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abigail thernstrom: She is a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a member of the Massachusetts State Board of Education. She is co-author of America in Black and White--One Nation Indivisible.
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Let's talk about The Shape of the River. You said in your Wall Street Journal piece that it was a national coup. And then, later, you said that you don't believe it's an even-handed scholarly study. Why?

[Bill Bowen] and Derek Bok who wroteThe Shape of the River, really put together a brief on behalf of racial preferences in higher education. And their own legacies were at stake. I mean, one of them, Bowen, was president of Princeton. Derek Bok was dean of the Harvard Law School and president of Harvard University. Both of them presided over, implemented, were extremely important to racial preferences at those two elite schools and they have really basically written a book saying, "look folks, we did good."

So what's wrong with taking race into account?

There's a very good reason why race is a suspect category and only race is a suspect category in American constitutional law. Race is very special. Sorting people out on the basis of one drop of blood of this racial group or that racial group or this ethnic group or that ethnic group, is very, very dangerous in a society with as rotten a history of racism as we have and, of course, racism continues to be a problem in this society. So race is special. Race is particularly dangerous.

So how can you argue for a color-blind decision if you don't have a color-blind society?

These tests test skills that students need to do well in college and the work place.  And so our job is to make sure those skills are learned by every child and not to say, as so many educators do--'oh well, we know Black and Hispanic kids can't learn this material, so forget it.' They can learn this material.  And it is our job to make sure  they do. Well, Hopwood didn't say we should have a color-blind society. Of course, we should. It wasn't trying to remedy, you know, what's in the heads of every last resident of Texas. It was simply saying the messages that we deliver in our public law and through our public institutions have to be messages that downplay the importance of skin color and that tell Americans it's the content of your character, and not the color of your skin. And that of course is what the fourteenth amendment was all about. Stop sorting people. That's what Jim Crow America did.

And in terms of the Office of Civil Rights, their standards for finding de jury or de facto segregation may not be mine. Of course I would have to look--and I haven't done so very carefully--at what they thought. But in any case, I mean address specific problems when you find them. If you find that in a police department, for instance, there is rampant discrimination in a method of voting. You really do have the exclusion of Black voters, fine, address that problem directly. What do racial preferences, racial double-standards in higher education do to address those problems and indeed--I mean one of the interesting things about preferences in the highly selective schools like UTexas is that you're not doing anything for disadvantage kids. These are mostly advantaged kids, it's their parents who made it into the middle-class and in the case of the law school of the University of Texas, most of the Black students weren't even from Texas, they were from other states.

Bok and Bowen make the point that affirmative action helped build the Black middle-class, and that they believe it's one of the stunning success story for Blacks in the last 25 years.

That isn't even plausible on its face. We now have 44% of the American Black population as belonging in the middle-class. You have a tiny number of Blacks who have been admitted preferentially to institutions of higher education that are very selective. 4,000, whatever, it's a tiny number. That tiny number has made the Black middle-class? It's ridiculous.

Aside from the fact that if you look at the emergence of the Black middle-class, it's from 1940 to 1970. 1970 is the point at which preferences really begin. It's from 1940 to 1970 that you really see the growth of that Black middle-class and there's no reason to believe that growth would have stopped had preferences never started. I mean, America was changing. And again, these are mostly privileged kids. They were already middle-class.

We talked with Christopher Jencks, and there's some very interesting points that are raised in his book about environmental differences versus genetic.

We're not the slightest bit interested in IQ. What we're interested in is the racial gap in academic performance. We know that that gap can be closed. That gap was closed. And Christopher Jencks in The Black-White Test Score Gap doesn't really talk about this, but the fact is the racial gap in academic performance, if you look at the national assessment for educational progress data, that's our nation's report card on how we're doing.

