Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

Affirmative-Action Bans and ‘Proxies for Race’


PrawfsBlawg points out a Michigan Journal of Race & Law article about whether schools can get around successful ballot initiatives banning racial preferences.

The article is specifically about Michigan, but other states face similar issues. City Journal ran an article about it in California (it’s Heather Mac Donald week at Phi Beta Cons!).

Bear in mind that “proxies for race” does not mean schools will use completely non-racial criteria, like poverty, that happen to correlate with race. Rather, they’re considering using criteria that clearly have no purpose save to substitute for race:

These proxies include preferences for applicants who reside in heavily African American Detroit, applicants who are bilingual, and applicants who have lived on an Indian reservation.

The article argues that the Michigan law should be taken to ban not only outright discrimination, but also “racial gerrymandering.” I couldn’t agree more, but as virtually every admissions criteria correlates with race to some degree, there’s bound to be some blurring in what exactly counts as “racial gerrymandering.” The literal gerrymandering — geographic criteria — clearly has to go, though.


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