One Minute Debate

3 views on whether US still needs affirmative action

This November, voters in Oklahoma will consider a ballot measure banning affirmative action in public-sector hiring. And in October, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in the Fisher v. University of Texas case – centered on the use of affirmative action in public-university admissions. As the second installment in our One Minute Debate series for election 2012, three writers give their brief take on whether the United States still needs affirmative action.

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2. No: Racial discrimination is unfair to applicants and compromises quality at institutions.

It is very odd to ask, in 2012, whether it is a good or a bad idea for government to treat people differently – to discriminate against some and give preferential treatment to others – on the basis of skin color or ancestry. But this fall, that question is coming to Oklahoma's state ballot and before the Supreme Court.

America is growing more and more racially diverse. Do traditional racial categories still make sense? Why lump all people of Vietnamese, Filipino, and Japanese ancestry under one broad stereotype – Asian – and treat them differently from individuals labeled Latino, who may be Mexican, Peruvian, or Cuban? The groupings become even more perverse when government tries to pigeonhole multiracial individuals into one ethnic category.

In the past 10 years, Americans who identify themselves as belonging to "two or more races" have increased 32 percent. There are now more "minority" babies than "nonminority" babies being born. Should an individual that is 1/32 native American be hired over one who is 1/4 Asian, 1/4 black, and 1/2 Caucasian?

Proponents of racial preferences in university admissions claim they are justified because of the "educational benefits" of "diversity." But evidence shows that, not only is there little or no benefit, but the costs are substantial – including the costs to African-Americans and Latinos who are "mismatched" with their schools and thus set up to fail.

Racial discrimination is unfair to applicants, compromises on quality for the institutions and people they serve, is divisive, and violates the Constitution and civil rights laws. The civil rights movement's great accomplishment was to spotlight the evil of stereotyping according to race. In a society as diverse as ours, the only tenable system is one that treats everyone as an individual.

Roger Clegg is president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity. Joshua Thompson is an attorney with Pacific Legal Foundation. Both groups filed an amicus brief in the Fisher v. University of Texas case.

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