According to this NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, public support for race-based affirmative action stands at 45%, the lowest level ever.
Interpretations of the current statistic vary. One is the “Obama effect” – the fact that an African American has been elected to the White House, which leads to public perceptions that race is no longer an impediment to success as it once was. Another is the view that economic inequality has displaced racial disparities as the pre-eminent societal injustice, since both blacks and whites are affected in substantial measure.
There may be some merit in both of these points, but I think that there is another factor that weighs more significantly than either of them, and it's probably also hard to quantify. That is the bewildered sense of injustice and unfairness found among many poor whites, Asians and others who feel just plain cheated by race-based affirmative action, and very ably chronicled by Russell K. Nieli in his magisterial book, Wounds That Will Not Heal. See the recent review by Carl Cohen here. And not only cheated, but insulted by the “diversity” colossus that currently bestrides academic hiring, and continues to deny doing what anyone can plainly see that it is doing. C'mon, fellas! Why, we're just complying with federal law and bringing the country the benefits of a diverse work force – we’re not depriving anyone of anything. It’s all about “fairness.”
Yes, it certainly is about fairness. Except that it’s increasingly many peoples' sense of "fairness" that’s so affronted by illegal racial quotas, as Nieli demonstrates. And that, I believe, is a big part of what explains the significant drop in public support for “diversity.” Its continuation requires a level of hypocrisy that they simply are no longer willing to tolerate.
The Supreme Court, of course, should not base its jurisprudence on public opinion surveys. And as it approaches its decision in Fisher v. University of Texas, I fervently hope that the justices simply apply the the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment as it reads. That would mean that race-based preferences have got to go.
But I also hope that this poll catches their eyes as well. The “wounds” are there and real. They don’t need any additional salt rubbed in.