The Corner

Law & the Courts

Good News: Trump Rescinds Obama’s ‘Affirmative Action’ Guidance

President Barack Obama (R) meets with President-elect Donald Trump to discuss transition plans in the White House Oval Office, November 10, 2016. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

The Wall Street Journal and New York Times are both reporting that the Trump administration will be rescinding Obama-era guidance on the use of race and ethnicity in student admissions (higher education) and assignments (K–12).

This is good news. As I explained on NRO as the Obama statements were issued — here and here and here, for example — they misread the law and were bad policy as well.

It’s not that complicated: As a policy matter, skin color and national origin should not play a role in deciding where a student can go to school. The costs of such discrimination overwhelm any claim of “educational benefits” from having a politically correct racial and ethnic mix of students. As a legal matter, while the courts have, alas, left the door ajar for this sort of discrimination, they have also placed significant restraints on it. The federal government should not be encouraging schools to do as much of this as they can get away with, which is what the Obama administration’s guidance did.

Most of the arguments against politically correct racial discrimination have been around for a long time, but I’ll mention briefly the two that have recently, and rightly, attracted greater attention.

First, it is not just white students who are frequently discriminated against, but Asian-American students as well. Indeed, as America becomes increasingly multiracial and multiethnic — and as individual Americans are themselves more and more likely to be multiracial and multiethnic — it becomes more and more untenable for our institutions to sort people according to what color skin they have and where their ancestors came from.

Second, the evidence is now overwhelming that, because of the “mismatch” phenomenon, it is not only the students who are discriminated against who are hurt by these policies, but also those who are supposedly receiving racial preferences. That is, if a student is admitted to and attends a school where his or her academic qualifications are significantly below the rest of the student body’s, that student is less likely to graduate and more likely to flunk out or switch majors, and will receive lower grades — all to the student’s detriment.

I should also note a wonderful essay published last week by John McWhorter on why this discrimination should end.

So the Trump administration is wise to set a new course and to jettison the Obama administration’s bad guidance in this area. Here’s hoping that the administration issues new guidance and, in particular, supports the lawsuit that Asian Americans have brought against Harvard and the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill for their admissions discrimination.

No doubt the Left will characterize this shift as somehow racist, but in fact it is not only nondiscriminatory but also the only approach that will not divide our multiethnic and multiracial society. It’s worthy of the nation whose birthday we celebrate tomorrow. E pluribus unum.

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