Preferentialists: Hoisted On Their Own Pétard!

According to a fascinating front page article in today’s New York Times, it has begun to dawn on Lani Guinier, Henry Louis Gates Jr., and other preferentialists at Harvard and elsewhere that you’d better be very careful what you subsidize, for you’ll certainly get more of it … and it may not be exactly what you had in mind.

One of the dirty little secrets of racial preferences, now beginning to leak out, is not only that most of the beneficiaries are middle class or actually rich — that has been known if not advertised for a good while — but that most are not even American, or if they are American they are of very recent origin. 8 percent of the undergraduates at Harvard are black (still “underrepresented,” says Guinier), but “the majority of them — perhaps as many as two-thirds — were West Indian and African immigrants or their children, or to a lesser extent, children of biracial couples.” Moreover,

Researchers at Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania who have been studying the achievement of minority students at 28 selective colleges and universities (including theirs, as well as Yale, Columbia, Duke and the University of California at Berkeley), found that 41 percent of the black students identified themselves as immigrants, as children of immigrants or as mixed race. [Editorial Aside: Has the NYT lost its copy editors? The comma after “… Berkeley)” should not be there. If the Times were not as foolishly opposed to the serial comma as it is to President Bush, it should be after “Duke.”]

For many preferentialists, subsidizing dark foreigners is not at all what they had in mind. Gates himself has taken a scholarly if quizzical stance:

“I just want people to be honest enough to talk about it,” Professor Gates, the Yale-educated son of a West Virginia paper-mill worker, said recently, reiterating the questions he has been raising since the black alumni weekend last fall. “What are the implications of this?”

Others know what the implication is, and they don’t like it.

The president of Amherst College, Anthony W. Marx, says that colleges should care about the ethnicity of black students because in overlooking those with predominantly American roots, colleges are missing an “opportunity to correct a past injustice” and depriving their campuses “of voices that are particular to being African-American, with all the historical disadvantages that that entails.”

Do you think President Marx doesn’t know that the Supreme Court has ruled out correcting past injustices as a justification for engaging in racial preference, or that he simply doesn’t care? Does “diversity” at Amherst consist entirely of being exposed to the voices of the historically disadvantaged?

In any event, other preferentialists do not think the “underrepresentation” of American blacks is a problem.

Even among black scholars there is disagreement on whether a discussion about the origins of black students is helpful. Orlando Patterson, a Harvard sociologist and West Indian native, said he wished others would “let sleeping dogs lie.”

“The doors are wide open – as wide open as they ever will be – for native-born black middle-class kids to enter elite colleges,” he wrote in an e-mail message.

I’m confused. I thought Prof. Patterson supported racial preferences, which require lowering admission requirements for blacks. But here he seems to be saying that, at least among blacks (whoever they are), merit should prevail.

Oh well, I suspect I’m not the only one who is confused. Lee Bollinger, for example, seems to me to be almost schizophrenic on this issue.

“I don’t think it [nationality] should matter for purposes of admissions in higher education,” said Lee C. Bollinger, the president of Columbia University, who as president of the University of Michigan fiercely defended its use of affirmative action. “The issue is not origin, but social practices. It matters in American society whether you grow up black or white. It’s that differential effect that really is the basis for affirmative action.”

Bollinger seems really confused, since these foreign students, of course, don’t grow up in American society. Oh well, perhaps the Times is simply wrong. This couldn’t be the same Lee Bollinger who used to argue that the basis of affirmative action was “diversity,” without which, he consistently maintained, the university as we know it would simply cease to exist. “Diversity,” he always used to insist (as, for example, here) is “as essential as the study of the Middle Ages, of international politics and of Shakespeare….”

And what, pray tell, is that “differential effect” of growing up black in the U.S. that this new Bollinger thinks is “the basis” for affirmative action? He doesn’t say, but others are not so reticent.

