Affirmative action is the Orwellian name given to efforts to hire, admit, or otherwise promote people of certain racial or ethnic groups, merely because they belong to those groups. The name of this game derives from the notion that it actively helps people, i.e. it is “affirmative”, rather than harming people who belong to excluded groups. In the second edition of The Affirmative Action Hoax: Diversity, Character, and Other Lies (2010), Steven Farron traces the history, the excuses, the lies, and the deceit behind this form of racial discrimination.
The origins of the policy known as affirmative action (hereafter “AA”) lie in the Kennedy Administration, when incipient concern for the civil rights of Black Americans caused many in power to notice that Blacks were underrepresented in the universities, the professions, and in government. To most of them, inequality of outcome was de facto evidence of “discrimination”; there could be no inequality of ability or intelligence between races. In Daniel Moynihan’s famous report, The Negro Family: A Case for National Action (1965), he wrote, “There is absolutely no question of any genetic differential: Intelligence potential is distributed among Negro infants in the same proportion and pattern as among Icelanders or Chinese or any other group.”
Yet affirmative action, as a policy if not a name, goes back further, and most definitely was motivated by the recognition that at least one group in particular possessed greater intelligence and ability to succeed in academia and in life. That group was the Jews. In the early years of the 20th century, Jewish admissions to elite universities rose greatly. By 1919, 40 percent of Columbia’s students were Jewish, and for university administrators who wanted their institutions to retain their character, “radical steps had to be taken.” And here lies the origin of non-academic criteria for admission to a university, in other words the doctrine of “diversity.” At this point, university admissions bureaucracies began their cancerous growth, since while it was a simple matter to screen students based on academic merit, it was not so simple to admit students seemingly on qualities like “leadership” or “character,” when in reality one wanted only to keep out a disfavored group.
Current AA policy relies on defining favored groups, and Farron ably dissects the absurdities of this practice. For instance, “Black” denotes anyone with at least one Black ancestor, and furthermore, bureaucrats are not allowed to override the self-description of any candidate for hiring, promotion, or admission. In other words, someone who says that he’s Black (or Hispanic, etc.) must be taken at face value, no matter how absurd it seems. “Hispanic” was so defined as to exclude anyone with origins in Brazil, yet fully White Argentinians and Uruguyans fall into this category. Financial success is no impediment to becoming a recipient of AA either; a Black millionaire is eligible for preference over a poor White, and in fact most AA benefits go to the middle and upper middle class. It will not have escaped notice that while AA was meant to benefit victims of historical discrimination, not only have most Blacks alive today not experienced it–especially so when they come from the middle class– but Hispanics have never been subject to slavery or Jim Crow, and have not even been a major presence in the U.S. until recently.
AA also gave rise to the notion of “diversity.” When the Supreme Court outlawed racial favoritism in the Bakke case, it left an opening for “diversity”; that is, if an institution claimed that it needed a certain racial/ethnic mix, it could be allowed to favor certain groups. This is why we are constantly prodded to “celebrate diversity,” why we are always told that it’s such an important value; it’s the only means by which the AA bureaucracy, which by now numbers in the hundreds of thousands, can stay in power. And Farron shows the illogicality behind the favored term; for example, some institutions claim that a certain critical number of, say, Black students are needed for these students to perform well. Yet other groups, say, American Indians, are normally admitted more or less according to their proportion in the population (in their case in the low single digits). Thus a group like this will never have the alleged critical number needed for them to perform well, which was the whole basis of group discrimination in the first place.
Where Farron really shines in this book is in his exposition of the reality of AA. A century of psychometrics has demonstrated both the high degree of heritability of intelligence as well as the disparities in IQ among racial groups. Since most of AA is aimed at positions for which intelligence is the most important element in performance, and since favored groups, notably Blacks and Hispanics, have been shown to have lower average IQ than Whites and Asians, AA must be continued forever, as these groups will simply never attain representation in demanding positions proportional to their fraction of the population as a whole.
The AA establishment, which by now includes virtually everyone in government and education and human resources departments, probably knows this, which is why it keeps coming up with rationalizations for the continuance of AA. Diversity was one of these; another is that AA only advantages those who are as well qualified as White candidates, and/or that the AA advantage is a small one. Both are wholly false. In a discussion of so-called “legacy” admissions, which have been constantly cited by AA proponents as an example of unfairness, Farron notes that at Harvard, the average legatee had only a trivially smaller SAT score (13 points less) than the average admitted student; at the University of Virginia, being a legatee gave a student a four times greater chance of acceptance than a student with an equal SAT score. Being black increased the chance of admission by 111 times. Universities and businesses fall over themselves in attempting to attract minority students, no matter how unqualified; Farron mentions the case of a black student with an SAT score of 1000 who was accepted at Harvard, Yale, Brown, and five other colleges, while White or Asian students with scores around 1500 and excellent extra-curricular credentials are being turned down.
Minority students also appear to be the greatest recipients of financial aid and scholarships, on the grounds that these highly desirable minority students must not decline admission due to lack of funds, even though most of them already come from relatively prosperous families.
As in other distortions and lies concerning the reality of human biodiversity, the media actively obfuscates the extent to which AA has come to pervade every aspect of public life, as well the cost to Whites and the dismal effect on everyone when manifestly incompetent people are promoted and hired on little other basis than their race. Farron has a fascinating section on Colin Powell, whose example was used by President Clinton as an AA success story. Not only is Powell a descendant of West Indian immigrants, and therefore neither he nor his family have ever been victims of legal discrimination, but virtually every member of his extended family have been the recipients of massive benefits from AA. Powell himself appears to have been promoted well beyond his competence; in fact, a White officer who had received evaluations of the level Powell got would have been mustered out of the service.
There’s much more to Farron’s massively and meticulously documented book, in which he demolishes every AA piety that has been foisted upon the American people. It’s a depressing tale which shows how the tentacles of the AA vampire squid are now firmly wrapped around the face of the American body politic, and are unlikely to be removed.