Regular readers know that I have ranted long and hard about the invidious ubiquitous non sequitur of regarding racial discrimination as no better or no worse than discrimination over athletic or musical ability or where your parents went to college. (If you want, see here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.)
Now Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post steps forward to reveal that he hasn’t learned my lesson:
Of course, the folks who seem most upset by affirmative action don’t seem terribly concerned about preferential treatment for children of alumni — how do you think Dubya got into Yale? — not to mention star quarterbacks.
Well, of course they’re not. Nor should they be. Star quarterbacks? The best put-down of this silly argument I’ve seen is from the eminent social scientist James Q. Wilson, who wrote that over the years the courts have walled off racial classifications as a “suspect category.”
In taking this approach, the Court has given practical effect to what somebody said on another occasion: we did not fight the Civil War to make sure the University of Mississippi would admit good quarterbacks, we fought it to make certain it would admit blacks. To say that racial and athletic classifications are similar or that one can reason from the latter to the former is foolish. No court has ever held, or is likely to hold, that being able to throw a football 60 yards (or to have a father who gave the school a million dollars) places you in a class whose rights are protected by the barrier of strict scrutiny. Of course, one could argue for making both race and athleticism the same, by getting the Court to say that race is no longer a suspect classification. But that would mean reversing 40 years of desegregation. [COMMENTARY, March 1998; also quoted in the first IUNS link above]