go to college and they don’t have the grades, too bad. They shouldn’t get, or be denied, a spot because of their race or their dad’s net worth. They should have to stand on their own merit.
Meritocracy should always rule. I want my symphonies to be made up of the best players, my doctors to have been the best student in medical school, my cooks to be the most gifted chefs, my newspaper reporters to be the most talented writers, and my sports teams to be made up of those with the highest athletic prowess. To argue Asian kids should have the door slammed in their face because we “should” have more white college students, black college students, or Hispanic college students? No. It’s just too damn bad. If you want to change it, study harder. Don’t unfairly punish those who put in the hours, striving to better themselves.