Just a few thoughts about

Just a few thoughts about the Derek Bok piece posted by Trunk below regarding the “diversity” argument in favor of race-based preferences. Most of what Bok says comes from a book he co-authored a few years ago called “The Shape of the River.” Abigail Thernsterm and her husband Steven wrote a glorious critique of the book that appeared in the UCLA Law Review, if I’m not mistaken. My hastily put-together observations do not do justice to the topic, but here they are anyway. First, Bok commits the same fallacy I discussed last night. He assumes that the diversity needed to confer the alleged benefits he cites requires racial preferences and, indeed, preferences of the magnitude under attack. This is doubtful and certainly should not be assumed. Second, as Trunk suggests, Bok also seems to assume that the fact that white students favor racial preferences at the schools they attend constitutes a meaningful argument in their favor. This is a curious argument on its face. One wonders, moreover, how these whites feel about racial discriminaton at the schools they were not accepted at. And one wonders to what extent the views of these students are the result of one-sided teaching by the institutions in question. Indeed, Bok’s piece suggests that race-based preferences are part of a broader project to indoctrinate law and medical students with certain views about society. How does Bok know the extent to which the project succeeds (if it really does) as a result of what the faculty teaches, as opposed to what students learn from other students? To speak more plainly, law students do not need blacks in the classroom to hear about how racist our society supposedly is (but if it’s so racist, why has it tolerated blatant preferences for blacks this long). And one suspects that law school professors have significantly more influence in this respect than black classmates. Third, one should hardly be surprised that the beneficiaries of the racial preferences are, on balance, happy to have received them. This is no way refutes the notion that preferences stigamatize the beneficiaries to some degree. It just means that the preferences have a big enough payoff to offset any stigma from the point of view of the beneficiaries. If anything, the large payoff makes the preferences more problematic. Finally, in the current environment, the existence of 30 large corporations that endorse racial preferences in the academy is not particularly impressive. I am surprised that the civil rights establishment has been unable to shake down a much larger number of corporations.


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