Douglas Andrews / October 12, 2020

Reverse Racism Is Still Racism

Another Ivy League school is in legal trouble for race-based discrimination.

Whatever one thinks about affirmative action, this much is undeniable: It’s one of the most effective euphemisms ever created. If you disagree, try to come up with a sweeter sounding way to say “race-based discrimination.”

We’ll wait.

According to The Smithsonian, this politically charged term entered the presidential lexicon in 1961, when, in John F. Kennedy’s Executive Order 10925, he called on government contractors to “take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed and that employees are treated during employment without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin” [emphasis added].

Without regard. Thus, the affirmative action of 1961 has been turned completely on its head. For decades now, these discriminatory policies have taken from one group and given to another. And yet according to Princeton’s panicky president, things have only gotten worse.

They’ve gotten worse, too, for another Ivy League school — Yale — which the Trump Justice Department is now suing for violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and for imposing “undue and unlawful” undergraduate admissions penalties on the school’s white and Asian applicants.

As Power Line’s Paul Mirengoff writes, “According to the complaint, Yale engages in racial balancing by, among other things, keeping the annual percentage of African-American admitted applicants to within one percentage point of the previous year’s admitted class as reflected in U.S. Department of Education data. The complaint alleges similar racial balancing with regard to Asian-American applicants. It also alleges that Yale injures applicants and students because its race discrimination relies upon and reinforces damaging race-based stereotypes, including such stereotypes against Yale’s racially favored applicants.”

When affirmative action is couched in terms of “righting wrongs” or “improving diversity,” a majority of folks tend to favor it. But, as the above description of the Yale lawsuit indicates, the more people know about a particular instance of affirmative action, the less they support it. Take, for example, what Gallup Senior Scientist Frank Newport wrote in 2018 about still another case of race-based Ivy League discrimination — this time at Harvard: “Gallup polls have shown that a majority — although not a super majority — of Americans favor the broad, conceptual idea of ‘affirmative action for racial minorities.’ Responses to this question are to some degree affected by the context in which it is asked, but our most recent updates show that 54% to 58% of the public favors affirmative action for racial minorities.”

That seems pretty solid support, doesn’t it? And the Pew Research Center’s numbers are even more impressive: 71% of Americans think affirmative action is a good thing.

Or do they?

When people are polled about affirmative action, context is everything. The Pew poll got that 71% number by asking about “affirmative action programs designed to increase the number of black and minority students on college campuses.” And when it’s put in those terms, affirmative action seems like a pretty noble endeavor.

But, as Newport admits, “The Gallup question does not define ‘affirmative action’ at all, leaving that to the understanding of the respondent. The Pew question doesn’t define the specifics of the affirmative action programs beyond saying that the result would be to increase the number of black and minority students on college campuses.”

What happens, though, when respondents are given some specifics? According to Newport, Gallup in 2016 asked about a then-recent Supreme Court decision involving the University of Texas, which was worded as follows: “The Supreme Court recently ruled on a case that confirms that colleges can consider the race or ethnicity of students when making decisions on who to admit to the college. Overall, do you approve or disapprove of the Supreme Court’s decision?”

The results? Just 31% approved of the Supreme Court’s decision upholding affirmative action, while a whopping 65% disapproved.

In short, folks generally favor affirmative action in the abstract, but they generally hate race-based discrimination in the real world. Yet these two terms are synonymous. And therein lies the awful power of a well-crafted euphemism.

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