It's very interesting. It starts in 1971. 1971 to 1988 the racial gap was closing in academic performance. In 1988, the Black scores started to get worse. So you have a turn around. Obviously that has nothing to do with IQ. I mean Black IQ hasn't changed, White IQ hasn't changed, other things are going on. But if the trends of those years, 1971 to 1988 had continued, well there would be no racial gap today. We've got to get back on track.

I do disagree with Jencks in one very fundamental way. He thinks, I mean you can tell me more about this, but he thinks that the story is really pretty much over. By the time schools see the kids in kindergarten or first grade, that there are messages in the family, the use of language, the absence of reading to kids, etc., and you know stuff that he can't quite put his finger on, but in any case, he thinks the story is pretty much over by kindergarten, first grade. I really disagree. I think good schools can make an enormous difference and I'm not going to let schools off the hook. I'm on the State Board of Education here in Massachusetts and I believe in schools. And I believe in good schools and I think all over the country, we do have good urban schools dealing with highly disadvantage kids. We don't have whole school districts yet, we will.

Are Blacks and Latinos being disadvantaged because of the types of tests that we give? Should we try to be developing alternate tests?

I do not blame the tests there, simply because the tests are measuring the cognitive skills that students need to succeed in college and in the workplace. And we have very good national data on precisely those correlations that as you do well on those tests you're going to do well in school, you are not going to drop out in college. The college drop-out rates for Black students are very high, but the Black students who do well on the SAT scores stay in college and do well in college. They finish and they have higher earnings. And when you, when in general, you look for instances at Black unemployment and you look at skills once again. They are employment in earnings are correlated very, very closely with how Blacks do on tests that measure cognate of skills. You can say well there's something wrong with the society, that this is an economy that rewards high-skilled people, but I don't know what we're going to do about that.

You say that when critics of standardized tests or testing procedures pick on the SAT, they're picking on an easy target?

No, I said--when critics pick on the SAT's, they are saying, well, something must be wrong with them because Whites and Asians do much better on them than Blacks and Hispanics, and I'm saying those tests test the skills that students need to do well in college and to do well in the work place. And we know that they do, we've got piles of evidence to that effect and so our job is to make sure that those skills are learned by every child and not to say, as so many educators do, oh well, we know Black and Hispanic kids can't learn this material, so forget it. I mean, my view is quite the opposite. Of course they can learn this material and it is our job to make sure that they do.

But you also make a point about if we got rid of the SAT, what about other measures of performance?

Yeah, if we were to scrap, get rid of SAT's and look just at grade point averages, it wouldn't change for instance college admissions to the selective schools unless you go to a formula of top ten percent as Texas does, it changes it a little bit, but not much.

But what is the point of taking into a very competitive school, like Berkeley, like the University of Texas, like Yale, like Wesleyan as students who, yes, fell in the top ten percent of a very bad school, where students by and large, are not academically interested-oriented, trained, that student is not going to do well in those highly competitive schools. You can change the schools, but then they're going to be very different schools.

It's very important to a member, however, when you're talking about Black students being disadvantaged by SATS because they don't do as well, whatever. Not only do those tests test skills that they need, but if they don't get into a highly competitive college because they've been disadvantaged by their K through 12 education, there is always a school for them to go to. We have 3,500 institutions of higher education in this society. Suppose in California, instead of going to Berkeley or even UC Santa Cruz, you go to a school in the state college system, and then you move into one of the UC schools when you have managed to get on your feet academically.

But our problem is not the kids who just missed Berkeley or just missed Wesleyan. Our problem is the kids who in 12th grade either aren't in school, or they have 8th grade skills. I mean, that's the catastrophe and that's the problem we should be thinking about.

The real problem is K through 12 education. That's what we should be talking about. That's what we should be focusing on and Bowen and Bok are really writing a brief on behalf of a band-aid over, you know, a terrible cancer, in the society that is elementary and secondary education.

The elite schools, for better or worse, are the pathways to privilege and power in the country. So just to say, you don't go to Berkeley, you go to Cal State, is not a sufficient answer.

