Roberts In Reverse

In Parents Involved, Chief Justice Roberts famously declared that “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” Now the New York Times has published what should be called the Dynarski Corollary to the Roberts Principle: It is necessary to discriminate on the basis of race in order to discriminate on the basis of race.

Susan Dynarski, a professor of education, public policy, and economics at the University of Michigan, cites thoroughly unsurprising evidence that “most poor people are white.” Since “putting a thumb on the scale for low-income students will help far more white students than black or Hispanic students,” Dynarski concludes, equally unsurprisingly, “that the only way to increase racial diversity at elite colleges is by considering race when deciding who gets in.”

Talk all you want about “considering” race and “holistic” admissions and race being “only one of many factors,”  but despite that ubiquitous rhetorical camouflage what Prof. Dynarski and the New York Times are actually saying is that the only effective way of producing enough “racial and ethnic diversity” is to ensure that some students are admitted and others rejected who would not have been admitted or rejected but for their race or ethnicity.

Philosophers and others have long debated whether the ends justify the means. In the case of “diversity,” however, there is no tension. And Dynarski and the Times are right: If your  goal is a discriminatory result, then discriminatory means are by far the best means of achieving it.

Say What?