rosentha at chapman.edu
Sun Nov 12 21:31:29 PST 2006
Douglas Laycock writes: "Texas has a compelling interest in affirmative action for Hispanics. They are going to be running the state. If that population continues to be disproportionately poor and undereducated, the whole state will suffer."
I am a relatively recent refugee from the "real" world of urban politics. From my experience in that world, I have a difficult time relating the debate over affirmative action in graduate admissions to the problems actually faced by disadvantaged minorities in this country. The United States Department of Justice estimates that Chicago alone has 125,000 members of criminal street gangs, the vast majority of whom are African-American or Hispanic. The comparable figure in Los Angeles is 200,000. As I have tried to demonstrate in my own writing ("Gang Loitering and Race," 91 J. Crim. L. & Criminology 99 (2000) (Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=926368), which is itself heavily influenced by the work of William Julius Wilson, enormously powerful sociological forces push these young people into gangs and away from the "legitimate" avenues of upward mobility. A politically realistic level of affirmative action (if there is any politically realistic level of affirmative action; the Michigan election suggets there is not) might increase the number of minority students at a state graduate institution by perhaps 10 a year. Even putting politics aside, current constitutional standards probably wouldn't tolerate much more affirmative action anyway. It is simply not plausible to believe that this type of enhanced "diversity" would have any material impact on the plight of minorities in our society. Equalizing educational spending at the primary and secondary level offers no greater hope; there is no data suggesting that educational spending has an impact on educational achievement after controlling for students' background. The barriers to upward mobility are much more profound that that. As I once heard an African American police commander who grew up in an extremely troubled part of Chicago once tell a social worker who was advocating greater investments in education and job training: "You've got to understand, when I was 17, I didn't think I would live to be 21." That is why my thinking on this subject focuses on more aggressive inner-city law enforcment, a position to which most law professors violently object, although they would themselves never dream of living in those neighborhoods.
It is understandable that elites concern themselves with the standards for admission to graduate schools. It is also understandable that law professors concern themselves with the racial composition of the classes they teach. But we should deceive ourselves about the stakes in the debate over law school admissions. Maybe it is a good thing if law schools are a bit more diverse, but that is not going to begin to address the far more serious problems of minorities in America.
Chapman University School of Law
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