As I said in a piece in the Wall Street Journal, the Bowen and Bok picture that they draw--on the basis of that, you might think it's Yale or jail in this country. You either go to one of these elite colleges or you're going to sink in life. And that is ridiculous. This country is so open and fluid. Successful people come from all sorts of colleges. And in fact, we have good lists of where successful African Americans have gone to college. Whether you look at people like Vernon Jordan or whether you look at people high... Whether you look at judges, or whatever. By enlarge, they did not go to elite schools. I, myself, went to three colleges, and actually the worst of the three colleges was the best one I attended. I shouldn't have left it.

You could very well wind up with a two tiered system. Or a system in which blacks and Latinos go to one set of schools, and whites and Asians go to another. Is this okay with you?

It is not okay that we end up with a two tiered society, defined by race and ethnicity in this society, altogether. The question is, what is the remedy? And I think that Nathan Glazer's saying, the remedy is racial double standards in admission to highly selective schools is simply wrong. For one thing, what you want to know is not the racial composition of the freshman class at a place like Berkeley. What you want to know is the racial composition of the graduating class. And the black drop out rate is more than three times that of whites and Asians at the highly selective schools that Bowen and Bok looked at in their book, The Shape of the River. And that's, those are students that disappear from college altogether. They don't, they drop out of college period. Getting a BA makes a huge difference.

Aside from that, nobody has used, done what is called a study with a control group. That is, you take a black student with, let's say, a combined SAT's of 1000. You ask, you look at, at that student at say We, Wesleyan. You take a comparable student. Same profile. Same academic profile. Look at what happens to that student at a less selective school over the long run. Do we know that that student, with the same skills, is going to do worse in life?

And Bok and Bowen, in their book, do something very interesting. They had data from four historically black colleges. They didn't use that data. And I suspect because it would have contradicted much of what they have to say in the book. For instance, we know that if you look at the schools from which black PhD's come--the top schools from which black PhD's come--nine out of the ten top schools are the historically black colleges. The tenth is [Wayne] State. Hardly a selective school. If you look at lists of successful African Americans in this society--whether they're judge, judges, or people who work in important federal government jobs, or people who, blacks who've gotten McCarthur Fellowships--you name your list. A huge proportion of them went to non selective schools. And many went to the historically black colleges. So there is simply no data to say that the brand name advantage of going to a Yale or Penn State--or whatever--in the long run makes for higher earnings and a more successful career.

At one point in the book, Bowen and Bok say Martin Luther King--he didn't have high SATS. And look how far he got in life. Well, yes--he also didn't go to Yale divinity school. Would he have been better off? Ah, would he have been historically more important if he had gone to Yale? I mean, the point is ridiculous.

They site what appear to be very impressive figures for graduation rates. It seems that they've disproved the hypothesis that--put kids into an environment that's too hard for them, and they'll fail. Instead, it actually seems that they flourish.

Bowen and Bok do site very high graduation rates, in highly selective schools. But those are schools that graduate almost everybody. And the most selective of them are the richest. And they have a whole system of nurturing students and getting students through. Despite that, the white graduation rate is still more than, ah--I'm sorry. Let's look at drop out rates instead of graduation rates. The black drop out rate is still more than three times that of the white. And to simply look at graduation rates, and not look at drop out rates, is like looking at black employment rates and not unemployment rates. You can say, well most blacks are employed. Look, actually very high numbers are employed. But the fact is that the unemployment rate is two and a half times that of whites, even though the employment gap doesn't look very large. And I would say you want to focus on unemployment 'cause it's the problem. You want to focus on drop out, because it's the problem.

And indeed, we have very good numbers for Berkeley. And you can calculate, given the record of black drop out at Berkeley. Black be, ah, the record of black students not finishing that school, that with--and in the UC system as a whole. That it is likely, in absolute numbers, you are going to have, have--it is probable--you are going to have more black students getting their Bokelor's degree from a UC school than you had before when there were racial preferences. And that is really what should count.

