When affirmative action was first introduced decades ago, it occasioned a raucous national debate riven with charges of reverse discrimination (“Colorblind justice,” Commentary, June 28). How, many wondered, could two wrongs make a right? Many of us were willing to accept the inherent contradiction in the belief that occasional discrimination against whites and Asians would tighten the social fabric, something we wished to see. This discrimination, though noxious, was the price to pay for better societal cohesion. And it has worked, unintended consequences and all, for we have fashioned a more-just society.
The question now is when to end the policy of racial preference, when to transform to a strict meritocracy wherein equal opportunity, rather than mandated equal outcomes, is our concern. In her 2003 majority opinion in Grutter v. Bollinger, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was hopeful that racial preferences would no longer be necessary by the end of the third decade of this century. Justice Clarence Thomas, in joining the majority in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, is ready to end them now.
Until a majority of the court is ready to join Justice Thomas, a merit-based society will remain just an aspiration.