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Jason Riley on state-sanctioned racial discrimination | American Enterprise Institute

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From Jason Riley’s op-ed in the Wall Street JournalIn California, the Dream of Racial Preferences Never Dies“:

In 1996 California voters passed Proposition 209, a ballot initiative that prohibited the consideration of race and gender in public education, employment and contracting. It was the ban on race-based admissions at the University of California system that ruffled the most feathers on the left. Opponents predicted that, without preferential treatment, black and Hispanic enrollment would decline overall and virtually disappear at the system’s most elite schools, UCLA and Berkeley. Yet in the intervening quarter-century, that hasn’t happened.

While black and Hispanic enrollment did drop initially at the more selective campuses, the dip was both short-lived and less than had been anticipated. Moreover, for those same minority groups, enrollment overall in the UC system, which had been declining, went up pretty much right away and is now up stunningly over the pre-209 levels.

Even more important, an end to racial double standards in admissions was followed by a dramatic increase in the number of college degrees awarded to blacks and Hispanics, including in the more challenging disciplines. When UCLA law professor Richard Sander compared the outcomes of minorities who had entered the UC system under racial preferences with those who entered after those preferences where banned, he found a 55% increase in the number of black and Hispanic freshman who graduated in four years and a 51% rise in black and Hispanic students who earned degrees in science, technology, engineering and math. The number of blacks and Hispanics graduating with grade-point averages of 3.5 or higher rose by 63%.

If you are someone whose foremost concern is narrowing the academic achievement gap, these results are welcome. More minority students are attending schools where they can handle the work at the pace it’s being taught, and as a result many more of them are graduating. Proposition 209 ended a system that was using underprivileged minorities as window dressing, essentially setting up bright students to fail by funneling them into schools where they were overmatched academically through no fault of their own. Why should a student be struggling at UCLA, and thus possibly forced to drop out or switch to an easier major, when he could be thriving at UC Riverside in a subject he most wants to study?

What’s revealing is how little weight any of this carries with political progressives who obsess over social inequality yet remain hostile to policies—such as race-blind college admissions—with a track record of reducing it (see Venn diagram version above). Nor do they seem to care that race-conscious policies punish Asian-American students for academic overachievement in the same way that Ivy League schools once turned away Jewish applicants supposedly for being too studious.



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