You talk about the fact that we've insured diversity in a freshman class. But where we really need to be looking is at the other end. What's going to happen senior year or in graduate school?

I think that we are passing the buck in letting kids in and letting them over--too many of them, over the long run. But I think we're passing the buck in a more important way. And that is, we're letting elementary and secondary schools off the hook. Chancellor Tien at the University of Berkeley, when the preferences were rolled back at Berkeley, said, well, if we're not going to be able to use racial double standards in admissions, we're going to have to go into all the elementary schools, all the junior high schools, all the high schools, and do mentoring and tutoring. Well Chancellor Tien, where were you all those years?

But I do think you make another very, very important point. Yes, we can preferentially admit students who are academically weak. And they do not, on the whole, do well in college. On average, the black students at the Bowen and Bok--ah, what's called the college and beyond schools--are in the 23rd percentile in grade point average. And that includes the half of those, of the black students who needed no preferences to get in. So the preferentially admitted really must be doing very badly. Although Bok and Bowen do not give us those break downs. But they do say, well a high percentage go onto medical school. A high percentage go onto law school. Those schools have preferential admissions. And we know very well that for instance 43 percent--nationally--43 percent of preferentially admitted black students who entered law school in 1991, either didn't make it through the school or didn't pass the bar exam. We have comparable figures for medical schools.

I mean, what is the point of setting kids up for failure? And there is another point--I think equally important point. You know, when there used to be Jewish quotas at the Ivy league schools--and so there were preferences for WASP's, in effect. The Jewish kids who got in had to be very, very good academically. Extremely well prepared. It was harder for them to get in. And when they arrived at college, they did very well. And a, and a Jewish stereotype developed. Jews are academically smart. We're letting in black kids that nurture the traditional stereotype, the traditional very poisonous stereotype, about black students. Black students aren't any good academically. They can throw a ball. They can't do math. I can't imagine a worse formula for race relations in this already highly race conscious, and in many ways prejudice, country.

When I interviewed Bob Sternberg, he said his new tests were actually good predictors of academic success. Is this one way to develop alternative tests?

As far as I'm concerned, institutions of higher education that are now selective, can admit students by any formula they want. They can throw the applications down the stairs and pick the ones that arrive at the bottom first. Um, they can develop alternative testing. They can, ah, whatever. Ah, you know, it can be any kind of criteria--except race. Race is special. I don't want racial sorting, racial preferences, for all the reasons I've mentioned.

If these other tests are really predictive of doing well at schools that are academically competitive, you can change the nature of the schools. That's fine with me. But at the moment, they are very academically competitive. If these other tests are predictive of academic achievement--great. That's terrific. But I do want to say something else about the whole question of diversity. I'm not sure why we define diversity only along lines of race and ethnicity. I mean, no school worries about how many Christian fundamentalists there are. How many, how much political diversity there is. I mean, individuals are diverse. Harvard College now has close to half Asians. A combination of Jews and Asians are making up about half of its classes. Well, those are two populations that are about five percent of the American population. Is Harvard horribly un-diverse because it's got this disproportionate number of Jews and Asians? I mean, how many is the right number? And why does race and ethnicity alone count for diversity? If you were to go to the Harvard law school and say, how many believe in the death penalty? You'd probably get almost nobody. Certainly among the faculty. How many are Catholics? Go to a sociology department--how many are Catholics? They're mostly Jews. Um, for, you know, a variety of reasons. I mean, why is it that the only kind of diversity we care about is skin color?

You've sacrificed a certain racial make up at a university, for the sake of the principle of not taking race into account. Is it acceptable?

