After the recent Supreme Court ruling that upheld the right of citizens in a state to ban race preferences in college admissions, there has been much legal discussion surrounding affirmative action. However, there hasn’t been enough discussion of the sociopolitical framing of the affirmative action debate. While affirmative action was a necessity in days of yore at the very height of institutionalized discrimination, the policy presently does significantly more harm than good for black Americans. Affirmative action has been a powerful mobilizing force for white supremacist groups. In the informative book of interviews with white nationalists called Contemporary Voices of White Nationalism in America, Reno Wolfe, leader of the hate group National Association for the Advancement of White People (NAAWP), points out that the NAAWP was formed primarily because of affirmative action for blacks. Additionally, affirmative action has become a talking point that is used to put a condescending question mark on all the achievements of blacks. This can be seen by looking at the treatment of President Obama. White supremacists ignore the inconvenient fact that Obama graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School; rather, they strenuously maintain that he was a beneficiary of affirmative action who did not deserve his spot in the first place. Another argument is that affirmative action leads to higher dropout rates due to academic mismatch, which would not occur if people are put in colleges and universities that best match their skills and test scores.
Opposing affirmative action is often incorrectly viewed as solely a conservative argument, but people who read widely and carefully understand that there are also non-ideological and liberal arguments for opposing affirmative action. After Thomas Sowell popularized the term ‘mismatch’ with respect to affirmative action admissions, the most recent and prominent proponents of the ‘mismatch’ argument are Richard Sander, a liberal economist and law professor, and Stuart Taylor, Jr.—also a liberal writer. More intriguingly, in her widely celebrated book on currently existing racial disparities in the criminal justice system called The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, liberal law professor Michelle Alexander argues against affirmative action as a policy. She writes:
Racial justice advocates should consider, with a degree of candor that has not yet been evident, whether affirmative action—as it has been framed and defended during the past thirty years—has functioned more like a racial bribe than a tool of racial justice.
Clearly, there are many creative and valid arguments that scholars of various ideological stripes have posited in opposition to affirmative action. It is simply wrongheaded to assume that the only arguments against affirmative action come from the right side of the American political divide.
Unlike the mainstream conservatives who only oppose affirmative action when the recipients are non-white, I oppose affirmative action with no caveats about the recipients. Mainstream conservatives largely oppose affirmative action when they can make the sophistical white nationalist case that it harms whites. In point of fact, many mainstream conservatives would struggle to conceive of affirmative action in any other way than undeserving minorities taking the spots of deserving whites—except when they occasionally throw Asians into the mix to “prove their argument isn’t based on racism.” The sociopolitical debate regarding affirmative action is framed in such a way that it is ludicrously seen as a phenomenon that only benefits ethnic minorities. If one is opposed to affirmative action for reasons of equality, there are a smorgasbord of social preferences that must be addressed and eradicated. The fact that there is no uproar about many other preferences that whites have been the beneficiaries of demonstrates the tendentious framing of the affirmative action debate.