It was a mixed bag from the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday on affirmative action ("racial preferences," if you prefer). The big University of Michigan rulings came down in a somewhat Solomonic fashion: yes, race can be considered for admission to law school, but the automatic awarding of points to minority undergraduate applicants based merely on their ethnicity is no longer allowed.
Actually, I'm fine with this first ruling because I accept the fact that a law school is inherently oriented toward an elite portion of a school's student body; there is an expectation that candidates to a law school would be subject to a more rigorous and individualized assessment than those in the larger-scaled admissions process to the undergraduate program. Moreover, being elite, law schools have a special prerogative in maintaining their political, philosophical, and cultural identities. Perhaps I romanticize the claim to unique reputations that certain law schools have (having experience of none of them), but I can accept that certain law schools do, in fact, have these reputations and, therefore, may reserve the right to cultivate the kind of student bodies they wish to instruct.
The more broad-ranging and influential ruling now keeps schools like Michigan from rewarding undergraduate applicants for being black or Latino or whatever. Giving a middle-class black kid 20 points (on a 150-point scale) he needs to qualify for admission just because he is black is ridiculous when his white counterpart might be the one who hails from a lousy neighborhood with no ethnic-based scholarship or help from his parents to smoothe the way. It's simple racism. Minority parents, kids, and politicians aren't going to like it, but it does an unqualified black kid no good to admit him to a school where he doesn't belong just to see him drop out after a harried semester or two.
Here's the deal, folks: I taught a year in a middle school in Los Angeles. Small experience, you may say (although, if you've never even taught a day, you may not), but look at who my kids were. All but one or two were black, Latino, Filipino, Vietnamese, etc. I had some magnificently talented and bright children (whose names I fairly expect to hear again some day) and I know that they can compete with any kid anywhere. That's a fact in your Library of Congress. Some of my kids will be in the very top few percentiles of their senior high classes. They will find a way to pay for their college and to succeed wildly. But it all has to do with the way they are being raised and prepared now. Some of my kids' parents are going to be involved with their educations like crazy; some are going to be abandoned to the wolves ---and it makes me cringe. But the ones who show the promise and who exhibit the character in their teens are going to make it. They will. They don't need some pencil pusher in Ann Arbor to pity them or make an exception for them: they already are the exception. They will succeed because so many more will not. You can't, as Sgt. Hartman might say, "miracle" their asses over that obstacle; they have to do it for themselves. If they have the ability, they will; if they don't, they shouldn't be there, anyway.
You know the difference between the damned and the elect? Free will. It's a lie that we are pre-ordained by external forces to be what we are; the real choice has always been for each of us to make for ourselves. Aware of that, you strive; unaware, you moulder away. But that's nothing harsh: an active conscience is some evidence of election, but you can still wilfully betray it by ignoring its dictates. Someone wholly ignorant of those dictates and lives conscienceless is, therefore, damned.