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More Cypress, Less Facebook

George Leef has a fine column in Forbes that discusses why it’s a bad thing if the federal government leans on corporations to have more “diversity” on their boards.  The whole discussion is excellent, but I especially liked this:

In May, 1996, Sister Doris Gormley wrote a letter to T.J. Rodgers, the founder and then-CEO of Cypress Semiconductor. She argued that Cypress ought to diversify its board by adding some women.

Replying to her, Rodgers wrote, “Choosing a Board of Directors based on race and gender is a lousy way to run a company. Cypress will never do it. Furthermore, we will never be pressured into it, because bowing to well-meaning, special-interest groups is an immoral way to run a company, given all the people it would hurt. We simply cannot allow arbitrary rules to be forced on us by organizations that lack business expertise.”

We need more companies like Cypress and fewer like Facebook — which, as I discussed a couple of weeks ago, is happy to engage in illegal “diversity” discrimination.

Thoughts on Georgetown’s Announcement – Lots of ink is being spilled on Georgetown University’s announcement last week that it will give preferential treatment in admissions (on the order of that given legacy applicants) to the descendants of slaves that Maryland Jesuits sold to Southern sugar plantations in 1838 in order to help pay off the school’s debts.  On this, a few observations.

My first reaction is to say that this makes a lot more sense than simply giving preferential treatment to all applicants of a particular skin color or national origin, as so many schools now do.  While, as I will discuss, there are serious policy problems with it, I see no legal objection. After all, this is not actually a racial preference, and most African Americans would not be eligible for Georgetown’s preference and, with intermarriage, it may even be that some of those eligible will self-identify as white.  It’s also more targeted to Georgetown’s specific wrong and its specific victims. 

But of course this preference won’t be instead of racial preferences at Georgetown: It will be in addition to them.

Second, and mark my words, it won’t take long for the other shoe to drop.  The argument will be made that all universities of that era benefited, directly or indirectly, from slavery, and that all black people suffer and continue to suffer, directly or indirectly, from slavery and/or Jim Crow and/or continuing “implicit bias” and/or microaggressions and/or on and on.  

And not just universities but individual wealth and corporations and governments and in fact the whole country was built by oppressing African Americans.  And so we should have not only across-the-board admissions and hiring and contracting racial preferences but also, ideally, reparations. After all, most of those suffering the effects of past and ongoing racial discrimination are not college applicants to Georgetown.  (You can read my testimony before Congress against reparations here.)

Third, the fit between the historical wrong and this particular remedy is not very good when you think about it.  That is, it’s pretty tough to show that there is a particular ill-effect being suffered by some slave descendant here in 2016, many generations and 178 years later, that is going to be appropriately remedied by the rather odd trinket of an admissions preference to Georgetown University.

To elaborate on this:  It’s hard to trace current circumstances, which will include both good and bad, back that far, and why is the best currency for paying any debt an admissions preference?  On this first point, there’s even the argument that maybe a particular descendant is, for whatever reason, actually better off for his ancestor having been sold off by those Maryland Jesuits — maybe the ancestor got freed sooner (Maryland was not covered by the Emancipation Proclamation), or ended up in a place where he was better off either before or after he was freed, who knows?  And, again, on the second point, why is the best currency for paying the debt an admissions preference — why shouldn’t Georgetown just write out a check to all the descendants, most of whom aren’t interested in going to school there?  Cheap grace.  (In fact, a friend points out to me that it’s even cheaper than that, since African American students already are likely to get more preferential treatment on the basis of race than they will get as quasi-legacy applicants!).

It’s all very symbolic and touchy-feely.  There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, but it shows its limitations as a model for others to follow.  Remember also the students who are better qualified (than the descendant-applicants) who now will not get in. College admissions is very much a zero-sum game, and that cost to innocent bystanders who might be of any color — along with all the other usual costs of preferences, like mismatch — has to be weighed. 

I know I have to be careful opposing a program not because of something inherently wrong with it but in large part because it will be twisted into something that is objectionable.  But the fact is that I don’t trust the motives of those who would have us obsess over America’s sad past of slavery. 

I worry that the idea is to keep white guilt alive, the better to advance an ideological agenda that is all about permanent division and identity politics, about making race relations raw rather than any genuine interest in continuing our nation’s remarkable progress.  It is insisted that there can be no healing without acknowledgment.  But this is dishonest, because it’s obvious that that there is plenty of acknowledgment.  What is wanted is obsession and skin-colored guilt and grievance, and that doesn’t heal.  Our historical failings shouldn’t be ignored or denied, but we should be looking forward more than backwards.