The question is--what is the down side of racial double standards? And how much weight do you place on that down side? And at the end of the day, that is a judgement call that no data can settle. I think the down side is too great. I think in terms of perpetuating racial stereotypes. In terms of putting kids in a competitive environment in which they cannot survive or barely survive. In terms of violating a sense of fairness on the part of other students, including Asians. Those things I would weigh very heavily. Others will weigh them differently. And you can't say, I'm right or you're right. Because there is no right. What we're really engaged in are judgement calls about the future of America. We're not disagreeing over the end of racial equality. We're disagreeing over the means by which to get there. We used to disagree over ends in this country. We used to have, you know, a whole region of this country that looked no different than the, apartheid in South Africa. This country is now debating means, not ends. And that is really the difference between what I say and what a Nathan Glazer says.

You say we have racial double standards. We also seem to be willing to abide many other double standards. Why is this one the one that's under such attack?

Racial double standards are different than alumni double standards. For one thing, we're giving a much greater edge on the basis of race. These are race driven admissions. I, you cannot, to the same degree, argue that they are alumni driven. But the question of alumni preferences does belong, when it comes to state institutions, in the public arena, in the state legislature. Private institutions certainly can decide to get rid of alumni preferences, to get rid of athletic preferences. But it is only racial preferences that in the law are highly suspect. Not only in the 14th amendment of course, but in the civil rights act of 1964, which covers private institutions as well. Title six covers private institutions as well. Race is the American dilemma. It is race that, that, you know, keeps this country in agony. It is our most serious domestic problem. And therefore, we want to think specially hard about anything that involves sorting people out on the basis of one drop of blood of this or that.

The problem is K through 12. Why is it necessary to get rid of affirmative action while you work on the problem?

It is a very tempting deal to say, let's keep affirmative action until we can close the racial gap in academic performance. But to begin with, I think that taking away the Band-Aid, the power to, of racial preferences, is going to light a fire under those K through 12 schools--the K through 12 systems. It's going to be a wake up call. But I also think these racial preferences are very pernicious. I don't think they do black students much good. I think they're poisonous in terms of race relations. And I do not think they are fair to the Asian student, for instance, who have worked very, very hard and is kept out of a Berkeley because a student with a slightly different skin color has gotten in as a consequence of racial identity.

Even if we're talking at a school of 35,000 and freshman class of 120 kids? Isn't that worth the trade off--the benefit to society?

Bowen and Bok make what I regard as a very odd point. They say, well, the impact on let's say the Asian kids, is very small. Because they're a small group. Well, impact is on individuals, not on groups--that's to begin with. They say, well it's like a handicapped parking place. Very few--you know, you have to find a different spot. So what? Well, I don't like that analogy--what, blacks are crippled? I mean, that was the analogy that Lyndon Johnson made in 1965 and his famous Howard University speech. And I think it's a very pernicious image. But if we're really going to make that argument, I mean, why don't we give much higher salaries to male teachers and reduce the salaries of female teachers? You would be benefiting--that is in the K through 12 years--you would be benefiting a very small group. And you would be slightly harming a very large group, since most elementary and secondary teachers are female. I mean, this argument just doesn't wash, it seems to me. You want to think about people as individuals. And why in general, do we think of blacks, and whites, and Asians, and Hispanics, as [fungible] members of groups? They all think alike. They're all culturally alike. They all bring the same thing to a classroom. If you're black, you speak for all blacks. You're not an individual. You are a black individual. So you have a certain voice and it's very different than a white voice, even if you are middle class and grow up in [Scarsdale]. I mean, this is race think. That, it perpetuates this terrible habits in this country. Why do we want to do that?

You said that Asians were being harmed by the affirmative action policies. The Asian kids are going to be scoring higher than the white kids. The blacks and Latino's would be in competition with white kids, not with Asians. So Wouldn't more white students be displaced, even at the small numbers of 120 kids.

Asian kids are being disadvantaged by preferences. And the proof that pudding is in the UC numbers. The Asian enrollment, with race neutral policies, the Asian numbers have gone up. The white numbers have not.

Whites are under represented in proportion to their population in California. Whites are under represented in the UC schools. That's fine with me. I don't have any problem with that.

