Liberty, Equality . . . and Diversity?

Article excerpt


This July Fourth will mark the 227th anniversary of America's quest to realize the dominant ideal of our Declaration of Independence: "All men are created equal." The Supreme Court's decisions regarding the University of Michigan's racial preferences admissions policies give us reason to reflect on the history of that quest. Our progress has been very real, yet very difficult.

Slavery, the greatest stain on this nation's fledgling years, threatened equality from the start. After 600,000 men and one president died to end it, in 1868 this country ratified the 14th Amendment, which stated in part, "No state shall ... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

Nearly 100 years later, with full equality between the races still not a reality, we passed the Civil Rights Act to guarantee equality under the law for those who still didn't receive it. That Act read, "No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance." The University of Michigan being, like virtually all institutions of higher learning, a beneficiary of federal money, the law and its application would seem to be clear.

But the Supreme Court has now demoted the concept of equality under the law in favor of a concept with a much cheaper pedigree: "diversity." Although no American ever fought or died to promote it, and few can even define it, our robed masters in Washington have declared that equality under the law must be balanced with "a compelling interest" in attaining "diversity."

"Diversity." Such an innocuous, pleasant-sounding idea. Who could be against it?

But "diversity" is an empty vessel of a word, begging to be filled with meaning by the listener. To many, it means students of all colors and backgrounds will populate our nations' universities in harmony. All fair and reasonable people applaud that. To the academic elites, "diversity" means a license to discriminate to achieve the "critical mass" objectives that reside solely in their minds.

As a Regent of the University of California for more than a decade, of one thing I am certain: the building of "diversity" at virtually every select university means preferential treatment has to be doled out according to race. All "races" are equal, but some are more equal than others.

As tragic as this ruling is, there's still great reason for hope. One bad judgment can't erase centuries of progress. America is a great nation where the overwhelming majority of its people still believe in equality under the law. Even better, the liberty enshrined in the Declaration of Independence the document we celebrate every July Fourth guarantees the right of the people to organize and impose their political will on their government. …