Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

“Race Still Matters”


That’s the title of an opinion piece in today’s Inside Higher Ed. After making this bold argument, it ends with an even bolder call for . . . “a dialogue on race”! On college campuses! What a great idea! Not! Here’s what I’ve posted:

To suggest that there are those who believe that race no longer “matters” in American society, or that American society is entirely meritocratic with no “societal or economic barriers,” is to create disingenuously a straw man. No sane person denies racial discrimination still exists, and of course we still feel the effects of past racial discrimination; we will always be able to trace those effects and there will always be racial discrimination (because there will always be some bigots, of all colors).
The real disagreement is about *the extent* to which race still matters and, more importantly, what to do about it. The fact is that racial discrimination is, thankfully, a fading shadow of what it was just a few decades ago; that such discrimination is socially unacceptable and illegal in almost all public transactions; and that, while the discrimination that remains a problem, it is no longer the principal problem facing the African American community — rather, the biggest reason for continuing racial socioeconomic disparities is the fact that 7 out of 10 African Americans are born out of wedlock.
We can have a dialogue if you like, but there’s really not that much more to say. Racial discrimination is bad; it should remain socially unacceptable and the laws prohibiting it should continue to be enforced. But continued progress will also require changes in culture and family structure that will have to be undertaken by African Americans themselves and their little platoons. (Oh, and dividing Americans in our increasingly multiracial and multiethnic society by skin color and national origin, and treating some better and others worse depending on which box they check, is a really bad idea.)
Oh, and cheer up: This is the greatest country in the history of the world, and there are unparalleled opportunities for all, regardless of skin color. Race relations in the United States are really most excellent, have inarguably never been better, and are certain to improve even more. Did I mention that our president had a black father and a white mother?

And then I added two other thoughts:

The problem with Justice Sotomayor’s “wise Latina” remark was not, of course, that she expressed ethnic pride, but that she said wise Latinas were more likely to reach the right decision than white males; Justice Alito never said anything like that. And to the predictable objection that the playing field is not level: That’s true, but there are players of all colors at both ends of the field — so anything you do to help those at the low end should be available to anyone there, regardless of color, and you shouldn’t give advantages to those at the high end just because they share the color of someone at the low end.


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