In the immediate aftermath of the momentous and disappointingly muddled decisions by the Supreme Court in the two University of Michigan affirmative action cases, I had in mind an essay summarizing my thoughts, particularly on the resulting tragic enshrinement of race-based “diversity” as a compelling public interest overriding the 14th Amendment. However, here I have set aside my own thoughts, which I have previously expressed on several occasions (“The God Of Diversity”, March 2001, “Affirmative Action Update”, September 2001, “When Will They Get The Message?”, January 2002, “The SAT, Diversity, And Cultural Literacy”, April 2002, and “On Affirmative Action And Misplaced Priorities”, February 2003), in lieu of those of Diana J. Schaub from a recent issue of “Academic Questions”, on which I cannot improve:
“When affirmative action was adopted more than a generation ago, it was widely understood to be a violation of the fundamental principle of color blindness. It was justified as a temporary expedient to reverse the effects of discrimination and exclusion. In other words, it was thought to be a necessary evil—desirable in the circumstances, but not desirable in and of itself. However, privilege and preference, once established, are not readily relinquished. To make the policy permanent a new rationale was needed: hence the call for “diversity”, which makes race-consciousness a positive good. “Diversity” dismisses the old standard of color-blindness, declaring it not only impossible, but undesirable. This movement from affirmative action to diversity parallels the transformation in antebellum thought which began by grudgingly recognizing slavery as a necessary evil and ended by hailing it as a positive good (the better to maintain race-based privileges). I don’t mean to suggest that the injustice of quotas is on a par with the injustice of slavery but I do mean to say that the doctrine of the equality of rights-bearing individuals would condemn both. It makes no difference which group—white or black, majority or minority—is arguing for (or being benefited by) the permanence of race-based preferences. If it were understood that the genealogy of the “diversity” argument owes more to (John C.) Calhoun, who pioneered the shift from the constitutional protection of individual rights to group rights, than to the Declaration of Independence’s assertion of natural human equality, then the generous lip-service paid to the notion might become less fashionable.”
Unfortunately, we are now faced with the reality that “diversity”, along with “tolerance”, both improperly understood under currently politically correct definitions, have become our twin civil religions, firmly embedded in our civic, educational, business, and cultural institutions and, thanks to the imperial judiciary, in our jurisprudence.