What to do about affirmative action? Learn from the unstoppable Dominique Mejia.By Jay Mathews
Many legal experts think the U.S. Supreme Court will soon tell Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that they can no longer use race as a factor in admissions. Such a ruling would apply to any college getting federal support — virtually all of them.
It’s uncertain what would happen then. I have spent many years watching great teachers prepare low-income Black and Hispanic students for college. College admissions officers will still be able to give them preference because the Constitution does not ban affirmative action for people who have suffered from poverty or other misfortunes. That means low-income kids might be hurt less than middle-class Hispanic and Black children, but that’s just my guess.
The long struggle over racial preferences in California, where I was born and now live, provides some insights. In 2020 the Golden State voted on Proposition 16, which would have reversed a ban on affirmative action in college admissions passed in 1996.
Proponents thought Prop 16 had a good chance because of a decline in the percentage of White and Republican voters, who tend to oppose such advantages for minorities. But Prop 16 lost 57 percent to 43 percent, an even wider margin than the 55 percent to 45 percent by which the state banned affirmative action 24 years earlier.
Many experts on the “yes” side in 2020 blamed the defeat on Prop 16’s complicated language and a failure to educate voters on its benefits. I think a more likely reason is the changes, sparked in part by good teaching, that have come in university admissions since California voters last banned racial preferences.
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