Phi Beta Cons

Law & the Courts

Opposing Discrimination Is Not Selfish

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an interview with sociology professor Jennifer Lee about Asian American students and, in particular, the stereotyping of them.  She is also asked about the recent complaint filed against Harvard’s racially preferential admissions policy by a number of Asian American groups, and the fact that other Asian American groups support that policy.  I didn’t like her response, and posted this comment:

Her answer to the penultimate question suggests that individuals support or oppose racial preferences based largely on whether or not those preferences will benefit them personally. I certainly hope that this is not true, for Asian Americans or any other group. If it had been true fifty years ago, the Civil Rights movement would have failed; it could not have prevailed without a majority of white Americans viewing discrimination against African Americans as morally wrong and opposing it for that reason, regardless of their own interests.

Likewise, racial preferences in university admissions should be ended principally for the same reason, and that reason ought to be appealing to all of us, regardless of color. There are certainly many other reasons to oppose this discrimination, and many of them are also extremely powerful, but the moral one — that it is wrong to treat people differently because of skin color or what country their ancestors came from — should always come first.

I should add that the second paragraph of her answer, in which she suggests that it is somehow selfish for people not to want to be discriminated against, is baffling. It is not selfish to oppose racial discrimination against one’s children; indeed, it is much more selfish to support racial preferences for one’s children.

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