Ten Reasons Why Affirmative Action Died

The end of affirmative action was inevitable. The only surprise was that such intentions gone terribly wrong lasted so long.

First, supporters of racial preferences always pushed back the goal posts for the program’s success. Was institutionalized reverse bias to last 20 years, 60 years, or ad infinitum? Parity became defined as an absolute equality of result. If “equity” was not obtained, then only institutionalized “racism” explained disparities. And only reverse racism was deemed the cure.

Second, affirmative action was imposed on the back end in adult hiring and college admissions. However, to achieve parity, remediation early at the K-12 school level would have been the only solution. Yet such intervention was made impossible by teachers’ unions, the rise of identity politics and government entitlements. All were opposed to school choice, self-help programs, critiques of cultural impediments, or restrictions on those blanket entitlements,

Third, class, the true barometer of privilege, was rendered meaningless. Surrealism followed. The truly privileged Barack and Michelle Obama and Meghan Markel lectured the country on its unfairness—as if they had it far rougher than the impoverished “deplorables” of East Palestine, Ohio.

Fourth, affirmative action supporters could never square the circle of proving that racial prejudices didn’t violate the spirt of the Declaration of Independence and the text of the Constitution. What they were left with was the lame argument that because long ago the 90% white majority had violated their own foundational documents, then such past bad unconstitutional bias could legitimately be rectified by present-day “good” unconstitutional bias.

Fifth, supporters never adequately explained why the sins of prior generations fell on their descendants who grew up in the post-Civil Rights era. Nor could they account for why those who had never experienced institutionalized racism, much less Jim Crow apartheid or slavery, were to be compensated collectively for the suffering of long-dead individuals. No wonder 70% of the American people in many polls favored ending affirmative action including a half of African-Americans.

Sixth, there never was a “rainbow” coalition of shared non-white victimhood—a concept necessary to perpetuate the premise of white privilege, supremacy, and rage, so integral to race-based reverse discrimination. More than a dozen ethnicities earn more per capita than do whites.

Asians have been subject to coerced internment, immigration restrictions and zoning exclusions. Yet on average they do better than whites economically and enjoy lower suicide rates and longer life expectancies. The arguments for affirmative action never explained why Asians and other minorities who faced discrimination outperformed the majority white population. As a result, affirmative action ended up discriminating against Asians on the premise they were too successful!

Seventh, no one ever explained when affirmative action was to apply. Blacks, for example, were vastly “overrepresented” in merit-based professional football and basketball. Yet no one demanded “proportional representation” to address such “disparate impact,” despite underrepresentation of all other demographics.

Yet if blacks were “underrepresented” in baseball, then reparatory measures were supposed to address that fact—even if Latino players were “overrepresented” and whites “underrepresented as well. No one in our race-obsessed culture,of course, objected that white males died at twice their demographics in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Eighth, in our increasingly intermarried mass-immigration society, few could adjudicate who was what, or much less what standard gave one racial preference. In lunatic fashion, pink, blond Senator Elizabeth Warren became Harvard’s first “Native American” law professor due to her “high cheekbones.” Light-skinned Latinos were considered marginalized while some darker Italians or Greeks were not.

Ninth, an odious wokism absorbed affirmative action and changed it into something even more abhorrent—as the original spirit of the Civil Rights movement was trashed. So Americans were asked to stomach a return to distasteful segregated dorms, “separate but equal” graduation ceremonies and racially exclusive workshops.

Tenth, and finally, affirmative action was insidiously destroying meritocracy. That hallmark American value of tribally-blind inclusivity had once explained why the nation outshone the world by discarding the old class prejudices of Europe. But increasingly this value seemed to have been abandoned.

When Stockton Rush, the late captain and inventor of the ill-fated Titan deep-sea explorer was quoted postmortem bragging that his company had no need of “old white guys” with long military expertise in submarining, Americans realized that woke racial discrimination was not just repulsive but could get you killed.

A nation whose pilot training, medical-school admissions, and military high command promotions were increasingly adopting racial, gender, or sexual-orientation essentialism was a country headed for the sort of Third World tribalism characteristic of failed states abroad.

In the end, the court finally stepped in to end this unconstitutional aberration, more like the old Soviet commissariat than our ideals of equality under the law.

The American people concurred. And the only regret seemed to be why not sooner?


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42 thoughts on “Ten Reasons Why Affirmative Action Died”

  1. As usual your arguments are unassailable. I note that you point out the issue of Greeks and Italians not being considered a protected minority. The Iberian peninsula consists of the countries of Spain and Portugal. Historically and culturally they are linked for generations, except the difference of language. The per capita GDP for Spain is $28, 175 and for Portugal it is $21, 175. You don’t have to be a math expert to conclude that Portugal is poorer on a per capita basis.

