The supporters of race preferences in Michigan and elsewhere are fond of making extreme the-sky-will-fall predictions of what will happen if equality ever breaks out and preferential treatment based on race is banned. Women who should know better (or, perhaps, do know better) continue to be quoted by journalists who should know better saying ridiculously outrageous things.
Here, for example, is Debbie Dingell, wife of Michigan Congressman John Dingell and executive director of community and government relations at General Motors, being quoted today by David Broder in the Washington Post:
Debbie Dingell, a General Motors executive who is co-chairman of One United Michigan, said that if the initiative passed, it would jeopardize special treatment programs for breast and cervical cancer and end an effort to attract more women into science and mathematics careers.
Another common scare tactic is the charge that ending racial preferences will result in “re-segregation,” which is often said to have actually happened to higher education in California as a result of Proposition 209, which was almost identical to the proposed to Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI). This sort of misinformation is rampant, even in “news” columns in the mainstream press. For example, an article in the Detroit News reported recently that today in California “the percentage of students who are black is about half of pre-Prop 209 levels, and Hispanic student enrollment is still disproportionately low.”
Actually, the numbers of minorities in the University of California system have now surpassed their pre-209 levels, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. For a graphic depiction of the freshman enrollment by race in the University of California and the California State University systems from 1997 (the last year before Prop. 209 took effect) through 2005, take a look at the graphs here.
As you will see, the racial group most affected by the ending of race preferences in California is whites: their proportion of entering freshmen fell from 40% in 1997 to 34% in 2005. Two minority groups saw their proportion of entering freshmen increase: Asians, whose proportion rose from 37% in 1997 to 41% in 2005; and Latinos, who rose from 13% to 16%. The proportion of blacks fell from 4% in 1997 to 3% in 2005.
The numbers in the far less selective California State University system were roughly similar, with some variations: whites rose from 39% to 40%; Latinos rose from 28% to 30%; Asians fell from 24% to 22% (I bet that’s because they moved into the more selective University of California system); and blacks fell from 9% to 8%.
One largely unsung result of barring race preferences is the significant improvement in the graduation rate of minorities. Even the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, an ardent supporter of racial preferences, noted in 2002 that the University of California at Berkeley’s “black student graduation rate has improved by 12 percentage points over the past seven years.” During that same period the black graduation rate at the University of Michigan fell by 5%.
John McWhorter, writing in support of MCRI in the New York Sun:
As for “resegregation,” how about this: The year before preferences were banned at the University of California, exactly one black freshman made honors at the University of California San Diego. But in 1999 after the ban, 20% of the honors freshmen at San Diego were black. The reason was that black students who formerly were admitted to the flagship schools — UC Berkeley and UCLA — under the bar, now placed into fine second-tier schools like UC San Diego. This is not resegregation but reshuffling, and those who fail to see progress in it are saying no as a gesture, not out of sincere concern.
UPDATE II [4 Nov.]
There is so much misinformation about the effects of Proposition 209 in California, and such a strong need to keep peddling it, that refuting it seems almost futile. Here, for example, is another typical falsehood, by journalist George Curry:
After Proposition 209, the anti-affirmative action ballot initiative passed in California, the number of African-Americans enrolled in public universities dropped to about half of its previous levels.
Rich Lowry of National Review corrects this, and other errors, here:
The top universities in the University of California system — Berkeley and UCLA — saw declines in minority enrollment. But admissions of minorities in other parts of the UC system, schools like UC Santa Cruz and UC Riverside, increased. Overall, minority admissions stayed almost the same (down 1 percent from 1995 to 2000).
The redistribution of minorities within the UC system has had the benefit of increasing minority graduation rates. According to a law-review article by Eryn Hadley of the Pacific Legal Foundation, the black graduation rate at Berkley for the freshman class entering in 1998 after the passage of Prop. 209 increased 6.5 percent. UCLA law professor Richard Sander notes that black students at UC San Diego had a four-year graduation rate of 26 percent in 1995-1996 and a 52 percent rate in 1999-2001. These figures are so important because gaining admittance to a college doesn’t do someone much good unless he gets a degree.
So MCRI doesn’t pose a threat to the interests of minorities. In a naked electoral ploy, opponents are saying that it will harm women. Nation-wide, women make up 57 percent of college students. Rather than be threatened by measures like MCRI, they are much more likely to become the victims of preferences down the line, when administrators decide to try to get their gender balances back in whack. Nor does MCRI put at risk screening for breast and cervical cancer, a truly despicable charge made by opponents. Such programs have continued unmolested in California.