Mary C. Waters, the chairman of the sociology department at Harvard, who has studied West Indian immigrants, says they are initially more successful than many African-Americans for a number of reasons. Since they come from majority-black countries, they are less psychologically handicapped by the stigma of race. In addition, many arrive with higher levels of education and professional experience. And at first, they encounter less discrimination.

So, there we have it. American blacks are so “psychologically handicapped” by the presumably internalized stigma of being black that they must be benevolently handed the crutch of racial preferences. I would like to think that if I had friends like this I would begin to rethink my friendship patterns.

“You need a philosophical discussion about what are the aims of affirmative action,” Professor Waters continued. I would be tempted to ask where she has been, but then she’s been at Harvard. Has Harvard really not had such a discussion, or has she simply been unaware of it? In any event, here’s her dramatic philosophical contribution:

If it’s about getting black faces at Harvard, then you’re doing fine. If it’s about making up for 200 to 500 years of slavery in this country and its aftermath, then you’re not doing well. And if it’s about having diversity that includes African-Americans from the South or from inner-city high schools, then you’re not doing well, either.

Well of course. If you give preferences to “black faces,” what you get is “black faces.” Why should anyone be surprised? I would say that’s Harvard for you, but that same surprising surprise seems to be prevalent across preferentialdom.

But maybe there are seeds of progress in that surprise. Maybe some among the preferentialists will finally stumble upon the perception, trying so hard now to sprout through the layers of rhetorical muck that have been so thickly spread for the past generation, that race is not a valid or even reliable proxy for diversity.

Say What? (44)

  1. bonehead June 24, 2004 at 4:01 pm | | Reply


    You wrote: “Maybe some among the preferentialists will finally stumble upon the perception, trying so hard now to sprout through the layers of rhetorical muck that have been so thickly spread for the past generation, that race is not a valid or even reliable proxy for diversity.”

    Sorry, don’t count on it. I work at a large university, in a position where one of my major duties is to respond to a constant barrage of requests for statistics on the ethnic demography of the faculty. The amount of time and energy devoted to hand-wringing and fretting over the racial and gender composition of the faculty, in isolation from all other factors, is already appalling enough as it is.

    But now, some members of the more-or-less self-appointed, self-perpetuating faculty sub-committee on “diversity and outreach” are starting to make noises about how it’s not enough to be able to demonstrate, for example, that we have an outstanding record of hiring and retention of ‘Hispanic’ faculty. They’re convinced that it’s vitally important for us to be able to demonstrate that we have the right numbers of Hispanic faculty of Mexican national origin, separate and distinct from native-born Hispanics and Hispanics of other nationalities.

    Strange, but they never seem to be concerned about the population of, say, White faculty of Turkish or Lebanese origin, or Asian faculty of non-Chinese, non-Indian origin. And it certainly never seems to occur to them to consider that there might be anything the least bit racist about any of this racial sorting in the first place.

    Remember how many racial subcategories were available on the 2000 census forms? That was just the beginning. Trust me, this kind of minute racial sorting *is* the wave of the future for the diversity and multiculturalism crowd. They have to go in this direction or they lose their reason for existing.

  2. do June 24, 2004 at 6:29 pm | | Reply

    I’ve recently posted on the same NYT piece. I suggest that conflict was inevitable once diversity’s enemy number one — resentful whites angry over being “disfavored” — had been vanquished. Now that the Left has won a mandate for preferences, its various elements will realize that their coalition in favor of preferences, apart from sharing a common enemy, had little in common. And that coalition will begin to devour itself.

  3. Laura June 24, 2004 at 7:24 pm | | Reply

    “Since they come from majority-black countries, they are less psychologically handicapped by the stigma of race.”

    Then perhaps black students shouldn’t go to Harvard, where they will be stagmatized and psychologically handicapped. They should go to Howard U. and other black schools.

    I love the way AA’s purpose shifts depending on what aspect of it needs to be defended.

