Today we are fortunate to have a guest post by Roger Clegg, president of the Center for Equal Opportunity.
“THE GREAT EVIL IN THIS COUNTRY”
by Roger Clegg
A few months ago, The New York Times ran a front-page story about the demise of racially exclusive programs at universities all over the country. I was happy with the article, in part because it recognized the role that my organization, the Center for Equal Opportunity, has played in persuading schools–and civil-rights enforcement agencies in the federal government–to open up these programs to students of all colors.
But I was also happy that the best rejoinder the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund’s president, Theodore M. Shaw, could come up with was: “How is it that they conclude that the great evil in this country is discrimination against white people? Can I put the question any more pointedly? I struggle to find the words to do it because it’s so stunning.” I could almost hear him sputtering.
So, is discrimination against white people “the great evil”?
Well, it is certainly an evil. There are worse things in the world, I admit, but I’ve never understood the complaint that we shouldn’t be fighting this particular evil when there are worse things out there. Cancer is worse than crooked teeth, but no one rails against orthodontists. We don’t all have to fight whatever the one great evil is.
Perhaps Mr. Shaw’s subtext is that discrimination against white people is necessary to fight discrimination against black people, and that the latter discrimination is a bigger problem than the former, and so the Center for Equal Opportunity’s efforts are actually keeping Mr. Shaw from winning his nobler crusade. Looked at this way, discrimination against white people really isn’t an evil at all.
I will note in passing that racially exclusive programs typically hurt Asians as well as whites, and frequently Latinos and Native Americans as well. We’ve even found–and successfully opposed–racially exclusive programs that excluded African Americans.
More fundamentally, though, I reject the claim that a good way to fight discrimination against blacks is to discriminate against whites. It’s a lousy way, unlikely to benefit actual victims of discrimination and certain to create new ones. Much better to enforce the laws we have against racial discrimination; much better to have programs that help the disadvantaged of all colors (who will be disproportionately black, after all).
I do think that discrimination–even against white people, Mr. Shaw–is an evil. It’s unfair. It’s divisive. It creates resentment. It sets a bad precedent. And so forth. Add it all up and, yes, I think it is “a great evil.”
But there is something else, too, Mr. Shaw, and you won’t like to hear this.
Racial preference for African Americans sends the message that they are entitled to such preference because the reason they are disproportionately failing–and thus need the preference–is no fault of their own: That it is discrimination that is holding them back, not illegitimacy or not studying hard enough or anything that they are doing or not doing.
This message is false, and it may ultimately be the most damaging consequence to society of racial preference. Discrimination still exists, of course–will always exist to some degree–but it is not the problem it was a generation ago. As the Manhattan Institute’s John McWhorter writes in his new book Winning the Race, racism is “an occasional nuisance that need not impede the black success that we wish.”
Really, Mr. Shaw, it is your Civil Rights Establishment that is misallocating resources, not your opponents. Why don’t you take the time and money you spend defending racial preference, and use them instead to figure out how to bring down the illegitimacy rate among African Americans? Seven out of ten African Americans are today born out of wedlock, Mr. Shaw, and that is the pipeline problem. It’s triple the rate for non-Hispanic whites, way higher than that of Latinos, and seven times or more the rate for some Asian groups.
And growing up in a home without a father correlates closely with just about any social pathology you can name, including educational failure. Solving that problem is what the African American community needs, not discriminatory scholarships. Solve that problem, and every other disparity will take care of itself.