The Jig Is Up: Diversity Doesn’t Matter

David Benkof Contributor
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Today, as the Supreme Court takes up yet another affirmative-action case, advocates of racial engineering are urging the justices to allow public universities to continue considering race a factor in admissions in order to promote “diversity.” But they’re hiding their true motives. Support for affirmative action by Americans on the left is overwhelmingly based on a desire to remedy past and present discrimination, not to racially redecorate classrooms and dormitories. But the Supreme Court has already outlawed affirmative action for reparative purposes as unconstitutional, so they are throwing their hopes behind the thin reed of campus diversity.

But racial diversity is largely irrelevant to the successful functioning of a university; and if diversity really was the goal (instead of helping blacks and Latinos attend college), affirmative action would look very different.

What is the argument that diversity matters in education? I looked at several Web sites supporting diverse campuses, and justifications included “Diversity expands your capacity for viewing issues or problems from multiple perspectives, angles, and vantage points”; “Learning with people from a variety of backgrounds encourages collaboration and fosters innovation”; and teachers “who create an inclusive, supportive classroom climate can and do produce enhanced educational outcomes in classes comprising a racial and ethnic mix of students.”

Sorry, but those reasons are racist.

They suggest that “students of color” are different in some basic way than white students. What are these differences? How does the color of a student’s skin, the neighborhood where he grew up, or the cultural practices and sensibility of his family and community affect how he solves a calculus problem, analyzes a president’s memoirs, or codes a computer program? Are there any answers to those questions that are not racist?

Now, there surely are rare times in discussion sections when people with different backgrounds can describe their life experiences in ways that will enhance the conversation. A historical discussion of voting rights may be enriched by a black student describing her grandparents’ experiences trying to vote in the South. But many other kinds of diversity can also occasionally provide benefits. In a conversation about American religion, the voices of a Jew and a Mormon are at least as important as that of an African-American. A political discussion of farm subsidies would benefit more from a student who grew up on a farm than a black student. Why are universities privileging racial diversity?

The answer is the Constitution. In American jurisprudence, the government can only discriminate on the basis of race when the policy is narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling state interest. The Supreme Court has not considered reparative admissions to be a compelling state interest, but since the 1978 Bakke case, it has held diversity to be one.

But the campus diversity argument is increasingly irrelevant as student demographics change. The number of students identifying as multiracial is rising quickly. And racial diversity is far more complex than black-white-Latino, particularly given the disproportionate numbers of Asian-Americans on campus.

If affirmative action exists to further diversity and not to atone for past and present discrimination, why aren’t there explicit policies to ensure inclusion of the vast number of subcategories which are artificially classified as “Asian-American?” Wouldn’t Vietnamese-Americans, Pakistani-Americans and native Hawaiians all bring their own, somewhat different perspectives to certain classrooms? Why are those perspectives less worthy of affirmative action than arranging to include the voices of blacks and Latinos?

It’s time to admit what is really going on: universities are advocating diversity-based admissions (including with supposedly race-neutral policies like admitting the top 10 percent of graduating seniors from all high schools) in order to further the unconstitutional goal of redressing past and present discrimination against racial minorities. If the affirmative-action crowd wants to rectify discrimination against blacks and Latinos, it can try to amend the Constitution or elect officials who will appoint justices who interpret the law the way they like. But hiding behind diversity when that is at best a secondary motive is a fraud on the court and the country.

The jig is up, and the Supreme Court should make it clear that all race-conscious policies advocated for any reason violate the Constitution.

David Benkof is Senior Political Analyst at the Daily Caller. Follow him on Twitter (@DavidBenkof) or E-mail him at DavidBenkof@gmail.com