Point/Counterpoint: Discrimination in college admissions cannot be justified
From the column: "Asian students being denied admission are part of a group that also faced severe discrimination in the past."
The Supreme Court recently heard arguments from Harvard and the University of North Carolina about using race and ethnicity in admissions policies. Project 21, the Black leadership network of which I am a member, submitted an amicus brief in the Harvard case.
Justice Samuel Alito asked some pointed and probing questions to the UNC defendants who tried to defend their practice of discrimination when admitting students. Essentially, they believe that because of alleged past discrimination against Blacks, they are justified in discriminating against white and, particularly in the case of Harvard, Asian students by denying them admission. And instead admitting Black students, despite white and Asian students scoring much higher on entrance exams.
Discrimination, in this instance, is lazy and unjustified. Instead of doing the harder work of analyzing each student individually, they treat potential students as a class and make their decisions depending on the class in which the student uncontrollably belongs.
This flies in the face of the inspired words in our Declaration of Independence, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” This sentence heralds championing the rights of the individual, not the rights of a group or class. This is the foundation of our republic.
The American culture that built this great nation is based on the fact that because of freedom, equal treatment under the law, hard work and perseverance, any person can have the opportunity to pursue success. It is antithetical to our sense of fairness and fundamental principles to deprive one person of the just fruits of their labor and give it to another.
Probing a bit deeper, one must ask why these universities of higher learning think they are justified in discriminating against deserving applicants.
Presumably, Blacks previously experienced prejudiced behavior that prevented them from attending these universities. Can this be factually proven? For the sake of argument, let’s say, yes, it can be proven that minorities were intentionally denied entrance though they were qualified in the past. That sordid past cannot be changed. It happened, and it was a tragedy. The proper remedy for putting a salve on a previous wound is not to create another wound.
Particularly since there is no relation between the past and current applicants. Can it be determined that John Smith was denied entry because he was a minority, and we have a distant relative of John Smith now applying? Highly unlikely. Even so, John Smith’s relative should still need to qualify based on his or her own merits, not because some admitting officials want to placate their conscience.
Yet, that is not the situation before us. Instead, a qualified person is being denied admission who had absolutely no knowledge or participation in the prejudiced action against John Smith. For the sake of justice, there is no legitimacy in these universities’ behavior.
Here is the irony in this entire situation. The Asian students being denied admission are part of a group that also faced severe discrimination in the past. Japanese-Americans were forced into camps on American soil during World War II because of an unfounded fear that they would be loyal to Japan, our enemy at the time. Chinese-Americans were used as forced labor to build the great railroad system across the northern states. Now, Asian-Americans are scoring very well on standard entrance exams and performing admirably in high school; yet they are, as a group, being denied admission in favor of Black students, though they had no participation in the past prejudice.
It is hoped justice will prevail and this blatant discrimination being practiced by these universities will be declared unlawful by the Supreme Court. The result should be that the admission officials stop being lazy and look at each person individually to determine who qualifies for admission. And the minorities who do qualify can be confident they earned their admission based on their merits and not to assuage the guilt of some lazy admission official.
Walter B. “Mike” Hill is a member of the National Center for Public Policy Research’s Project 21 ( nationalcenter.org/project-21/ ) in Yorba Linda, California, and is a former lawmaker in the Florida House of Representatives.