Fairness Before “Diversity”

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Dr. Malcolm Cross
Dr. Malcolm Cross

Readers of this column or my blog, Crosswise on Politics, know I’ve frequently written on the need for government to treat everyone equally before the law.  For example, I’ve argued that:

  • Government should not grant subsidies or tax breaks to some businesses that are unavailable to their competitors;
  • Government cannot allow some restaurants to sell alcohol and not others, if the latter meet the same requirements as the former;
  • Government cannot suppress freedom of speech for some groups simply because it disapproves of their message.

The concept of equality under the law is enshrined in the Constitution of the United States.  For example, its Fourteenth Amendment says that “No state” may “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” 

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court of the United States last week handed down a decision that seems to fly in the face of the Equal Protection Clause when it ruled, in Fisher vs. The University of Texas,  that UT could use race to help determine which applicants for admission it admitted or excluded.

Abigail Fisher is a white woman who claims she was denied admission to the University of Texas although people of color who were less qualified were admitted.  Neither UT nor the Supreme Court denies this was the case.  But UT says her exclusion was necessary to promote “diversity” among the students and the Supreme Court says that’s okay.

Supporters of “diversity” argue that the more diverse the student body, the richer the learning experience for the students, since students will be able to learn more from and about others of different racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds.  This benefit, argues both UT and the Supreme Court, justifies discrimination on the basis of race in college admissions, despite the Constitution’s demand that everyone be treated equally.

But the fact remains that proponents of “diversity,” to the extent that they advocate using race as an admissions criterion, are practicing a form of racism—not the malign racism on which slavery and white supremacy were based, but still a policy which discriminates, rewards, and—in the case of Abigail Fisher—punishes on the basis of no factor other than race. This seems to be a clear violation of the Constitution, no matter what the Supreme Court or UT says.  

Texas and its universities should abandon race-based admissions policies and become color blind.  Since only a limited number of students can be admitted to a given university, to include anyone because of race is, by definition, to exclude someone else because he or she is of a different race.  To reward and punish on the basis of race may raise legitimate questions of basic fairness, as well as kindle racial animosities.  These undesirable outcomes of pursuing “diversity” may outweigh any alleged benefits to “diversity.”

If the state truly cares about admitting more minorities to its top universities, it should rather reform its policies for the administration and financing of public education to assure every student, regardless of race, ethnicity, or sex, has an equal opportunity to earn a quality of education.  But to take race into account in the distribution of benefits is to reward or punish students for characteristics with which they were born and over which they have no control.  Racism of any sort is incompatible with the principle that government should promote fairness to all and favoritism for none.

Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present).  He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014.  He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.

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