NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Victimization As A Substitute For Race

August 6, 2002

Now that California's Proposition 209 has outlawed racial preferences in admissions, critics say the University of California system has adopted a new doctrine supporters think will accomplish much the same thing: preferences for students who have faced "hardships."

  • This supposedly "race neutral" policy gives extra points to applicants who have suffered from family strife, were saddled with the care of younger siblings, experienced emotional problems or had to muddle through in other ways.
  • Lucky students who have led a charmed life and who carry with them glowing academic credentials are more likely to find themselves applying in vain to the best schools in the California system as space is cleared for the less fortunate.
  • Critics call this policy new wine in old bottles, and an attempt to resurrect racial preferences under the guise of compassion.
  • Observers report that outlawing racial preferences did not so much bar black and Latino students from the UC system as reshuffle them.

Their numbers fell at flagship campuses such as Berkeley and UC Los Angeles -- which have the very highest academic standards -- but rose at UC Santa Barbara and San Diego, campuses that are far from being academic slouches.

Critics charge that the policy assumes that minority students, except for Asians, have a tougher life than everyone else -- and that such an assumption, in itself, is a form of racism.

Source: John McWhorter, "It Shouldn't Be Good to Have It Bad," Washington Post, August 4, 2002.


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