Phi Beta Cons

Interesting E-mail Exchange

PBC readers might be interested in this email exchange I had over the weekend.  Here’s the initial e-mail I received:

If you have time to respond with advice or opinion, it would be great. My son and his very good female friend have attended the same small Christian elementary school & high school. Their academic qualifications are nearly identical — top 2 students in their classes, same level of leadership & extracurricular activities, both with SAT scores 2100 or above, straight A honors students, he is president of the NHS Chapter, she of the Student Council. They live in the same town, have gone to the same schools with the same teachers, same friends, same books, same classes, etc. etc. They were in theater together at school, in band together, on the same track & soccer teams. They are both middle class. They applied to many of the same colleges & were interviewed by the same alumni for Harvard & Princeton. My son’s friend’s father is African American. She was accepted at every elite school that she applied to — Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Georgetown & other Tier 1 schools. My son was not accepted at any of the elite schools that he applied to, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Pomona, Middlebury, Williams, Amherst and Bowdoin.

What strikes me about this case is the illustration that if Affirmative Action is designed to promote diversity, these 2 students in fact are about as identical as you can get. The only difference between them is a modest difference in skin color, and a check box on their college applications identifying their racial heritage.

Both students are victimized by a system purely concerned with race, in my opinion, to some degree. I’m not sure if this case would be useful to pursue or not, in the interests of changing our society for the better. I’m at a loss to explain the tremendous disparity in experiences between my son & his friend in any way that does not purely revolve around skin color.

Thanks for your thoughts and time.

Disappointed Dad

I responded:

Thank you very much for your thoughtful email, D.D.  The willingness of the Supreme Court to allow the use of racial preferences makes this sort of discrimination predictable, even though it is not only unjust but nonsensical, for exactly the reasons you so cogently explain.  Alas, it is hard to challenge this discrimination in court until the Supreme Court’s 2003 decision in Grutter is overturned — as the Center for Equal Opportunity and others are urging the Court to do in the now-pending Fisher case.

In the meantime, however, I think it would be valuable for people — who knows, it might even include a Justice and/or one of his/her clerks — to read this dramatic example of what the Court hath wrought.  Would it be all right for me to post your email on National Review Online (removing your name, of course)?

In any event, thanks again for your email, and here’s hoping the Court does the right thing in Fisher!

And here’s my correspondent’s answer:

Thanks very much for the quick response. It would be fine if you wish to post this example. I’ll be watching the Fisher case as well. I must say that my assessment of our society is not the same as it was 24 hours ago, and I’m at a loss to explain to my children why 2 close friends can have such disparate opportunities in our “Land of Opportunity”, or how to make any sense of it. I have paid for the college educations of 3 truly disadvantaged people, and I appreciate the good intentions of Affirmative Action, but this situation makes no sense to me.

Thanks again.

D.D.

p.s. You could add that my son was voted “Homecoming King”, and his friend “Homecoming Queen” — their parallel achievements, opportunities, recognitions and friendships make any notion that diversity is enhanced by preferential treatment of either of them absurd. My son is diverse in his own right — tri-lingual (English/French/Spanish) and a dual-citizen (French/American).

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