Phi Beta Cons

Colorblind policies and “white dominance”

The current Chronicle Review contains a piece (subscriber site) by law professor Ian F. Haney Lopez that is remarkably silly and nasty at the same time.  It’s entitled “Colorblind to the Reality of Race in America” and in it, he argues that if the country abandons its various policies of race-preferences, the result will only be to further cement in place America’s “white dominance.”  We must continue to take race into account, argues Professor Lopez because “a public consensus committed to formal antiracism deters effective remediation of racial inequality, protecting the racial status quo while insulating new forms of racism and xenophobia.”
And what is the evidence of “white dominance?” The poverty rate is higher among blacks and Latinos than among whites. Whites are more likely to have health insurance. Most of the victims of Hurricane Katrina were black, while whites have “access to country clubs and gated communities.”  All true, but that does not amount to “white dominance” and it does not follow in the least that racial preferences are an appropriate or effective policy.
First of all, this is a mangling of the language.  What Lopez is upset about is not “white dominance,” but rather the fact that wealthy people can buy more than poor people can.  Michael Jordan can afford country clubs and gated communities, but millions of whites cannot. Race is not the determining factor — money is.
But don’t we need racial preferences to somehow make income and wealth more equal? Well, we have had racial preferences in place for decades and how much has it done for the poor of New Orleans? Better economic conditions would help those people.  If New Orleans could transform itself into the Hong Kong of the Gulf, with little or no governmental interference with entrepreneurship, that would help. Maintaining racial preferences in admissions for elite universities is as irrelevant as anything could be.
Lopez falls into the usual trap for leftists who don’t really understand how the world works.  He insists that problems can be solved through direct action with the power of government, but the truth is that many problems (and certainly ones revolving around poverty) can only be solved through indirect means involving the “invisible hand” of the free market.
Besides that, Lopez insists on calling those who oppose race preferences and favor policies that do not require government to categorize people by race as “racial conservatives.”  Sorry, but that won’t fly.  Perhaps Lopez finds it hard to believe, but there are a lot of people in America who really do judge people on the content of their character, not on the color of their skin.  All we’re interested in conserving is what is left of freedom and equality under the law, not some imaginary racial hierarchy.

George Leef — George Leef is the director of research for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

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