It’s Friday, June 30, 2023, and my sister Susan’s birthday (she’s exactly 2½ years younger than I, so it’s also my half-birthday). Happy birthday, sis! Here’s our passport picture with mom, taken when we went to Greece in about 1955:
We’ll toast her birthday with a tropical drink, since it’s National Mai Tai Day. a drink made with rum, orange curaçao, fresh lime juice and orgeat.
My Twitter photo is always Hili, but it changes from time to time:
Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the June 30 Wikipedia page.
*All the buzz is about the Supreme Court’s striking down affirmative action, which is as unexpected as snow in Antarctica.
Leaders of American business and public institutions warned in friend-of-the-court briefs that a ruling against affirmative action would deprive the nation of leaders who reflect the population’s racial diversity. The watershed decision sets new parameters for the continuing national debate over what criteria are permissible to admit people to the country’s elite institutions and hire them at its biggest companies—crucial springboards for upward mobility in America.
University officials have insisted no substitute for racial preferences exists that can ensure that a representative share of minority applicants—particularly Black students—gains admission to selective institutions.
If no substitute exists, does this mean that affirmative action can never end? If so, then there is no endpoint beyond which racial preferences needn’t exist.
“Eliminating racial discrimination means eliminating all of it,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. “The student must be treated based on his or her experiences as an individual—not on the basis of race. Many universities have for too long done just the opposite,” he wrote.
The court’s three liberals dissented. Society “is not, and has never been, colorblind,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote, joined by Justices Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson. “The Court ignores the dangerous consequences of an America where its leadership does not reflect the diversity of the People.”
Lee Bollinger, Columbia University’s president, expects five years of chaos before higher education fully adjusts to the new legal landscape, as committees and task forces—already in place at many schools—explore ways to employ income levels, socioeconomic factors and other race-neutral factors to maintain diversity.
Note that what has to be done is maintain the status quo, but take actions that will maintain it legally. We have to admit, though, that no race-neutral factors will ever maintain diversity at the levels universities want. How could that work.
*Well, various workarounds, surreptitious or not, have been proposed. One, suggested in an op-ed in the NYT by Stephanie Saul, is the admissions essay, “The college application essay will become a place to talk about race.” But that, of course, would lead to every college in America asking for essays about race, which is not only tedious, but is in effect a kind of DEI statement for students: a way to show their ideological bona fides as well as reveal their own race. Saul:
The college essay may become more important after the Supreme Court’s decision, and a place where students can highlight their racial or ethnic backgrounds — but with a big caution sign from the court.
In the decision striking down affirmative action policies at Harvard and the University of North Carolina, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote, “Nothing prohibits universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected the applicant’s life, so long as that discussion is concretely tied to a quality of character or unique ability that the particular applicant can contribute to the university.”
But that distorts the purpose of the essay, which is to show a student’s writing ability, thoughtfulness, personality, and imagination. The University of Chicago is famous for asking weird essay questions; go here to see a few. I’ll pick two (inspired by students) and ask you if you can work racial issues into them:
The seven liberal arts in antiquity consisted of the Quadrivium — astronomy, mathematics, geometry, and music — and the Trivium — rhetoric, grammar, and logic. Describe your own take on the Quadrivium or the Trivium. What do you think is essential for everyone to know?
—Inspired by Peter Wang, Class of 2022
You are on an expedition to found a colony on Mars, when from a nearby crater, a group of Martians suddenly emerges. They seem eager to communicate, but they’re the impatient kind and demand you represent the human race in one song, image, memory, proof, or other idea. What do you share with them to show that humanity is worth their time?
—Inspired by Alexander Hastings, Class of 2023, and Olivia Okun-Dubitsky, Class of 2026
But John Roberts is way ahead of these strategies:
However, the chief justice also took a shot across the bow at anyone who might be thinking that the essay could be used as a surreptitious means of racial selection.
“Despite the dissent’s assertion to the contrary, universities may not simply establish through the application essays or other means the regime we hold unlawful today,” he wrote, underscoring, “What cannot be done directly cannot be done indirectly.”
And now groups like Students for Fair Admissions, which represented the plaintiffs in the Harvard and UNC suit, will be able to monitor how colleges are admitting students, and look for “proxies for race”, like Harvard’s “pesonality score.” It won’t be easy to do an end run around the Court’s decisions.
As for nice essay questions like the ones Chicago uses, we won’t see many like these from now on. No, here’s what we’re in for:
Some education officials had already strategized on how to use the essay. In a recent presentation sponsored by the American Council on Education, Shannon Gundy, the director of undergraduate admissions at the University of Maryland, said students should tailor their admissions essays to describe how race had affected their lives.
Can you imagine? Every essay topic pretty much the same, with companies springing up that, for a fee, will help a student craft an admissions-winning essay.
*For an eclectic but sensible take on affirmative action, read Freddie de Boer’s Substack piece, “Affirmative action thoughts in an inelegant format.” Here are three of his many points:
- All things being equal, I’m fine with some race-conscious admissions in our actually-existing university system, though under a theory of reparations for slavery, not the bizarre jerry-rigged “diversity” sham. [JAC: this is my own rationale, too]
- I am much, much more worried for the vast number of Black people who don’t even apply to college than I am about a theoretical Black student who would get into Harvard with a racial preference but wouldn’t without. The former is in worse shape by absolutely any metric. This whole conversation rests on weird priorities.
