Affirmative Action Is An Elusive Remedy for Racial Justice

Brian Purnell SAVE THIS

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Race-based affirmative action in higher education is America’s zombie policy for justice. About once every decade since the 1970s, Americans think it is dead, killed by a court case, only to see it revived in a still-recognizable, but mutated form. In the latest case, a federal judge will decide if Harvard University’s admissions policy, which considers race to advance “diversity,” discriminates against Asian Americans. The case reveals how race-based affirmative action in college admissions, which promotes diversity and expands membership in the Black middle class, is the racial justice we have. Is this case the racial justice we need?

Defenders of race-based affirmative action have not shied away from criticizing it. Almost 30 years ago, legal scholar Stephen L. Carter decried that racial preferences in higher education admissions had become a way to promote “racial justice on the cheap.” In a New York Times opinion, Carter…

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