Image source: Twitter @abbydphillip screenshot
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CNN host Abby Phillip ended a segment with a fair admissions advocate on Thursday when he used facts to demonstrate the downside of affirmative action.
Kenny Xu — a board member for Students for Fair Admissions, the plaintiff in the Supreme Court case — told Phillip that academic excellence, not race, "should be prioritized" in college admissions.
"I think that admissions should be only based on merit," he said. "Why are we asking a university to calculate somebody's level of diversity? I think that sets a very bad precedent for anybody trying to get into college. We should be treated on the basis of our merits. We should be treated on the basis of how hard we work, or study, our SAT scores, our grades."
But Phillip pushed back. She asked why admissions boards should not consider "other factors" that students "bring to the table" like socio-economic background.
Xu argued you cannot do that fairly because, inevitably, admissions standards are changed for applicants from a disadvantaged socio-economic background versus applicants from a privileged background.
"We don't want that. We want black students to succeed. We want every student to succeed, low-income students to succeed," he pointed out. "But you have to put them in scenarios, in places where they are likely to succeed. And lowering your standard to admit somebody of a socio-economic status or race would not help you do that. In fact, you would harm their graduation rate and excellence."
Phillip responded that standards aren't lowered — but Xu held his ground, despite Phillip's attempts to interrupt him.
"The standard is lowered, as admissions data shows. Asians have to score 273 points higher in the SAT to have the same chance of admission as a black person," he argued. "So, the standard is lowered for black Americans."
Phillip then abruptly ended the segment.
"Kenny Xu, thank you for your perspective. Really appreciate you joining us today," she said.
The phenomenon that Xu described is well documented.
Five years ago when the case went to trial, the Harvard Crimson reported on the Ivy League school's admission data. The paper showed that Asian students who applied to Harvard produced the highest average standardized test scores among applicant demographics, yet had the lowest admission rate. Black applicants, on the other hand, had the lowest average standardized test scores, but enjoyed the highest admission rate.
As CNN legal analyst Elie Honig explained, what the Supreme Court objected to was not diversity per se, but admission boards giving "specific numerical bump [in admissions] based on race."
"What I think is really interesting is there is a recognition here ... that racial diversity is a virtue, it is a value. They're not saying it's a bad thing or it's meaningless," Honig explained of the Supreme Court's decision. "The question is: What are the constitutional means to get there?"
The answer to that question, Justice Clarence Thomas suggested, is to honor the "colorblind" Constitution.
In his concurring opinion in the case, Thomas acknowledged that American society is not "colorblind." But that reality should not prevent our laws from being race-neutral, he argued.
"Racialism simply cannot be undone by different or more racialism," Thomas wrote.
"This vision of meeting social racism with government-imposed racism is thus self-defeating, resulting in a never-ending cycle of victimization," he observed. "In the wake of the Civil War, the Framers of the Fourteenth Amendment charted a way out: a colorblind Constitution that requires the government to, at long last, put aside its citizens’ skin color and focus on their individual achievements."
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Chris Enloe is a staff writer for Blaze News