- It remains profoundly weird that people who want to defend affirmative action can’t straightforwardly say what it does. Affirmative action is a system in which students of color who would not ordinarily gain entry to a given college are given a slot thanks to consideration of their racial background, on grounds of diversity or addressing systemic bias. But if you say “these college kids got in because of affirmative action,” that’s a horrible, racist thing to say. I can’t think of another progressive program where the defenders of that program have forbidden people from saying that the system is working as it is intended to work. Very strange.
*Nine states, including California, have already banned affirmative action in college. In the WaPo, Janice Kai Chen and Daniel Wolfe note that “State affirmative action bans helped White, Asian students, hurt others.”
In states with bans, Hispanic and Native Americans were less represented
Where race-based admission policies were banned in 2021, already underrepresented racial groups had even lower representation when compared to states without bans.
Black representation increased a bit, but didn’t reach parity. The data are complex, though; in some schools diversity increased after affirmative-action bans. In general, though, minority representation decreased after these bans. Do read the piece for yourself if you’re interested.
*The AP reports reactions of various people to the affirmative-action decision, including Biden and some Justices themselves. There are really no surprises, but it’s interesting to hear.
Chief Justice John Roberts said that for too long universities have “concluded, wrongly, that the touchstone of an individual’s identity is not challenges bested, skills built, or lessons learned but the color of their skin. Our constitutional history does not tolerate that choice.”
From the White House, President Joe Biden said he “strongly, strongly” disagreed with the court’s ruling and urged colleges to seek other routes to diversity rather than let the ruling “be the last word.”
Besides the conservative-liberal split, the fight over affirmative action showed the deep gulf between the three justices of color, each of whom wrote separately and vividly about race in America and where the decision might lead.
Justice Clarence Thomas — the nation’s second Black justice, who had long called for an end to affirmative action — wrote that the decision “sees the universities’ admissions policies for what they are: rudderless, race-based preferences designed to ensure a particular racial mix in their entering classes.”
Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the court’s first Latina, wrote in dissent that the decision “rolls back decades of precedent and momentous progress.”
In a separate dissent, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson — the court’s first Black female justice — called the decision “truly a tragedy for us all.”
Jackson, who sat out the Harvard case because she had been a member of an advisory governing board, wrote, “With let-them-eat-cake obliviousness, today, the majority pulls the ripcord and announces ‘colorblindness for all’ by legal fiat. But deeming race irrelevant in law does not make it so in life.
Biden, who quickly stepped before cameras at the White House, said of the nation’s colleges: “They should not abandon their commitment to ensure student bodies of diverse backgrounds and experience that reflect all of America,” He said colleges should evaluate “adversity overcome” by candidates.
Well, that’s one workaround, but somehow I don’t think it’s going to guarantee diversity. After all, not every minority student overcame adversity, and many non-minority students did. And I bet almost everyone can write an essay about a major obstacle they overcame.
Finally, statements from two former Presidents:
Former Presidents Donald Trump and Barack Obama offered starkly different takes on the high court ruling. The decision marked “a great day for America. People with extraordinary ability and everything else necessary for success, including future greatness for our Country, are finally being rewarded,” Trump, the current Republican presidential frontrunner, wrote on his social media network.
Obama said in a statement that affirmative action “allowed generations of students like Michelle and me to prove we belonged. Now it’s up to all of us to give young people the opportunities they deserve — and help students everywhere benefit from new perspectives.”
It’s interesting that Obama says that both he and Michelle were beneficiaries of affirmative action. I didn’t know that, and never took the trouble to check.
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, the Princess is going to rest:
Hili: Something is pushing me towards the bed.A: Either tiredness or hedonism.
Hili: Coś mnie pcha w kierunku łóżka.Ja: Albo zmęczenie, albo hedonizm.
. . . and a picture of Baby Kulka:
From Ginger K.:
From the Absurd Sign Project 2.0:
From Masih: another brave doffer of the hijab fights back against those who call her a “prostitute”:
Regime supporters label hijab protesters a prostitute for defying Islamic views on the hijab & she bravely fights back. Iranian women triumph over regressive mullahs, emerging victorious in their battle for freedom & rights.#WomanLifeFreedom pic.twitter.com/IH9z7ZWAZR
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) June 28, 2023
From Titania: truth is stranger than fiction:
These vets are urging the public to stop misgendering their pets. 🐶
I made the point 4 years ago, but great to see the veterinary industry is finally catching up… 💅🏻 pic.twitter.com/xi1GARBdSB
— Titania McGrath (@TitaniaMcGrath) May 15, 2023
From Merilee. Three stray kittens get a forever home!
The moment he realizes he’s adopted 3 kittens..
— Buitengebieden (@buitengebieden) June 29, 2023
From Barry, two happy snails. Look at that guy chowing down on the green bean! (Or is it asparagus?)
🐌 Nom nom 🐌 pic.twitter.com/3QsI2bozGQ
— Woman of Wonder 🐳 (@WonderW97800751) June 26, 2023
From the Auschwitz Memorial. a boy marched to death at age 17:
30 June 1928 | A Polish Jew, Oskar Müller, was born in Chorzów. His family emigrated to Norway.
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) June 30, 2023
Tweets from Matthew. I wonder if there are any British Jews living in Ham?
— depths of wikipedia (@depthsofwiki) June 28, 2023
Look at that manta ray flap! (Doesn’t do it much good in the air, though.)
“Hey bird, I can do that too” 😅
🎥 IG: nautilus_liveaboards pic.twitter.com/yelgSf9hWQ
— Buitengebieden (@buitengebieden) June 27, 2023
This is adorable:
Baby rhino playfully charging a wildebeest before running back to mom…😍😅 pic.twitter.com/i30rp02HS9
— 𝕐o̴g̴ (@Yoda4ever) April 26, 2023