The Supreme Court has ruled that race-based affirmative action is unconstitutional. As could be expected, the caterwauling from the mainstream media was immediate and voluminous. At MSNBC, I found a stellar example of what promises to be a mother lode of dishonest and uninformed commentary on the topic.
On her show The Reid Out, Joy Reid started her segment on the case by visually feigning being in fear for her very life as she talked lugubriously of the “bitter fruit” these “conservative justices have forced down our throats.”
Reid’s guests on the segment were two pro-affirmative action students and Vanderbilt professor Michael Eric Dyson. The outcome was predictably absurd, but it does serve as a microcosm for the media’s reaction to this Supreme Court decision.
Dyson’s response to the decision was to suggest straightforwardly that colleges should continue to use race as an aspect of admissions decisions. He proposes schools consider “race as merit.” In other words, according to Dyson, simply being black should be nakedly asserted as an advantage in the business of what the university does, which is produce knowledge. He gives no argument to support this belief.
Dyson also accuses Justice Thomas of “a lethal and malignant black self-hatred” and of “kill[ing] black people metaphorically.”
What is the source of this “black self-hatred”?
It’s that Thomas is uninterested in treating blacks like permanent invalids who cannot be required to compete for positions according to the same metric required of others. Dyson, on the other hand, presents himself as a lover of black people because he believes they are incapable of doing this.
Dyson then goes on to attack Thomas in ad hominem terms, pointing to Thomas’ supposed “mediocrity” and calling him intellectually inferior. He makes much of the fact that Thomas benefited from affirmative action, insinuating that Thomas didn’t have the intellectual chops to get in on merit.
Let’s pause there a minute for effect.
That’s right. Michael Eric Dyson is on Joy Reid’s show admitting that he apparently believes that students admitted on race-based affirmative action criteria are—in at least some cases—intellectually inferior to others admitted on academic-based criteria. And indeed, he believes that some of them, including Justice Thomas, are mediocrities.
The MSNBC segment floated various other prevarications common among pro-affirmative action activists. For example, Joy Reid cites “friend of the show” Michael Harriot, a writer at TheGrio, who claims that “employee families” receive admission preferences that are comparable to affirmative action.
This claim is false. I am an employee of a higher education institution, and I have a child who will be entering college in another year. My employer, like many other universities, offers its employees a tuition benefit for use with our children as part of our employment package. But this applies only if my child gains admission based on merit. It cannot provide any help to employees’ children who do not have the academic qualifications to be admitted to the school.
Affirmative action, on the other hand, adds racial identity to admission requirements in such a way as to drop the minimum academic performance needed to gain admission. Indeed, by eliminating standardized test scores in admissions in order to give underqualified minority applicants a boost, many schools have already started making it unnecessary to use the now-unavailable affirmative action rubric.
Everyone who understands how higher ed has used race-based affirmative action easily understands this issue. Beneficiaries of race-based affirmative action in higher education are typically academic underachievers compared to their peers, both in their qualifications before attending and in their performance once admitted. But the kind of mendacious rhetorical moves displayed in this segment of Reid’s program play well with the part of the American public that cannot be bothered to know the facts.
None of these facts are hard to understand. But with professors like Dyson and media figures like Reid around to miseducate them, is it any wonder activist students do not know much about affirmative action?
It is a wonderful thing that this egregiously anti-intellectual policy has been determined unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. We may now tentatively hope for a future world of higher education in which more students, graduates, and faculty alike are judged by their merit and accomplishments.
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