I think we have a racially caring policy that is in fact cruel to students in a variety of ways. But yes, dumbing down the curriculum, asking less of students--packaged as being sensitive to the fact that they don't do as well academically, and they don't do as well on standardized tests--that does not do students any good. Students who have to enter an economy in which skills, high skills, are the only quality that is going to get you a high income.

The test score gap did close in 70's and 80's. Then in 88, it took a nose dive. Do you have any guesses or theories as to why that happened?

There is a mystery. The racial gap in academic achievement was closing in 1971 to 1988. And in 1988, the black scores start to turn around. And the gap has been widening. It looks like it's plateaued now. But the picture is not good. And the question is, why the change? Why, when we were making so much progress, should that progress have stopped? It's the one place in our book, in America in Black and White, where we say we're stumped. We don't know. Then of course, we go on to write 40 pages making some guesses.

I have a few guesses. One, I think the level of disorder in the schools increased with the rival of crack cocaine. People talk about violence in the schools. I mean, when somebody's shot, it makes headlines. What they don't talk about is the day in and day out chaos--that five percent of the kids in the classroom, or at most ten percent of the kids in the classroom. And which in fact, ruins education for everybody else. So I think that the increasing violence and disorder in the streets began to spill into the classrooms. I also think that we're going to discover that there were changes in the 80's in the educational culture. An increasingly, an increasing nervousness on the part of teachers about holding black students to the same standards. In the name of sensitivity, they were dumbing down their expectations for black kids.

I'm not sure what else explains it.

You make an interesting point that the higher levels of income and education of black parents are not translating to the next generation. Can you talk about that at all?

One of the most disturbing, I think perhaps the most disturbing fact in our whole book is that black students coming from families earning over 70,000 are doing worse on their SATS, on average--it's always on average--than white students from families in the lowest income group. You want to cry hearing that figure. I mean, it's so terrible.

I don't have an explanation for it. I was having lunch with somebody who is African American, and very distinguished, and very smart, and thoughtful about these issues, the other day. Who said to me, you know, middle class habits, in terms of the way children are talked to the books that are read to kids, the books in the household altogether--they take more than one generation. So you can't look at income alone. And maybe that's true. And so it's a question of time. So many of these questions are a question of the time table and how impatient you are. And I don't blame blacks in this country for being very impatient. They've waited too long for equality. They're still waiting. I understand that. The only question is whether short cuts can get us where we want to go. And my answer is no.

There's another factor here which we have not touched on. And that is the academic skills of the teachers. Particularly, in the urban school districts. I'm not a teacher basher. I think a lot of teachers work incredibly hard and do a very good job. But I also think that too many have education degrees. They mainly took courses in pedagogy. They don't know enough about the subjects they have to teach. Even elementary school kids. And that's particularly true for math and science.

Bowen and Bok say racial preferences were used to select a significant fraction of their entering classes. But you say by national standards blacks remain woefully under represented.

But you also seem to be saying that these kids are not qualified. But the numbers, in terms of graduation rates and even lower grades--they get through. So, is this a cause for national concern?

Bowen and Bok argue that, look, by national standards, these are highly qualified students. But national standards aren't the issue when the question in admission to Yale. When you are admitting whites and Asians that are in the 96th percentile or above, and blacks and Hispanics that are in the 75th percentile or above--which is what these schools are doing--you're talking about racial double standards. And I object to them. And they have an impact on how these kids do at these schools.

Bowen and Bok also way, well, by 1951 standards, these black students measure up. Well, sure--the standards in 1951 were very different. Would a track coach at one of these universities recruiting for the varsity team say--well, you run the mile at a very fast rate by 1951 standards. We'd love to have you. Of course not. Standards have changed. And the question is the context today. The relevant standards are the standards in these schools today. Not the national standards and not the standards in 1951.

So isn't the heart of the issue--whether or not a student is qualified? Not that he's less qualified maybe than some of his classmates. But that by the standards of the university, he's qualified.

