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SAN DIEGO Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, discussing the indictment of Donald Trump for allegedly mishandling government documents, recently insisted that the only informed opinions were those of former Justice Department lawyers with security clearances who have handled classified material.
Now that the Supreme Court is primed to strike down colleges and universities practice of taking race into account in admissions, Im following Hewitts lead.
There cant be two sets of rules, one for white males and another for the rest of us. Latinos and African Americans will always be at a disadvantage, and white males will get a head start.
The most informed opinions on affirmative action dont come from people with a grievance or an ax to grind. You want to hear from what some people call affirmative action babies. These are the Black and brown folks who attended predominantly white colleges or universities. Those in the first wave who entered college in the 1960s or 70s no doubt benefited from affirmative action. But, by the 80s and 90s, these communities were producing enough high-achieving students who got in on their merits that schools didnt have to lower standards to achieve diversity. Even so, these people had their qualifications challenged. Ive heard dozens of stories.
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These are the real experts on affirmative action. They know what it is and what it isnt. Theyve experienced racism, as well as the prejudice baked into a policy that was supposed to remedy the vestiges of racism. And if there are victims in all this, they know exactly who is and isnt being victimized.
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I consider myself a member of this club, even though Im convinced that I did not benefit from affirmative action. As a Mexican American with two Harvard degrees, I wrote the book on the experience of being nonwhite at a mostly white university literally.
The memoir I wrote about my college years begins in my senior year of high school. Thats when white classmates with grades and SAT scores that werent as good as mine informed me that if I hadnt been Mexican, I wouldnt have been accepted to Harvard and other elite universities. Never mind that I was carrying five Advanced Placement classes and would eventually graduate with a 4.0 GPA. All my friends saw was the color of my skin.
The experience inspired me to write my senior term paper on preferential treatment in college admissions, making this topic the one that Ive studied, and written about, longer than any other.
Now that the Supreme Court in a pair of cases, Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard College, and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina is primed to ban colleges and universities from taking race and ethnicity into account in admissions, Im sure of three things:
Created by a 1961 executive order from President John F. Kennedy, affirmative action gave opportunities to earlier generations of Latinos and African Americans who had suffered discrimination. It allowed people like my father who spent 37 years scratching out a career in law enforcement to break into professions that were determined to keep them out. My kids, who were raised in the suburbs by parents with masters degrees, should not be saddled with it.
Claims that affirmative action is really reverse discrimination will always get eye rolls from Latinos and African Americans who live in the real world and can count. In the Harvard case, plaintiffs essentially argued that the school keeps out Asian Americans. In the Class of 2027, Harvard accepted a record share of Asian American applicants: 29.9%. The undergraduate student body is more than 20% Asian and about 37% White. Is this the definition of discrimination?
Im not worried about affirmative action ending. Im now ambivalent about a program that doesnt work as advertised. Colleges and universities skim the cream and admit high-achieving Latinos and African Americans who would probably be accepted anyway. Meanwhile, severe inequalities at the K-12 level are never remedied.
Im not going to beg conservatives to keep affirmative action any more than Id bend the knee and thank liberals for helping deliver it.
For Latinos and African Americans, the road to college has always been bumpy. Weve had to work twice as hard to get half the credit. What would a world without affirmative action look like? Probably a lot like it does now.
Ruben Navarrette