Proposition 16 and unexpected consequences

California voters have just rejected Proposition 16 which made it legal for colleges and universities to take gender and ethnicity into account in admissions. Who will this cost most?

Poor minorities, of course

Gentile White males

What? You didn’t think that all college admissions policies favored women and minorities, did you?

Affirmative Action does, and so AA gets all the attention but, as usual, this is just people opposing Reverse Discrimination who never lifted a finger when they encountered Actual Discrimination which, in my experience, pretty much encompasses everyone who has ever complained about Reverse Discrimination. This has never had anything to do with justice. It is all about turf. What policies favor people other than women and minorities? To give you a few examples, preference for:

  • Legacies
  • People good at sports they don’t play in poor neighborhoods
  • People who can pay their own way

One thing that may have helped me get admitted to college was that I could join their fencing team, as I already knew how to fence. I made good on that, fencing varsity for four years, but there are a whole lot of places you don’t find fencing and applicants who live in those places don’t have that option.

It’s no secret why Proposition 16 was voted down. It was all about resentment of disadvantaged people getting any extra help. However, voting it down also meant no more help – legally – for populations that have traditionally gotten help.

It helps here to have a little history of the admissions process. Nearly a century ago, a bunch of colleges and universities discovered that too many of their most qualified applicants were Jewish, because Jews on average placed more emphasis on academics than gentiles did. The response was to come up with hidden admissions policies that limited the percentage of Jews admitted to any given incoming class. So, an artificial advantage was given to gentiles, sort of informal de facto affirmative action – in this case spelled with lower case letters.

More recently, there have been policies that have done that to other groups. One of those is Asian students, and California’s Asian population is awfully high. Their numbers were artificially limited in the same way Jews were. So, an artificial advantage was given to non-Asian students, mostly White students, sort of informal de facto affirmative action.

Another is women. More women apply to college than men do and women on average have better academic records in high school than men do. However, many institutions like to have roughly equal numbers of male and female students, which of course means that an artificial advantage was given to male students, sort of informal de facto affirmative action.

Hence Gentile White Males. But now helping them will be illegal and, as I’ve just shown, they’ve been getting a lot of help.

As often happens with Republicans, their resentment means they won’t hesitate to shoot themselves in the foot. I wonder how they’ll react when they figure out that gentile White male admissions are getting harder rather than easier?

There was a discussion about this on LinkedIn today with a bunch of people saying that Proposition 16 was off base and that we should simply leave race out of the equation – what those of us here know as Colorblind. Yeah, we know what colorblind really means. It means being blind to racism, not color.

I wrapped up the problem with the vote in one sentence that someone else immediately quoted:


Axing Prop 16 amounts to defending a phony, nonexistent meritocracy that unjustly favors a different group of people than AA does.

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