  4. Jim Rhoads June 24, 2004 at 8:04 pm | | Reply

    This stuff (the Gates/Guinier blatherings) look like the makings of a set of exhibits in the trial of a Grutter type case. Such exhibits tend to show that diversity is really not AA’s goal afterall, don’t they?

  5. RB June 24, 2004 at 8:44 pm | | Reply

    The president of Columbia University sounds like an idiot. He must have been a “Peter Principle” promotion.

  6. Gabriel Rossman June 25, 2004 at 7:58 am | | Reply

    Malcolm Gladwell, for my money the best non-academic sociologist around, had a good article a few years ago about why West Indians are more successful than native-born blacks.

  7. Rich June 25, 2004 at 9:28 am | | Reply

    “If it’s about getting black faces at Harvard, then you’re doing fine. If it’s about making up for 200 to 500 years of slavery in this country and its aftermath, then you’re not doing well.”

    200 to 500 years of slavery, in THIS country? Clearly they don’t teach History at Harvard.


  8. Dave Schuler June 25, 2004 at 12:52 pm | | Reply

    Maybe some among the preferentialists will finally stumble upon the perception…

    Don’t bet on it. This is no secret and it’s been true for a very long time. When I had contacts in the personnel departments of Fortune 500 companies some 20 years ago, it was common knowledge that they were drawing their racial quota employees largely from African immigrants. When my mom was responsible for staff balancing—and that’s racial balancing—for a major metropolitan public school system nearly thirty years ago it was the same story.

    while I am second to no one in my respect for Gen. Colin Powell he fits this description to a “T”—he’s the son of Jamaican immigrants—and he acknowledges the role that racial preferences have played in his career.

    Why? Obviously, it’s not racial preference. In many cases the African immigrants who are getting the placements are darker than the southern or inner city applicants they’re displacing. It’s class consciousness. It’s affect. It’s language. Bill Cosby was right on the money in his well-publicized complaints of a few weeks ago.

    All of this is not to say there’s not a real problem to be solved. But race preferences—even to gain critical mass—just won’t do it.

  9. David June 25, 2004 at 12:53 pm | | Reply

    I was a teaching assistant in my grad school days at UC Berkeley. I noticed immediately that EVERY single black student in my discussion sections were from Ghana or Nigeria. Every last one.

    Anecdotal, I know, but after doing 3 classes and 6 sections, one can’t help noticing the pattern.


  10. Nathan Lamm June 25, 2004 at 1:01 pm | | Reply

    Guinier should learn not to throw stones when it comes to dealing with mixed-race individuals. Something like 90% of American blacks have some white ancestry, but it’s particularly obvious in her case (and that of many of the upper class of black Americans).

  11. do June 25, 2004 at 2:31 pm | | Reply

    i’ve also done some teaching at UCB. my experience was different from that of the other david: the black students in my classes were always african-american and without exception considerably less well-prepared than the average.

    as an instructor, i wouldn’t have minded a few ghanians.

  12. Joanne Jacobs June 25, 2004 at 2:37 pm | | Reply

    As the story says, Lani Guinier is the daughter of a Jamaican father and a white (Jewish) mother.

    I think Gates and Guinier deserve credit for focusing on how American blacks can learn from the success of immigrant blacks. I don’t think they’re calling for reserving affirmative action for descendants of American slaves. They want to figure out how to get middle-class blacks to act like immigrants. (And note that Gates doesn’t even dream of getting poor blacks qualified for Harvard.) Some of the other people quoted do want endlessly refined versions of affirmative action.

  13. amyc June 25, 2004 at 2:40 pm | | Reply

    Since slavery is still practiced on the continent of Africa, and since several Carribean nations achieved independence after our Civil War, I would think that the trauma of slavery would be stronger in recent black immigrants than in our US blacks, right?

