Monday, April 12, 2004

AFFIRMATIVE ACTION: THE PROBLEM WITH BOURGEOIS LIBERALS


The NYT Magazine had this good piece on Sunday:

The real value of diversity is not primarily in the contribution it makes to students' self-esteem. Its real value is in the contribution it makes to the collective fantasy that institutions ranging from U.I.C. to Harvard are meritocracies that reward individuals for their own efforts and abilities -- as opposed to rewarding them for the advantages of their birth. For if we find that the students at an elite university like Harvard or Yale are almost as diverse as the students at U.I.C., then we know that no student is being kept from a Harvard because of his or her culture. And white students can understand themselves to be there on merit because they didn't get there at the expense of black people...In the end, we like policies like affirmative action not so much because they solve the problem of racism but because they tell us that racism is the problem we need to solve. And the reason we like the problem of racism is that solving it just requires us to give up our prejudices, whereas solving the problem of economic inequality might require something more -- it might require us to give up our money. It's not surprising that universities of the upper middle class should want their students to feel comfortable. What is surprising is that diversity should have become the hallmark of liberalism.

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