Phi Beta Cons

Hispanics and Racial Preferences

In an article in the July-August Commentary promoting continued high levels of immigration as well as legalization of the illegal immigrant population already here, Linda Chavez insists that immigrants should not be the beneficiaries of affirmative action. One readily agrees but that would not solve the problem of the effect the rising population of Hispanics is having and will continue to have on affirmative-action policy. The Hispanics who are benefitting from reverse discrimination at prestige schools are not necessarily of the immigrant generation, but of the first, second, or even third generation born here. 
In addition, Chavez’s insistence that intermarriage will mean that in a few decades Hispanic ethnicity will mean no more than Irish or German ethnicity overlooks the fact that Hispanics, unlike Germans or Irish, are now entitled to racial preferences. We cannot know precisely what will prevail at the mid-century point to which she refers, when Hispanics are projected to be a quarter of the population, but we do know that in the near future the policy will be to extend racial preferences to Hispanics and intermarriage does not necessarily preclude receiving them.      
Some time ago, Lani Guinier and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. complained that only about a third of black students at Harvard are from families in which all four grandparents were born in this country, descendents of slaves. Perhaps two-thirds are West Indian and African immigrants or their children, or children of biracial couples. (Did you ever think you’d hear of this level of attention to ancestry in the good old U.S. of A.?)  
Likewise with Hispanics. Partial Hispanic ancestry due to intermarriage may be all that is needed to claim affirmative action. As Hispanics or those with Hispanic ancestry rise in proportion to the overall population, we can expect a rise in their proportion in the entitlement pool as well.      
As Thomas Sowell has pointed out repeatedly, the people who benefit from affirmative action are usually people who would do well in any case, but are given that special boost into prestige slots just because of their race or ethnicity, and at the expense of a more deserving white person. It’s ugly, isn’t it, to have to talk this way. And it’s terribly unjust and a searing violation of American principles, but that’s where the U.S. has got itself to today, constitutionally and existentially committed to “diversity,” or group equality over fairness to the individual.  
What with their higher dropout rates and higher rates of illegitimacy, there is no reason to believe that Hispanics will make up their academic deficits as a group, regardless of individual progress, and every reason to believe that they will continue to demand and enjoy racial preferences.   
It is a mystery to me that Chavez, much of whose work I admire and who has written eloquently against affirmative action, ignores the fact that the immigration she favors can only increase the demand for the affirmative action she deplores.  And I suppose the same could be said of a number of conservatives. 

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