  14. June 25, 2004 at 2:41 pm | | Reply

    The wrong blacks

    While eight percent of Harvard undergrads are black, they’re the wrong blacks, critics said at a black alumni weekend. According to Lani Guinier, a Harvard law professor, and Henry Louis Gates Jr., the chairman of Harvard’s African and African-American…

  15. Chuck June 25, 2004 at 2:48 pm | | Reply

    My,my,my,my. Stereotypes do have some basis in fact. No one wants to talk about the ugly elephant that is sitting in the corner. Simply put, if you grow up in a sub-section of a sub-culture that does not value education and in fact regards those who seek an education as being a traitor to that sub-section of a sub-culture, then you will not succeed based on merit in those parts of the world at large that require an education for admission.

  16. I'm_a_Victim_Too June 25, 2004 at 2:59 pm | | Reply

    Good point Chuck.

  17. 04 grad June 25, 2004 at 3:22 pm | | Reply

    “Does “diversity” at Amherst consist entirely of being exposed to the voices of the historically disadvantaged?”

    Having just left the place, I can tell you that it most certainly does mean that. Diversity at Amherst implicitly means diversity of skin color, not of much else.

  18. gingerg June 25, 2004 at 3:35 pm | | Reply

    This conversation probably wouldn’t even be happening if after slavery ended, instead of 100 more years of Jim-Crow and hate, the US govt would have had the balls to outlaw racist state laws that went as far as closing public schools in VA for 5 years to prevent intergration. (just one example) How soon we forget. How does white Americans put it: Quit whinning, get over it! So, you don’t like quotas and affirmative action and such? Just a little of what your ancestors dished out to mine! GET OVER IT!!!!!! Peace.

  19. Jack Tanner June 25, 2004 at 3:37 pm | | Reply

    “Since they come from majority-black countries, they are less psychologically handicapped by the stigma of race.”

    Or maybe they just understand the value of education and are willing to work harder for it. My friend is an organizer of the Carribean Day parade in Boston which is sponsored thru church groups. She has asked that American blacks be excluded from the parade to cut down on the violence.

  20. Uncle Bill June 25, 2004 at 4:12 pm | | Reply

    Rich —

    They do teach ‘history’ at Harvard — most folks call it lies. They call it AA Studies.

  21. mike June 25, 2004 at 4:39 pm | | Reply

    Let’s stop living in the past gingerg.

    Have you ever heard of preferences described as the soft bigotry of low expectations?

  22. Gel June 25, 2004 at 4:49 pm | | Reply

    “And at first, they encounter less discrimination.”

    So the discrimination is not due solely to skin color?

    Chuck: Somehow all discussions of AA boil down to an impeachment of the latest justification rather than the underlying theory.

    gingerg: What power does the Federal government have to outlaw such state laws? If you wanted to do that judicially, where is the “every state must have public schools” clause in the Constitution?

  23. Michael June 25, 2004 at 5:34 pm | | Reply

    Look, the problem is not that American blacks continue to suffer the lingering effects of slavery and discrimination. While I do not deny that pockets of discrimination still exist, it’s not the primary principle preventing black achievement.

    Rather, it is this: the generational interia of poverty, poor education, and poor work ethic. Simply put, these social disadvantages are passed from parent to child, no matter what color their skin is. Poor families produce poor children; poorly educated families produce poorly educated children; and so forth. (Of course, this is true only in a statistical sense.)

    If universities were truly interested in social justice they would simply extend educational opportunities to “disadvantaged” children of ANY race. As long as minority groups are overrepresented in this category, then such efforts will naturally favor such minorities—without the need for explicit racial identification and the stigma that goes with it.

    And of course, even with such efforts in place, there will still be failure, because many will simply fail to take advantage of them. It is a classic case of “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink.” But it is the best we can do.

  24. Brian June 25, 2004 at 5:34 pm | | Reply

    gingerg: How does white Americans put it: Quit whinning, get over it!

    Hmmm… Now why on earth would anyone not want to hire you?