    But in America today, if you come from Spain directly to the US, or one generation through Mexico, Guatemala and a host of other Latin American countries you are considered a protected class. But if you come from Portugal you are considered “white European”, along with Italians, Greeks, British, French, etc. Just like poor Italians and Greeks who came to the US with only the clothes on their back, the hard working Portuguese are considered a privileged class and don’t get any protection.

  2. Thanks Victor for giving perspective to this train-wreck of culture that we are navigating at the moment. It is too easy to become unmoored and begin to lose track of where sanity can be found. We need someone blazing a trail to see where we are trekking to, and hopefully the way back.

  3. After reading this one has to wonder about either the intelligence or ulterior motives of those who enacted affirmative action in the first place… I suspect the latter. It was always to keep black voters “on the plantation” of Democrat politics just like their education policies are not meant to educate, but to keep the public “low information” for easy vote harvesting. So the ultimate goal is always power for the political elites and who are they really? Perhaps a new form of affirmative action needs to be employed for politics– where quotas for “ordinary average people” are established to “level the playing field” and “compete fairly” with the politicians of all parties who have always held a monopoly on government. Just a thought… I wonder how the political supporters of affirmative action would feel about that turning of the tables?

    1. Exactly, except it was not one or the other, it was both. They lacked the intelligence that leads to the critical thinking needed to ponder consequences. Ulterior motives ignored the obvious consequence. Additionally, they reeked of arrogance, in their big (little) minds, they knew better than others; they knew what was best for citizens and the nation. They ignored Mother Nature and Her meritocratic principle of natural selection, selecting those best suited for survival. They were sophomores, wise fools, just enough knowledge to build confidence yet not enough to realize they did not know what they did not know.

    1. Precisely.
      When United Airlines announced their change of pilot training policy and that it would, henceforth, factor in skin color, it seemed safe to give them about 6-months before that gaggle stumbled into their cockpits. After that initial 6-months, it seemed reasonable to be more selective in choosing an airline for travel. Probably Bill Gates and others like him use a different metric to select their private pilots.

  4. Why not sooner?

    Democrats, that is why. This is the first time we have had enough votes to overcome the travesty the SCOTUS has been my entire lifetime. Even some of the conclusions/votes Trumps picks have made are head scratchers.


    And thank you, Prof Hanson.

  5. I think it is important to get a quote from the mythical 5’7” Lil’ Lebron James, to see what he thinks of the death of Affirmative Action.

    What? Nobody cares what 5’7” Lil’ Lebron has to say? Can anybody find 5’7” Lil’ Lebron? Or has he been shot dead already in a gangsta war?

    The point is that the real Lebron James is quoted often not because of his soaring intellect, but because of his dominant height, strength and physicality. He is successful because he is the best of the best in a “mostly” meritocratic competitive setting. We like to see the very best. We pay to see the very best. So do the Chinese.

    For whatever reason, the best of the best, in the NBA’s case, tend to be Black, tall, fast and physical with a few notable exceptions.

    We accept and fully support a relative meritocracy when it comes to the NBA. However, its exclusionary policies prevent shorter, slower, less aggressive, less talented people from being part of the league. You don’t have to squint to see that the NBA is therefore fundamentally a racist enterprise. If you have never played, then you have no idea of what I am talking about here. American caucasians are clearly underrepresented in the league. Is this not a fact?

    But I am ok with this disparity, as are most sports fans. We want to see the best.

    In fact, I want to see the best succeed in all walks of life, whether they achieve this through sheer talent or indomitable perseverance.

  6. Hello Dr. Hanson, thank you for writing this article. I am a reader from Malaysia – a country which has imposed affirmative action as a response to the May 13, 1969 race riots. Such policies here negatively affect the local Chinese/Indian population by discriminating against them to the benefit of the Malays. This is in spite of both minority populations having been part of society here since 19th-century British rule. I won’t go into too much detail, but Dr. Sowell’s work on affirmative action policies around the world are a good start. I hope that the good example of the US today will be able to inspire other countries to follow and to change, just as some bad examples of the US in the 20th-century gave justification for bad policies of other countries around the world.

    Again, I really appreciate you writing all these articles and making all these podcasts. Have a good day!

    1. Thank you for reporting on affirmative action in Malaysia. It is good to know that these injustices are happening outside of the United States. May God bless you and your country.

  7. I’m 60 years old and have spent my entire life questioning affirmative action (quotas). VDH as usual distills the issue and lays the answers out so even a 4th grader could understand. I just wished we had more people with 4th grade educations.

