Kevin Carey, policy director at Education Sector, a DC think tank, has a commentary in this week's Chronicle of Higher Education that signals the kind of rhetoric we may expect from proponents of affirmative action as the Fisher case heads to the Supreme Court. It is a mixture of high-mindedness for one side and denunciation of the other.
Here is how it begins:
"The activist judges of the United States Supreme Court, by choosing last month to take up Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, have decided to put affirmative action back on the national agenda. The fragile five-vote coalition that upheld race-based admissions policies at the University of Michigan less than a decade ago has been dispersed by retirement. Now the court's conservative majority seems poised--stare decisis be damned--to upend decades of established law and prohibit colleges from creating classes as they see fit."
The moral set-up is clear. While affirmative action amounts merely to colleges "creating classes as they see fit," anti-affirmative action amounts to "activist" judging, high-handed legal machinations ("be damned"), and disrespect of tradition.
The caricature proceeds from there. Carey mentions Chief Justice Roberts and claims "This is a man who . . . failed to see any distinction between the vicious state-sponsored racism outlawed by Brown v. Board of Education and present day policies designed to give minority children a better education." Think for a moment about that characterization. Once again, one side is all benign (all they want to do is better educate minority kids), the other all sinister. Does Carey really think that Roberts sees no distinction between Jim Crow and current practices? The paragraph ends, "Perhaps somewhere in the court's vast law library there is a dictionary explaining that the word 'discriminate' has two definitions, only one of which is malign." This is sarcasm posing as critique.
Carey goes on to note the endurance of legacy-based affirmative action, concluding that "In other words, affirmative action for rich white people will be legal, while affirmative action for low-income minority students will not. This is justice?"
The rest of the piece maintains the condescension and tendentiousness. Carey is so energized about the issue, and so firmly convinced of one side's right and the other side's wrong, that he cannot grant opponents of affirmative action a whisper of credibility. It runs with indignation, and it views the entire issue as a contest of justice and injustice.
It is hard to figure how opponents of affirmative action best respond to such charges. If you enter a debate with your adversaries offering as their first premise your iniquity, if they frame your evidence and arguments as expressions of evil intent, you can't win. This is how political correctness operates.