NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 22, 2004

Harvard University is coming under fire for admitting more blacks from wealthier backgrounds than those who are descendants of slaves. Currently, there are about 520 black Harvard undergraduate students, representing about 8 percent of the total student body. Their origins, critics contend, are far from equal:

  • About two-thirds of its black students are West Indian and African immigrants or their children, or children of biracial couples.
  • The remaining share, roughly a third of all blacks, come from families in which all four grandparents were born in the United States, descendants of slaves.

This latter group, notes Jesse Jackson and others, has been disadvantaged by segregation and racism while the former group was not. He asserts that blacks descending from slaves were intended as the principal beneficiaries of affirmative action and thus universities must give added weight to the African-American experience.

The Claremont Institute says this is a natural progression of how affirmative action laws have been interpreted and enforced. Over time, in part to diffuse political and legal objections over state-sponsored discrimination, the primary justification for affirmative action has shifted to the benefits of campus diversity.

Campus diversity, supporters of affirmative action say, provides students with a better education by exposing them to different viewpoints and backgrounds. Ironically, many of these same supporters are now in the awkward position of arguing immigrants and biracial kids diminish diversity, while students descended from slaves enhance it.

Source: William Voegeli, "The Perversity of Diversity," Claremont Institute, August 17, 2004.


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