By the standards of these universities, a black student who is in the 76th percentile nationally, um--his or her SAT scores--is qualified. An Asian student who is in the 76th percentile is not qualified. An Asian student has to be in the 96th percentile or above. The fact is, qualified is always a matter of relatively. So it's a matter of context. In these schools, the 76th percentile doesn't do unless the, the color of your skin is that of blacks or Hispanics.

The standards at Cal rose in the last 30 years. Do you agree that attempt to achieve diversity may very well lead to a lowering of academic standards?

If schools want to sacrifice the profile of academic excellence for the sake of diversity, that's up to them. They can take randomly picked students who's SAT scores fall in the top 50 percent. Whatever. It doesn't matter to me as long as they are not racially sorting students. But they will change the nature of the education at those schools. And the question is, is there a place for academically selective schools in this country? Is there a place in the K through 12 years? We have Boston Latin in, in, ah, in the city of Boston. You have [Stuyvesant] and Bronx Science. In New York you have Lowell High School. In San Francisco, where the Asians--where the Chinese specifically--have just won a suit. Um, there were preferences for whites in a effect at, um, Lowell High schools. Um, I lost my thought. Where did I start on that? Um.

The idea that you're harming black students by dropping them in a pool that they're not qualified to swim in, which has been a central argument for those opposed to affirmative action or preferences--it seems that you put that argument to bed.

The fit hypothesis, which we call the mis-match theory, is alive and kicking. I think it's been substantiated by the Bowen and Bok numbers. Um, that is with a drop out rate for blacks more than three times that for white students at the highly selective schools, you are better off dropping one level down and making sure, being sure you are going to finish and finish with feeling good about how you've done in that school. Because you will have done academically better in a slightly less competitive environment. And at the end of the day, what counts is getting that degree and having the confidence that you are good. Remember, the average student, black student, at the Bowen and Bok schools--and this includes black students who needed no preferences--is in the bottom quarter of his or her class in terms of grades. That can't make those students feel very good about themselves or their future.

Colin Powell comes up from City College. No where on the map in terms of elite schools. And he was never, at any point in his career, the beneficiary of racial preferences. He was the beneficiary of affirmative action in the best sense, in the outreach sense, at one point in his career. And I really do not think, um, that his views on this subject address the question of this, of the student who has been admitted to [Weslian] instead of going to a slightly easier school to get into.

What he's saying is, I'll be the judge of whether or not I'm stigmatized. But it sounds like you're second guessing his feelings about it. You talked about the racial preferences creating a poisonous environment.

It is perfectly correct to say that it is the black students themselves who have to talk about stigma. But we must also talk about the attitude of white students who have in their heads--eh, you're black. I know what standards you got into this school under. Or the black patient who looks at the black doctor and has doubts. The black, the, you know, white looking for a lawyer, and has doubts about a black lawyer who shows up. I mean, these are horrible feelings. And they perpetuate racial stereotypes that have been too much a part of our history. Why do we want to perpetuate them? It's exactly the wrong thing to do.

What Derek Bok and Bill Bowen say is that this is not a debate between principle and expediency. This is a debate between principle and principle.

Bowen and Bok say this is an argument between people with different principles, at the end of the day. I don't think that's accurate. I think it's an argument primarily about what is efficacious--what works. What is going to get us to a situation, to the point of racial equality in this society? I don't think any of us disagree on the end we're trying to get there. We disagree on the means to that end.

Now, I am more concerned than they are about racial sorting, racial classification, making judgements about people, on the basis of a few shades--lighter or darker skin color. That is a concern that no data can say is right or wrong. But I do think that if you are cognizant of the history of racial subjugation in this country, and you know, to what horrible uses racial classifications--the sorting of people along racial lines, judgements about people on the basis of their color, the color of their skin--if you understand what horrible uses that mind set has been put to, you should be very, very weary of continuing to judge people by the color of their skin and not the content of their character.

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