  25. Anonymous June 25, 2004 at 5:37 pm | | Reply

    One prof mentions the

    “200 to 500 years of black slavery in this country.” She and others need a

    remedial history class, as well as one in basic math.

    “This country” has only been in existence as a nation since 1787.

    Slavery was abolished in 1860. That’s 73 years. I suggest she file a complaint with our former colonial masters, the British and the Spanish. Morevoer, if you subtract 500 from 1860, you come up with the year 1360, a full 142 years before Columbus set foot on our shores. But, I’m sure she doesn’t want to let facts interfere with her opinions.

  26. Audrey June 25, 2004 at 5:49 pm | | Reply

    gingerg –

    I was born in a decade that started with separate drinking fountains for “negroes” and ended with a new generation of children who would never know the deep discrimination or humiliation of their parents. The US govt DID get the balls to pass legislation to stop racial discrimination with the Civil Rights Act in 1965. That legislation was written by a Congress dominated by whites and was voted for by a far wider margin of Republicans than Democrats. I guess actively working to remedy past mistakes gets no credit from those who have no desire to recognize progess and move on.

    Also, is affirmative action an agent for revenge? Holding all whites now responsible for the actions of others in the past who happen to share the same skin color seems to me a little hypocritical. Does this attitude move us in any positive direction whatsoever?


  27. Brainster June 25, 2004 at 5:54 pm | | Reply

    gingerg, you should read the post before commenting on it, you might not look so foolish.

    “…the Supreme Court has ruled out correcting past injustices as a justification for engaging in racial preference…”

  28. Anonymous June 25, 2004 at 8:43 pm | | Reply

    gingerg: hate to pile on, but man do you deserve it –

    You say “Just a little of what your ancestors dished out to mine!” Listen, bub: my ancestors didn’t do a damn thing to yours, never met ’em. My parents got here in the ’60s, and worked their @sses off for everything they ever got. And I did the same. So watch and learn, fool, watch and learn.

  29. bluegrass June 25, 2004 at 9:00 pm | | Reply

    gingerg, i hate to use grade school arguments, but since it’s obviously your level, “Just a little of what your ancestors dished out to mine!”

    Anyone ever tell you that two wrongs don’t make a right?

  30. Laura June 25, 2004 at 10:06 pm | | Reply

    gingerg, it makes no sense at all for you to want to continue to punish us white folks with affirmative action, while affirmative action itself is hurting black people. That’s cutting off your nose to spite your face.

  31. La Shawn Barber's Corner June 25, 2004 at 10:08 pm | | Reply

    My Blogroll

    I want to mention good posts and all-around great sites from folks on my blogroll. I try to visit all at least once a week. A few highlights:

  32. Helen June 26, 2004 at 3:24 am | | Reply

    Gates and Guinier are in favor of affirmative action for “the descendants” only — frankly, the immigrants don’t need it, but will use it. What neither Gates nor Guinier will admit is that there are two problems: 1) public education in the inner city; 2) “descendants” attitude to education and learning.

    Here’s the pink elephant in the middle of the room: many “descendants” have a different attitude to education than do immigrants and their children. For us from the Caribbean and Africa, education is the path to upward mobility, to the good life. We don’t regard being and sounding educated as “acting white”; instead, it is our passport and we grasp it eagerly. That’s what Gates wants to bottle, and he can’t unless the “descendant” community acts to institute a fundamental change in community attitude to education, schooling, and learning.

    Noteworthy is the low expectations both have of the “descendant” community; Gates, Guinier, and many an Ivy League honcho opine that a majority “descendant” presence is more valuable than a black student body that is capable of performing academically and graduating. What about the students who will be frustrated and drop out because their public schools have ill prepared them for the Ivies? What do Gates and Guinier have to offer them but the shallow comfort of stating that the majority of the blacks at Ivies are descendants?

    The GG position is an intra-racist one and will result in the widening of the ethnic wedge that already exists in the black community.

