There was a great deal of exchange between Judge Brett Kavanaugh and North Carolina attorney Ryan Park in oral presentations on two Supreme Court affirmative action cases involving elite universities: the University of North Carolina (UNC) and Harvard.

These are the latest cases that will put the final words of judge Sandra Day O’Connor to the test in her statements to the test Grutter against Bollinger a 2003 opinion that came 25 years after the original affirmative action case –Regents of the University of California v. Bakke– in 1978. “We expect that in 25 years’ time, the exercise of race preferences will no longer be necessary to promote today’s approved interests,” O’Conner wrote.

“How are candidates from the Middle East, Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Egypt and the like classified?” Kavanaugh Park asked.

“I understand that, as in other situations where they may not fit in specific common fields in the application, we rely on self-reporting and they can voluntarily report to their country of origin,” Park replied.

“But if they honestly check one of the boxes they are supposed to check?” Kavanaugh asked.

“If a Middle East person discloses their country of origin themselves, it will be handled in the same way as we consider each box to match one of the boxes available in the shared app, so it would be a personalized overall analysis,” Park replied.

Proponents of affirmative action in higher education will gather on October 31 in front of the Supreme Court, which hears two affirmative cases involving the University of North Carolina and Harvard. It is debatable whether colleges and universities can still consider race as a recruiting factor.
Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

This was an exchange that came to me as I come from the Middle East and my daughter recently completed her application at the University of Mississippi, Oxford, where our family lives. In doing so, we had an exchange similar to that of Kavanaugh and Park.

It turns out Ole Miss apps have a box for Blacks, Whites, Latinos, and Pacific Islanders, but not for Middle Easterners. Luckily for me, my 17-year-old daughter never thought of doing what Park had suggested and “revealing” her Arabian roots on her own. As she happily told me, it was strange to ask about her ethnicity in her application to study, but it would be weirder if she chose her Lebanese heritage over Italian and German roots on my side of the family. Or her Irish, Scandinavian and American heritage from her mother’s side.

My daughter had more sense than the attorney general of North Carolina and a better understanding of her country. Her family tree is absolutely American: a walking, UN-speaking, real billboard about diversity. She also knows that she is more than just her bloodline and DNA – that she is a human being, a child of God taught by her multiethnic family not to show favor or disfavour with another human based on race, ethnicity, religious preferences or wealth. Deep down, she knows that it wouldn’t be a lie to reduce her identity on the basis of a college application to one ethnic thread. There would be something much worse: morally wrong.

She is not alone. Many American children grapple with the same mystery about checking boxes. Example: In 2011 New York Times told the story of Natasha Scott as she began her college trip. A high school student in Beltsville, Maryland, had a problem which she shared on the College Confidential electronic notice board.

“I just realized that my race is something I need to think about,” she wrote in her post, describing herself as Asian and black father. “It hurts me to say that, but rejecting black can increase your chances of being accepted, and rejecting Asians can hurt them.” Times the report said. Scott confessed that even her mother urged her to put the African American to sleep.

“I want to do this, but I wonder if it is morally right?” She wrote. After a few encouragements from her peers to do something wrong, she checked the black box. “I have to admit I felt a little guilty just giving up the black color because I was deliberately denying myself a part of myself in order to look like a more attractive college candidate,” she confessed.

It is a tragedy of cutting up and dividing Americans into ethnic and racial categories. The recruitment process not only pitted Natasha against her peers; it turned her against myself. She lied about her Asian heritage, the kind of moral deception she had committed not only in college but also about her own sense of right and wrong.

The news of two cases before the Supreme Court also gives me the opportunity to share some history of affirmative action and its well-intentioned purpose to remedy decades of outright discrimination against blacks in colleges. The university my daughter Ole Miss applied to did not allow blacks to enroll until James Meredith, with the help of the National Guard, did so in 1962. There were riots. People died. For blacks in the South – and across the country – this is not an ancient story: every Black man aged 70 or older has experienced this blatant injustice.

It was a bit hard to explain to my daughter why we still needed affirmative action today – and harder to explain why some ethnic groups have preferences and others don’t. And why in 2022 it is perfectly okay to discriminate against one group, even a minority group, in order to promote another.

It turns out Asian Americans in the top 10 percent of academics have a 12.7 percent chance of getting into Harvard, compared with 15.3 percent for whites, 31.3 percent for Latinos and 56.1 percent for blacks, according to the claimant in two cases of the Supreme Court. .

UNC admissions data is almost as confusing. “The Asian-American out-of-state in the fourth highest academic decile has only 6.5 percent. chances of admission compared with 57.7% for black “. Wall Street Journal reported. “Another analysis shows that an out-of-state white male with a 10 percent chance of admission would have a 98 percent chance if he were black.”

The Journal has not been completed. “Online interviews between recruiting officials also show that the UNC has kept non-Asian minorities in lower recruitment standards – what George W. Bush once called the soft bigotry of low expectations,” the newspaper wrote. “If it’s brown and above 1300 [SAT] put them in [the] merit / excel [scholarship]”Wrote one of the officers.

When did black applicants in need of affirmative action and scholarships turn brown? And why weren’t Italians, Greeks, Spaniards and Middle Easterners thrown into this “brown” mix?

We also learned from this dispute about the bigotry surrounding some of the “holistic” methodologies Park described to Kavanaugh. A survey of nearly 160,000 students found that Asian American applicants scored lower than others on traits such as “positive personality”, “liking”, “courage”, “kindness” and being “widely respected”. To call it a blatant and disgusting caricature of Asians would be an understatement.

But the best reason to end affirmative action is this: it doesn’t work. In his 2012 book Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Harms Students Is It To Help, and Why Universities Don’t Recognize ItAuthors Stuart Taylor Jr. and Richard Sander wrote about the unintended consequences of affirmative action – most notably what they called academic mismatches.

“There is increasing evidence that students who receive high preferences of any kind – whether based on race, athletic ability, relationship with graduates, or other considerations – experience clear negative effects,” wrote Taylor and Sander in an opinion-giving article.

They continued: “Students end up with low grades (usually in the lowest fifth grade), lower graduation rates, unusually high dropout rates from science and engineering majors, significant on-campus self-segregation, lower self-esteem, and much more difficulty passing licensing exams (such as exams). for lawyers). “

But there was good news. “The same students do much better if they go to schools where their level of academic preparation is much closer to that of the average student,” said the two authors. “This means that black and Hispanic students – as well as fewer preferential athletes and donor children – are excellent when they avoid what has been termed a mismatch problem.”

One study found that students who had high preferences were almost 80% more likely to complete STEM studies if they attended a less elite school. Eighty percent!

The best news of all came from all the places in California where it has been illegal to consider race since 1998.

“Racial neutrality has brought stunning benefits to minorities in [University of California] the system as a whole, as shown in the dataset that economists obtained from UC administrators, ”wrote Taylor and Sandler. “Black, American-Indian and Hispanic students accounted for 26% of all UC freshmen in 2010, up from 16% in 1997; Black and Hispanic undergraduate degrees over four years increased 55% between 1995-97 and 2001-03, while those with a GPA above 3.5 increased 63%.

There is much work to be done in our education system to level the playing field for all. More remediation money and more choice for children trapped in collapsing schools is the starting point. However, the current methodologies used by universities to promote diversity are not working. And they are simply wrong.

Ask my 17-year-old daughter. Or Natasha Scott.

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