The New Affirmative Action by Victor Davis Hanson

Does a recent arrival from Oaxaca who fled the racism and poverty of Mexico warrant special compensation upon arrival in the United States? And if so, when? A day, a month, a year, or a decade after crossing the border? How about a Chilean, Korean, or Iraqi immigrant? Should particular lines of employment match the nation’s racial composition — jobs on the faculty, but not jobs in the NBA, or in the Postal Service?

Sometime in the first years of the new millennium, “global warming” evolved into “climate change.” Amid growing controversies over the planet’s past temperatures, Al Gore and other activists understood that human-induced “climate change” could explain almost any weather extremity — droughts or floods, temperatures too hot or too cold, hurricanes and tornadoes — better than “global warming” could.

Similar verbal gymnastics have gradually turned “affirmative action” into “diversity” — a word ambiguous enough to avoid the innate contradictions of a liberal society affirming the illiberal granting of racial preferences.

In an increasingly multiracial society, it has grown hard to determine the racial ancestry of millions of Americans. Is someone who is ostensibly one-half Native American or African-American classified as a minority eligible for special consideration in hiring or college admissions, while someone one-quarter or one-eighth is not? How exactly does affirmative action adjudicate our precise ethnic identities these days? These are not illiberal questions — given, for example, Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren’s past claims of being Native American to gain advantage in her academic career.

Aside from the increasing difficulty of determining the ancestry of multiracial, multiethnic, and intermarried Americans, what exactly is the justification for affirmative action’s ethnic preferences in hiring or admissions — historical grievance, current underrepresentation due to discrimination, or both?


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