Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia ran headlong into the leftist meat grinder by questioning whether college admission of blacks with academic achievement levels significantly lower than the rest of the student body is beneficial to blacks. His question came up during oral arguments in Fisher v. University of Texas, wherein the court will rule whether the use of race in college admission decisions violates the 14th Amendment's guarantee of "equal protection of the laws" to all citizens.
Justice Scalia's questions generated news headlines such as "Justice Scalia Suggests Blacks Belong at 'Slower' Colleges," "Scalia questions place of some black students in elite colleges" and "Scalia and the misguided 'mismatch' theory." Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said, "It is deeply disturbing to hear a Supreme Court justice endorse racist ideas from the bench of the nation's highest court."
The issue for black parents is not whether their sons and daughters should be admitted to an elite college or one that is lower-ranked. The issue is whether their sons and daughters should be admitted to a college where they would not be admitted if they were white. The question for black parents and black people is: Which better serves our interests, a black student's being admitted to an elite college and winding up in the bottom of his class or flunking out or a black student's being admitted to a less prestigious college and performing just as well as his white peers? I would opt for a black student's doing well and graduating from a less prestigious college.
Think of it this way. Suppose you asked, "Williams, would you teach my son how to box?" I say yes, and after your son wins a few amateur matches, I set him up with a match against an elite boxer like Mike Tyson or Lennox Lewis. Your son may have the potential to be a world-class boxer, but he is going to get his brains beaten out and have his career ended before he learns how to bob and weave.
It's the same with any student - black or white.
Pupils are less likely to succeed if they are placed in a fast-paced academic environment where their academic achievement levels do not begin to match those of their peers. Such students would have a greater chance of success in a slower-paced, less competitive environment, one more in tune with their preparation and where they might receive more personal help.
My recommendation to black parents is: Do not enroll your children in a college where their SAT score is 200 or more points below the average of that college. Keep in mind that students are not qualified or unqualified in any absolute sense. The nation has more than 4,800 colleges, meaning there's a college for most anybody.
There are beneficiaries from admitting black students with little chance of performing at the level of other students. They are college presidents, administrators and campus liberals. Whether blacks graduate or have been steered into useless "Mickey Mouse" courses is irrelevant. Government race overseers are only counting colors. College administrators win kudos for achieving and celebrating "diversity," not to mention the fact that they can keep government higher-education handouts.
Another group of beneficiaries is composed of black staff and faculty who are hired and create campus fiefdoms with big budgets based on the presence of black students. The number of black students enrolled is the key, not the number who graduate or wind up in useless "Mickey Mouse" courses or in the bottom of their classes. In fact, there is an element of perversity. The greater the number of blacks who are on academic probation or do not graduate the more justified are calls for greater budgets for academic support and student retention programs.
I have been asked: If elite colleges do not create lower admission standards, how are they going to have enough black students? My response is: That's their problem. Black people cannot afford to have our youngsters turned into failures in order to support the agendas of diversity race hustlers and to lessen the guilt of white liberals.
Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University.