Apparently the SCOTUS is going to revisit an affirmative action case involving University admissions. I caught a small part of a NPR show on this, tuning in just in time to catch one of the opinion makers providing his analysis (around 37 min into the episode). It went something like this.
First, he noted in tones most disapproving, that "most of the students benefiting from affirmative action policies at elite universities are middle, or upper middle, class".
This is, of course, one of the great strategies of the anti-diversity crowd, not least of which because they managed to get the pusillanimous support for it out of the squishier pro-diversity types. "Oh, yes, we must agree that affirmative action is about demonstrated acute disadvantage for each individual applicant to University", is about the size of it. To be honest, I don't know if this guy on the radio was anti-diversity or one of these folks who has been hornswaggled by this particular anti-diversity tactic. It doesn't really matter because the result on the audience is the same.
Back to the story. Affirmative action is only for the most disadvantaged of the disadvantaged. Therefore, you see, if the beneficiaries of affirmative action policies are "middle to upper middle class", well affirmative action is clearly broken.
As a bit of an aside, notice this neat little conflation? Middle class with upper-middle class? It's bad enough that the concept of "middle class" is so huge and poorly defined that trying to claim members of the middle deserve no assistance in overcoming barriers to college admission is ridiculous. Oh no. We must roll this in together, seamlessly, with the upper-middle class. Because we know for damn sure that once you are in upper-middle, you deserve no help whatsoever. You have it made, baby.
So then, within a breath this guy says "....of course the white students are even richer" as barely an aside. Credit where due, at least he mentioned it. But AYFK? For whatever he meant by "elite Universities", the white population was richer than "middle to upper-middle".
Apple meet Orange. No matter how advantaged the beneficiary of affirmative action may be relative to the general population, he or she was still disadvantaged relative to the people at those elite Universities who were from the privileged groups. This is dismissed, however, as if it is barely relevant.
But wait, it gets better. He then immediately pivoted to "I don't think anyone thinks that Obama's children deserve affirmative action help".
Last I checked, Obama's salary was $400,000 per year and he gets, AFAIK, free room, much of his board and has a nice transportation allowance. Right? Plus, we know perfectly well that he and/or Michelle will make bank in the future from book royalties, speaking fees and the like. (Maybe even his SCOTUS salary? ....I crack myself up)
The Obama children are not middle class. They are not upper-middle class. They are lower rich.
But you see how this all works. It's a nice little sleight of hand and misdirection. We've moved the conversation from middle class African-Americans, or other disadvantaged ethnicities, to....the children of the President of the United States.
Clearly if Sasha and Malia don't need help then the child of a high school educated but stably employed and homeowning resident of Ferguson MO doesn't need help either.
The anti-diversity voices want to further advance their agenda on the back of a very pernicious perception.
In the US, it is considered fair if the very top echelon of the disadvantaged population succeeds at the level of the bottom slice of the advantaged distribution.
And if any individual of the top echelon of the disadvantaged population should happen to achieve up past the middle of the advantaged distribution? Well clearly that is unfair and evidence of reverse discrimination!
Stop shaking your heads, scientist Readers. We have this same problem in every aspect of our business as well. From graduate school admissions to faculty new-hires. From grant award to tenure. Onward it goes. Ethnic minorities, sure, but also women and people who trained in the wrong University. There are the advantaged and there are the disadvantaged. Meaning, that for the apples to apples comparison we are talking about those who would all-else-equal succeed similarly. But because all else is not equal, some have an easier time than others. Some achieve higher with the same effort and others achieve the same with less effort. Either way, it is most assuredly not fair.
Any time there is under-representation, you will find that any efforts to make things fairer are crippled by this misunderstanding of distributions and individual accomplishment.
It is fair , you see, if the top 10% of the disadvantaged sneak up just parallel with the third quartile of the advantaged. Anything more is reverse discrimination and totally unfair to the advantaged among us.