For those of you unacquainted with American cinematic greatness, one of the most amusing one-shot movie scenes about race I’ve seen in the past 10 years is from Men in Black 3, where the black main character, Agent J, time travels back to the 1960s to kill the movie’s villain. During his time travel, J gets pulled over by racist cops who find it inconceivable for him to be driving an expensive convertible. J escapes the police scrutiny via various Men-In-Black-esque shenanigans, delivering one final retort after excoriating the prejudicial 1969-style idea that black people in nice cars must have stolen them: “I stole that one… but not ‘cause I’m BLACK!”
To impose political insights on lighthearted movies, this is more or less the postracial theory that people like me subscribe to. The method of social analysis that we want is not based on skin color, but actions, and barriers to this kind of society need to be reversed in favor of meritocratic solutions.
Today, the Supreme Court ruled against the use of race in college admissions. In the Court’s opinion, the death of affirmative action is a natural result of America’s legal battle against racial discrimination. “The clear and central purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment was to eliminate all official state sources of invidious racial discrimination in the States,” reads Chief Justice Roberts’ majority opinion, citing the Court’s 1967 decision in Loving v. Virginia that overturned anti-interracial marriage laws across the nation. “Eliminating racial discrimination means eliminating all of it.”
Spoiler alert: this is a good thing. As I’ve written before in the Wall Street Journal, “Affirmative action rejects the principle of non-discrimination, making it discriminatory by default. The argument for affirmative action treats race as not only synonymous with merit but a convenient tactical positive.” I still believe this, and as someone who believes that America’s brightest future can be found in a post-racial society, the systems that attach value to the color of a prospective student’s skin are a barrier to true progress for institutions and students alike. I can’t think of a better way to explain this than the Court’s decision in Rice v. Cayetano, which ruled against anti-AAPI discrimination in voting rights: “Distinctions between citizens solely because of their ancestry are by their very nature odious to a free people whose institutions are founded upon the doctrine of equality.”
It’s this doctrine of equality that strikes me as one of the true distinctions of American society, be it the struggle for assimilation or anything else. The things that allow non-white Americans to rise in today’s society are the things that allow everyone to rise: ingenuity, dynamism, personal drive, and good choices. To claim that such virtues can be encapsulated or accurately measured by skin color is inherently racist
This doesn’t mean that there are no racial disparities in America or that there are no barriers to entry into the world of higher education. But those barriers to entry can or cannot be solved by race-based systems. What you incentivize is what you will get—when you incentivize blackness as a de facto positive, you are not guaranteeing that you will get the most qualified black students (in fact, some studies indicate quite the opposite). Again, this doesn’t mean that there are no qualified black students. It does mean this: if you think that the most qualified black students in America have become that way based on their blackness as opposed to their personal determination and work ethic, that is dangerously close to racial essentialism and a reductionistic offense to qualified students of color.
That mindset is what’s being punctured by the death of affirmative action. Does it mean that Harvard and a plethora of other colleges aren’t going to figure out a way around the Court’s decision? Not at all, and for colleges who bank on affirmative action to appeal to donors and perspectives, that might be a feature, not a bug. But it does mean that those of us who advocate for a postracial society have been assured of our legal right standing.
It’s now on us, as a politically, racially, and culturally diverse coalition, to convince the rest of the country of the moral right standing of our arguments. We’re pulling away from America’s checkered racial past into the light of something better. This is the postracial future, and it’s so, so bright.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.