  8. I agree that you are correct on 99% of the points you make in this article.

    The only point which I must insist is incorrect is the assertion that those of us Blacks born after the Civil Rights movement have never experienced institutional racism. I am sorry to say this is not a correct assertion. So long as someone can profit from it, racism will continue to exist in America.

    I have in fact experienced, and continue to experience, institutional racism in America; especially in my dealings with predominantly white municipal and state governments.

    However, what is important to me that I share with you and your readers is how I have chosen to consistently respond to these blatant bouts of racism throughout my life.

    Instead of walking around with protest signs or claiming victimhood, I have consistently chosen to channel my anger from these encounters into positive pursuits that have pushed me to achieve higher levels of professional and personal successes.

    I could not get hired by any of my 8 Fortune 100 “dream job” companies (e.g., you are overqualified, you would be bored here, etc…) so I ended up creating a global IT consulting firm that now has over 200 employees worldwide.

    I have many more equally positive examples but will stop here. God Bless America!

    1. Thank you for your informative post. I am sorry to hear of your experience dealing with people in government. People are sinners and find ways to demean others for any reason.

      Not only does the Bible teach the sinfulness of man but I have realized this firsthand. As a child I have experienced racism and always felt badly about that. It was hard to be looked down upon and scorned because of race.

      It was only when I became an adult and began to teach children in schools that I realized that kids will pick on others for any number of different reasons. It was reassuring for me to see white students pick on white students and I realized that race is just one aspect in the sinful expression of the human nature. Even as an adult I have had student make snide remarks to me based upon my race but this has been rare.

      Thank you for your productive attitude. May God bless you in your work.

    2. Most admirable, sir.
      Congratulations for having the required perspicacity to survive and surpass the ignorant.
      Another admirable dude was Booker T. Washington who advised excellently on recognizing those who gain solely by profiting off pushing racism. One notable comically announced his retirement yesterday. Booker T. also was excellently, naturally gifted, and excelled despite the serious obstacles of his challenging era. It’s proof that the seed of success does not rely on the views of others, or in an odd twist of logic, does it?

      Once i took an exam for promotion in engineering after some 9-years of toiling with an agency in a variety of tasks. HR sent a letter advising my rank was #1. However, the promotion was given to a lady at that time 2-months immigrated from the Philippines based on typical AA racial factors coupled with a lower score on the exam. Time passed, she retired, and immediately moved back to her Philippine city home with her agency retirement and federal ss. She never tried to become a citizen and often spoke of eventually returning ‘home’. Finally, she made application for retirements, purchased a plane ticket, and returned to the Philippines. Good-bye, America.

  9. The links below provide some insights to the end of “Affirmative Action” as well as one that suggests after 50 plus years it’s not really over.

    Having had firsthand experience with “Affirmative Action” from its inception in the early 1970’s I can see the validity of their points. I personally experienced “reverse discrimination” upon graduating from college when I was unable to even obtain an interview with the AB brewery in St. Louis where my father had worked for over 20 years as a supervisor; I was told that “you’re not the right color”. I wasn’t happy but accepted the reality of the situation.

    I took a job in the Dean’s office of the WU School of Medicine and one of my responsibilities was to assist the newly created position of Vice Chancellor for Affirmative Action for the university to implement compliance monitoring and annual reporting to the government as required by the new law. As a grantee and contractor for the federal government, millions of dollars were at stake. Every academic position in the school from research assistant to professor had to be tracked in terms of who and how many of the designated races applied for openings and how many actually held a position in each department. How was an individual determined to be a minority under this law? Technically, an individual was to have at least 12% of a given race to be classified as such (which begs the question of “what about the other 90%?). So in reality it was based on how one appeared or their self-d

  10. %?). So in reality it was based on how one appeared or their self-declaration, ala Elizabeth Warren, that they were of a particular race since no genetic tests were being done to confirm or deny the claim. Even though I have some Native American ancestry, I knew I did not meet the 12% threshold and have never tried to claim otherwise.

    If after more than 50 years the law has not been successful in providing “equal opportunity”, then it’s demise seems appropriate and long overdue.

    1. Thanks for sharing your firsthand experience and providing insight into how affirmative action operates. Showing favortism by race is truly unfairly discriminatory. Man’s desire to create an equity utopia is bound to fail as it cannot change the human heart.

  11. Terry Ross Kelman

    Brilliant. Only an expert history prof could make it that simple and complete. What Banana Slugs were supposed to learn to do.

  12. VDH is a living national treasure even though his observations about Ukraine remain surprising and suspect. All his commentary on all points and analysis is typical VDH though.

