Affirmative Action in Basketball? Not Good There… Or Anywhere, by Jerome Hudson arrived on the campus of the University of California, Merced last May to gather signatures on a petition calling for a redistribution of grade point averages. Not surprisingly, few star students wanted to share the fruits of their academic labors.

But the logic was liberally sound. Students who worked hard and studied longer than their peers, in the spirit of fairness, should be willing to sacrifice their higher GPAs to benefit those whose grades weren’t so high due to laziness or ineptitude, or both.

Paradoxically, many of the same A students unwilling to take a B to save someone else from an F endorsed a progressive tax code that spreads wealth from people who earn it to those who did not.

Then showed up at the University of California, Riverside to see if students there would sign a petition demanding their athletic department make race a determining factor for team rosters.

Their findings were similar to those at UC Merced. While UC Riverside students said they supported affirmative action laws to promote diversity and that race-based preferences “level the playing field” for disadvantaged minorities, they nonetheless refused to sign a petition to apply quotas to the UC Riverside basketball team, for which ten of the 11 active players are black although blacks make up only about 7 percent of the student body.’s Oliver Darcy figured this disparity offered a natural opportunity to promote diversity. After all, affirmative action rules UC Riverside’s hiring policy and minority-specific outreach is not-so-vaguely couched in the school’s advertising.

Our society desires diversity and equality, but the glaring double-standard found by shows progressive policies promoting problems.

America staggered out of slavery and into segregation and Jim Crow. While American exceptionalism is responsible for so many of humanity’s historic steps forward, almost a century of post-Civil War racial discrimination was a stumble. Until the civil rights era, a moral disconnect ruled the day.

An ensuing onslaught of court rulings and bureaucratic fiat comprised the noble effort to reconcile America’s egalitarian idealism and its discriminatory reality.

Herein lies the rub.

In the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1896 decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, segregated facilities for blacks and whites were overwhelmingly deemed constitutional as long as they were equal. It took the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision to determine that “separate, but equal” was “inherently unequal” because a segregated education “generates a feeling of inferiority.”

Ending segregation was a good thing, but the Pandora’s box of reforms such as President Kennedy’s executive order on affirmative action and forced busing laws to enforce Brown created mixed results.

Born of moral intentions, some remedies were never properly scrutinized and had immoral results.

Busing ultimately — and unfortunately — left too many school districts more segregated than ever. “White flight” saw large numbers of white families de facto segregating their children in private schools or moving altogether to suburban neighborhoods.

Affirmative action and its tentacles — quotas, minority-based points systems, group-based preferences, loosened testing and admissions standards — subvert our most sacred democratic principle: that all men are equal in the eyes of the law. For too long, preferences have countered this value. The belief that career opportunities and educational successes should be the reward of individuals’ merit and unwavering work ethic is diminshing over time.

Tragically for blacks, women and other “oppressed” minorities, affirmative action also indirectly communicates a demoralizing message of inferiority that reinforces the same separatism it set out to solve. It is illogical to think that one can fight fire with fire and get anything but scorched earth. Reverse discrimination cannot cure discrimination.

Two mutually-exclusive Americas now exist. We are either an affirmative action America, where some among us are held to a lower standard based on skin color, or equal to succeed or fail on our merits.

Be it basketball or business, allowing the best to advance is the true moral path.

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Jerome Hudson is a member of the national advisory council of the black leadership network Project 21. Comments may be sent to [email protected].

Published by the National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints permitted provided source is credited. New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21, other Project 21 members, or the National Center for Public Policy Research, its board or staff.

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