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NYT on ‘Obama’s Delicate Path on Class and Race Preferences’


The gist of this article is that Obama has made intriguing moves toward endorsing wealth-based, rather than race-based, preferences — but that he, and especially, his political fellow travelers, are reluctant to give up on the latter when there is still so much racial discrimination in society. There’s an empirical, a policy, and (most tellingly) a legal problem with this clinging to racial preference.

The empirical issue raised is how much racial discrimination still exists. Of course we still have it, but this will always be the case, right? It’s no longer the principal hurdle to black advancement, though: Children being raised without fathers (a problem Obama, to his credit, has acknowledged) is.

The policy problem is that racial preferences are a lousy way to fight discrimination. Among their many costs is their implicit suggestion that blacks cannot compete without special help — exactly the wrong message to send if you want to stop bias.

But in some ways the biggest problem is the legal one: The Supreme Court has ruled explicitly that generalized assertions of societal discrimination do not suffice to justify the use of racial preferences. It’s remarkable that the three black sources who nonetheless champion preferences based on this rejected rationale are all well-educated lawyers — NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund president John Payton, Harvard Law School professor Charles Ogletree, and Obama himself — and so should know better.


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