  13. Affirmative action was not stopped earlier because the Supreme Court was composed of a majority of people who do not uphold the Constitution.

    They are the same type of people today on the court who tell us that marriage can be between two members of the same sex and are also unable to define a woman.

    If that is true then these justices should never use a public restroom since they cannot know what sex they are.

  14. Affirmative action was supposed to be a program that was to address past discrimination committed by institutions of hiring learning. AA was supposed to have been designed to give those Afro-American students who had comparable grades like their White counterparts a chance at historically White institutions. The best way this could be done was to reserve or put aside spaces for Afro-Americans to address prior discrimination practices. It was never intended to allow less qualified minority students to matriculate to these schools.

    Then came Allan Bakke. Bakke was an engineer in the Silicon Valley. He decided to have a career change. He wanted to become a MD. When he decided to have this change he was in his mid to late thirties. The “only” medical school he focused on was UC Davis. Bakke had the grades and scored well on his MCAT’s. He was denied admittance because of his age not because of his academic qualifications.

    Somewhere along the line Bakke was told that he was denied admittance because of Affirmative Action. As the saying goes “all hell broke out.” This is when “Affirmative Action” became the “tar baby” of society. False hoods such as Affirmative action was reserving spaces for a lesser qualified student. Distortions like this became the norm in attacking AA.

    The sad thing is that the Black politicians at the time like the late Barbra Jordan of Texas made very little effort to create these distortions. The mostly White press was seemingly content to perpetuate t

  15. Hunter Paalman

    This is hard to say !! But affirmative action has apparently been wildly successful in the arenas of bastardy, fatherless households, educational failure, violent gang culture, mayhem, crime, murder and incarceration. What’s to worry ??

    This is so so sad and worrisome!

  16. Affirmative Action grew into the unwieldy and stupid intersectionality where every one is a victim but you if you had the wrong skin color. If you are a white male the EEOC gives you a score of Zero, but if you are a white woman your score is a one. Males of color are also given a score of one while females of color are given a score of two. Now we have other classifications that have not been scored yet but would add to the madness of boosting scores based on sexual preference, gender identity, and god knows what else activists may riot to include. The theory that a society is defined by intersectionality leads to the dividing society into predefined segments with no affinity for common culture. Such thinking destroys society by trying to make it irrelevant.

  17. William Hinman

    Dr. Hanson, you are a lamp held high for American greatness! I read every article you publish. I suggest the you should add SCOTUS justices to your recent affirmative action list of misfires:

    “A nation whose pilot training, medical-school admissions, and military high command promotions were increasingly adopting racial, gender, or sexual-orientation essentialism was a country headed for the sort of Third World tribalism characteristic of failed states abroad.”

    Thank you and God bless.

  18. It was a nice idea, but programs that command quotas to reach desired outcomes to achieve equity, not equality, are doomed to fail and leave all concerned with the takeaway understanding that ‘the game is rigged’. Math don’t care, science don’t care, time don’t care. You can be ‘woke’ all you want, but if you can’t read that diagram, that spec sheet, that reference table, that technical manual, a medical report containing high-level terminology whose contents might represent the difference between life and death if misread or not 100 percent clearly understood, a drug prescription for example, or as with aviation a NOTAM message or a maintenance report, or something else some other job function where you’re not supposed to be in the chair if not qualified, examples abound, if you can’t honestly do the work you don’t belong in the chair simple as that. Colleges and universities are supposed to be keepers of the standard, none shall pass save those who honestly made the grade. Students with their slacker ways, rich parents, cheating mafias, and ‘woke’ admission standards, are part of the problem. ”Get woke, go broke”, just ask Anheuser-busch, now bleeding billions because of an advertising campaign supposed to address discrimination. Should a major airline adopt ‘woke’ hiring standards on the flight line, or for a pilot training program..how about the military for critical leadership roles where tactical and strategic battles might be won or lost based on competency…

  19. Affirmative action creates racism in a way. You meet your surgeon or your airline pilot and note that they’re a minority and you wonder, how did they get to their professional role? You wonder that about minorities you see in any number of desirable jobs.
    Such thoughts are uncomfortable as well as valid.

    If early education and secondary education were improved in certain geographic areas, more kids, and later adults, could be genuinely qualified irrespective of race. But, somehow, no, that doesn’t happen.

    One can’t escape the perception of a devious plan to create discrepancies and then agitate about them. Inhumane on so many levels.

    1. Thank you for the insightful comments. All are helpful in understanding how affirmative action has hurt our country.

  20. Today, I went to the beach with my kids. I found a
    sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She put the shell to
    her ear and screamed. There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear.
    She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is totally off topic but I had to tell someone!

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