Center for Equal Opportunity

The nation’s only conservative think tank devoted to issues of race and ethnicity.


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Center for Equal Opportunity at the Heritage Foundation

On Thursday this week, December 14, Center for Equal Opportunity research fellow Althea Nagai, along with CEO president and general counsel Roger Clegg (that’s me) and the Manhattan Institute’s Heather Mac Donald, will appear on a panel at the Heritage Foundation.  The occasion is the publication of a new paper by Dr. Nagai on the topic of “unconscious bias.”  The panel discussion is on “Why Claims of Unconscious Racism Fall Flat: Debunking the Implicit Association Test.”

To elaborate:  Psychologists have developed a test that purports to uncover unconscious racism. Supposedly tapping into the subconscious, the Implicit Association Test (IAT) measures disparities in millisecond response times on a computer.  This test, and claims of widespread unconscious racism generally, have of course become commonplace on the Left in recent years.

While it has been hailed as “proof” of deeply seeded racism in American society, policymakers should consider the growing body of research suggesting the test cannot predict real-world behavior before enacting policies to counterbalance so-called unconscious bias. Academia, police departments, and corporate America are seeking to root out unconscious racism, and the IAT has started popping up in employment discrimination lawsuits.

So join us, in person or on the Internet, for a discussion with the panel in looking at problems with the IAT and why policymakers and employers should think twice before embracing these dubious claims of racism.  Here’s a link where you can RSVP or livestream the event.

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“Disparate Impact” in the News – The two worst ways the civil-rights laws have been twisted over the years are: (1) allowing, and even requiring, politically correct preferential treatment on the basis of race, ethnicity, and sex (even though such discrimination is actually prohibited by the texts of the relevant laws); and (2) prohibiting actions that are not actually discrimination at all, but the neutral application of neutrally defined and neutrally intended standards that happen to have a statistically disproportionate result (this is also commonly done without a statutory basis).

On the first point, the Trump administration appears to be off to a good start, with its aggressive investigation of “affirmative action” in student admissions to Harvard. Like many selective schools, Harvard gives racial preferences to African Americans and Latinos over whites and Asian Americans. What’s more, the Justice Department this week filed a brief opposing a politically correct but racially exclusive election in Guam.

And there are good signs now on the second point, too. This “disparate impact” approach to civil-rights enforcement was much beloved by the Obama administration, but recent news stories suggest that the Trump administration may be rethinking it, in the context of school discipline and home insurance in particular. Threatening to sue people if they don’t get their numbers right is just another way to create pressure for racial quotas. Recommended reading on the topic by yours truly can be found here and here.

Really, when you think about it, the way forward from identity politics is to stop race-based decision-making of any kind. We’re all Americans, E pluribus unum, and all that. And this means no more racial preferences or “disparate impact” civil-rights enforcement.

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The Royal Box – Royal-to-be   Meghan Markle has gotten a positive reaction to this video she posted that discusses her biracial background. The climax comes when as a student she is confronted with a form that requires her to choose between checking “black” or “white,” and she decides to do neither. That night, her father vindicates her refusal to pick one or the other, telling her from now on to “draw [her] own box.”

I like that, too. And the problem isn’t that there aren’t enough boxes to choose from, but that we are asked to check these boxes at all, on college applications, employment forms, you name it. We should each have our own box, each labeled “American” — which is to say that we need no boxes at all.

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Finally, I thought I’d share with you this letter we sent to the relevant U.S. Senate Committee regarding the nomination of Kenneth Marcus, a long-time friend of CEO and the nominee to head the Education Department’s very important Office for Civil Rights:
Senator Lamar Alexander
Senator Patty Murray
Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions

December 1, 2017

Dear Senators Alexander and Murray,

I am writing on behalf of the Center for Equal Opportunity to express our unqualified support for the nomination of Kenneth L. Marcus to be Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education.  The Center for Equal Opportunity is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational organization that focuses on issues involving race and ethnicity, including civil-rights enforcement.

It is hard to imagine how anyone could be better qualified than Ken Marcus to be the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the Education Department.  Begin with the obvious fact that Mr. Marcus has already held that position in the acting capacity during the George W. Bush administration and did an outstanding job.  He has also served elsewhere in the government in civil-rights positions, at the Department of Housing and Urban Development and as staff director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. 
He was a lawyer in private practice and is a thoughtful scholar as well, teaching at the City University of New York's Baruch College School of Public Affairs, and authoring two books (one published by Oxford University Press and the other by Cambridge University Press). 

And he founded and currently heads the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Center for Human Rights under Law, which is devoted to fighting anti-Semitism and other prejudice on our college campuses. 
He is an outstanding choice to enforce the civil rights of all individuals in the nation's educational system.

On a personal note, I have worked with Ken on civil-rights issues continually since 2001.  I have never met anyone more serious, reflective, judicious, fair-minded,  and even-handed than Ken, in addition to no one with a better grasp of the civil-rights issues that he will face in his new job.

Thank you very much for your consideration of our views.

Roger Clegg
President and General Counsel
Center for Equal Opportunity