One of the most annoying arguments from defenders of race-based preferences for college admissions is the “legacy” argument. Children of donors and alumni get special treatment, the quota-mongers say, so why shouldn’t minorities. As far as moral arguments go, this has always struck me as particularly lame, the equivalent of “two wrongs make a right.” After all these people don’t say that special treatment for the rich and well-connected is good, they say it’s bad. And since one bad thing exists you shouldn’t take away another bad thing that helps the people I care about.
The same thing is going on with the Blair case. Last weekend Michel Martin declared on ABC News that if we’re going to get rid of affirmative action for blacks we should get rid of affirmative action for women in short skirts. Now, except for the fields of prostitution and modeling, I generally thought we as a society were trying to do exactly that. Ms. Martin certainly doesn’t think that preferences for leggy women are a good thing. Indeed, a host of black journalists have made similar arguments, saying that nepotism and the old boy network are still at work so we should have affirmative action. You can make that argument if you want, but don’t tell me affirmative action is noble and wonderful if at the same time the only things you compare it to are things you think are bad.
Oh, by the way, this is the subject of my syndicated column.