Regarding Sonia Sotomayor’s remarks that she benefited from affirmative action when she was admitted to Princeton, I think she may be selling herself short. She was the valedictorian of her high-school class, and while I don’t know what Princeton’s policy was on that, I do know that it counts for a lot in some places. At the Ivy League college I attended in the 1970s, the admissions director once told me: “We have a policy of admitting valedictorians. In many cases, if they had finished second in their classes, they wouldn’t have gotten in.”
So I think it’s quite likely that a white male who, like Sotomayor, was the valedictorian of an academically rigorous Catholic school would have been admitted to Princeton, even with mediocre board scores. Sotomayor’s narrative suggests that (1) colleges base most of their admissions decisions on test scores, (2) the tests are “culturally biased,” and therefore (3) racial preferences are necessary. In fact, none of these things are true (though I personally think we could use a little more of (1)), but to justify her bean-counting proclivities, she has to pretend that they are, even at the cost of a little self-deprecation.