  33. Harry June 26, 2004 at 4:40 am | | Reply

    Years ago while I slid through college I asked a good friend and schoolmate of mine’s very successful father, while just a tad bit on the hammered side, how he did it. He actually put his hand on my shoulder, the one not clutching the highball of Chivas and said, “I simply studied someone I admired, who had himself become very successful and wealthy and then I simply copied what he had done. He had laid out the blueprint for his success in an autobiography as well as his willingness to always share with anyone his not so secret, secret. It was always there, all I had to do was follow and try to improve myself whenever and wherever I could.” Simple? Not without discipline it isn’t. But it is also not denied to anyone regardless of ethnicity. Which brings me to the “crux of the biscuit” – Frank Zappa, many black immigrants and/or persons of mixed race do not fear being labeled “acting white” by educating themselves and excelling in their chosen professions. That they are “acting white” probably never occurs to them therefore they are mostly unemcumbered or unashamed by that cultural stigmatism.

    So the moral of this story is: If “acting white”, whatever in the hell that actually means, is a blueprint for success in an American life use it, its free.

  34. Laura June 26, 2004 at 7:11 pm | | Reply

    I don’t know how the descendents’ attitude can possibly be affected by anything anyone can do. Our mayor is a black man who grew up in this city, attended public schools in the days before segregation, went on to earn his Ph.D. in education, and eventually became superintendent of schools for many years here. (To my knowledge, no one has ever accused him of “acting white” – in fact, he has no trouble playing the race card when he thinks it will get him what he wants.) He is only one of many successful and highly visible black people who make no excuses for black kids who don’t achieve – if they could do it in the days of Jim Crow, what possible excuse could there be for kids today. There is no lack of role models for black kids in this city, to inspire them to work hard in school. If they still think that working hard is acting white, I don’t know what hope there could ever be for changing the culture.

  35. Doug Anderson June 26, 2004 at 10:56 pm | | Reply

    The idea that we can redeem a past of prejudice and exclusion through a present-day, enlightened application of the same is sickening.

    These Ivy league profs level the playing field just by opening their mouths; no, that’s not quite right. Their stupidity does disservice to the pluck and shrewdness of their ancestors. Maybe it’s safer to say that when these profs open their mouths they obliterate any Ivy League claim to superiority.

    In addition, Diversity is such a vague bullshitty concept. Diversity is what we all start out with and what we can’t help. Committed to higher education we find ourselves forced into a sameness of means to attain goals that are similar. That is, discipline, sacrifice and study still beckon after all the skin tones, hair textures and speech slang have been noted. The payoffs we seek are more alike than diverse: money, good house, good car, crime-free schools and neighborhoods, etc.

    Diversity is a kind of code word for a political program; it’s a weird, vacuous word that shouldn’t have a place in higher education, a sphere that depends on precision and definition.

  36. Mark June 27, 2004 at 12:18 am | | Reply

    There’s an interesting discussion of this subject at Vanguard News Network and also at the VNN Forum.

  37. Priorities & Frivolities June 27, 2004 at 7:47 pm | | Reply

    At Large

    Steven Taylor explains how Americans can help Baghdad University. Roger Simon visits the Pentagon. Henry Farrell links to the Chronicle of Higher Education, which describes…

  38. Priorities & Frivolities June 27, 2004 at 7:47 pm | | Reply

    At Large

    Steven Taylor explains how Americans can help Baghdad University. Roger Simon visits the Pentagon. Henry Farrell links to the Chronicle of Higher Education, which describes…

  39. Anita Palsgraf June 29, 2004 at 1:39 am | | Reply

    I am a Harvard Law School JD, class of 2000. As at most law schools, the first year class is divided up into 4 sections of about 140. You go to all but one of your first year classes with the same group of people from your section.

    One day in class, I noted to myself that most of the 9 or so black students seemed to be of West Indian origin. I was able to confirm, using the online “face book” that was set up to help you get to know your classmates, that only one of the black students was more than 2nd generation US citizen.

