Yale can’t discriminate against Jews and Asians and expect taxpayer money
A friend notes that at his Long Island high school, where most of the top students were Jews, several of them applied to Harvard as teens. The ones with Jewish-sounding surnames did not get in. My friend, who is Jewish but whose last name is Smith (no relation to me), got in. So did several others with non-Jewish-sounding surnames.
Talking about race is a bore and a chore because it’s cloaked in so much euphemism and misdirection, not to mention hair-trigger sensitivity and hysterical cries that “You’re racist,” but everyone knows Yale, Harvard and all of the other fancy private colleges discriminate heavily against Asians and Jews in favor of blacks and Latinos. They brag about it, via euphemisms. Non-Jewish whites are somewhere in the middle; working-class whites are all but shut out, but lots of white children of elites are admitted to these schools, and always have been.
A Justice Department finding released this week merely restated the obvious, then did something not-so-obvious: It said this practice is wrong. It ordered Yale to stop discriminating on the basis of race. Yale refused and we’re headed for a legal battle that could well end up in the Supreme Court (although a Biden administration would presumably direct the Justice Department to drop the case).
There is a pretty solid reason for colleges not to discriminate on the basis of race: It’s called the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which could hardly be more clear: “No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Yale and Harvard and the other fancy colleges could discriminate as much as they want, if they stopped accepting federal funding. They want it both ways.
The language of the Civil Rights Act is rarely quoted in the media today because it is race-neutral and today’s liberals are race-obsessed. If blacks have an equal shot at success, but few of them pass a given test, this is unsatisfactory. Instead, liberals want quotas to assure blacks are present in every institution. The way the liberal imagination has swiveled from fairness toward all to heavy tipping of the scales in favor of blacks is evident in, for instance, the matter of screens at classical-music auditions. When two black musicians complained that the New York Philharmonic shut them out on the basis of race in 1969, the classical-music world began using blind auditions, with screens hiding the musician from the judge. The orchestras filled up not with blacks but with Asians. The number of women accepted into orchestras skyrocketed, too. But a 2014 survey found only 1.4 percent of classical musicians were black.
“The status quo is not working,” declares Anthony Tommasini, the dean of classical-music criticism, in the Times. So the Times is leading calls to get rid of the screens and use race and gender quotas, which is what “committing to a diverse workforce” means. One of America’s last remaining pure meritocracies is about to crumble. (The sturdiest meritocracy is professional sports, where no one cares about anything but the numbers you put on the scoreboard, and blacks are well-represented.)
Racial preferences for some, hence racial discrimination against others, will not end at places such as Yale and Harvard until the Supreme Court stops pretending the Civil Rights Act means the opposite of what it clearly states. Will that ever happen? I’m not holding my breath. John Roberts’ judicial philosophy appears to be, “Don’t do anything that will make liberals angry,” and he knows this would make them blow their stack like Mount Vesuvius.
Kyle Smith is critic-at-large for National Review
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