Advantages of Affirmative Action in Universities

Equal opportunity policies are against racism. Affirmative action is racism under new management.
Thomas Sowell

Given the supreme court decision in the US about affirmative action (ruling more or less against it), someone asked why white liberals are for affirmative action in the first place. Sure, there is virtue signaling. But there is at least one other explanation.

If their children get into these schools through connections, donations, or legacy admissions, then their children are in a similar situation as students profiting from affirmative action. They did not get into it by ability (given the Harvard lawsuit and the SAT score differences, e.g., lots of Asians would be more qualified). So if other students get into the schools via affirmative action with perhaps even worse abilities, their children can still compete. At least in that institution. And with the added benefit that they can feel moral about it.

Sure, that is a very dark interpretation. Unlikely that it is that dark and or even conscious. But there is a tension between …

  • having a fair, in the sense of equality of opportunity (not outcome), meritocratic system that is based on individual achievement (and potential), i.e., a sex-race-etc. blind process akin to having blind auditions for orchestra players behind a curtain, and
  • the natural drive to favor one’s children, and feel moral about it.

And all that is irrespective of the desire of some people to form society like a piece of clay and enforce equality of outcome. Well, in many cases not applying to them, someone must determine these things, after all. And the level on which they reach equality of outcome might be lower than they expected. As for the actual effects of creating a mismatch of ability and requirements of the institution, I can only again highly recommend Thomas Sowell’s book: «Social Justice Fallacies».