    So I read the NYT article with interest.

  40. Bruce Hayden June 29, 2004 at 4:26 am | | Reply

    I find this interesting. The daughter of a good friend of mine recently entered an Ivy League college based on being “black”. She grew up as essentially white, in a white exclusive community, living in a million dollar house. But her father is mostly black, and when her race made the critical difference between going to a state school and an Ivy League school, she became magically black.

    Of course, I expect almost the opposite of some of my daughter’s best friends – that they will be white instead of “Asian”, when it comes to college admission, as they too are biracial, and many elite colleges today have negative quotas for “Asians”.

    That is of course part of the absurdity of racial categories. Theresa Heinz Kerry is “African-American”, because she was born in Africa and is now an American – but is obviously white. Why aren’t all those from above the Sahara also “African” – as they obviously came from Africa? How can you include 1/3 or better of the population of the world in one category – “Asian”? And I really like the comment that many of those supposedly being disadvantaged by this being actually lighter than blacks with closer roots to Africa – obviously because of the amount of white blood they have.

    So, you get what you pay for. When society, in the form of academia, set certain conditions, why should anyone expect that the system won’t be gamed? The problem is not with my friend’s daughter who only became black when necessary to get into a better school, but rather is the system where this would be the rational thing to do.

    There are a number of reasons that I think that this sort of thing will ultimately die out. One is that the coallition supporting this is somewhat fragile. Also, many of them have competing agendas. For example, Jews at one time were restricted in admission to many schools. Now, they make up a percentage that far exceeds their percentage in the population. Similarly today, gays. Indeed, in my law school, a large number of the faculty hires over the last decade have been gay, esp. lesbian. What happens when you start refusing to hire such because you already have your 1-2% quota for either gays or Jews? Of course, Ganier could switch from Jewish to Black, as needed, but most cannot.

    As the system is gamed ever more sucessfully, the pressures are going to rise to split the pie ever more finely. At some point in the near future, I predict it will collapse of its own weight. (Sorry about any mixed metafors here).

  41. cac June 30, 2004 at 2:44 am | | Reply

    “Since slavery is still practiced on the continent of Africa, and since several Carribean nations achieved independence after our Civil War, I would think that the trauma of slavery would be stronger in recent black immigrants than in our US blacks, right?”

    Well not really. Slavery was abolished in the UK in 1807 and the British Empire in 1830 so any blacks fortunate enough to be born in a British colony were free 1-2 generations ahead of those in the US. Of course had the American revolution not suceeded then it is entirely possible that slavery would have been abolished peacefully at the same time as in the rest of the Empire.

    A more interesting question is whether, as Colin Powell claims, those 1-2 generations head start actually make a difference 150-180 years later.

  42. A.D. Powell June 30, 2004 at 1:17 pm | | Reply

    “Interracial Voice” has long protested that racial classifications, affirmative action, hate crime laws, etc. are illogical and counterproductive:

  43. bolu September 9, 2004 at 6:31 pm | | Reply

    I find the above comments interesting…I am a Nigerian.Having lived in this country for a while now, I have come to appreciate the sacrifices of the earlier generation of African Americans.

    However, the ‘descendants’do not have to allow the past to slow their future.

    If we the immigrants can make progress (despite our “accents”) in medicine, pharmacy, academia etc..there is no excuse.I personally know a number of kids (born to Nigerian parents) in Havard, Columbia,Princeton, etc…yes..Nigerians and other African immigrants (my kids must get there too..that is my dream as an African immigrant) .The fact is that though we Africans are treated like 3rd class citizens,yet we manage somehow to instill the desire for college education in our kids…The difference is that the ‘descendants’ do not see education as the only way out the way we do.


  44. […] Prof. Brown is not the first supporter of affirmative action to notice that it all too often benefits the wrong blacks, something I discussed nearly a decade ago in Preferentialists: Hoisted On Their Own Pétard! […]

Say What?