OPINION | BRADLEY GITZ: Quotas for all


The most useful way to assess the wisdom of an idea is to extrapolate from the principle upon which it rests to its logical conclusion.

So, too, with the Biden administration's campaign for "equity" and the broader woke battle against what is called "systemic racism."

That campaign begins with the assumption that the natural order of things, sans such racism, is "proportional representation," in which racial (and other groups) are represented in any endeavor or organizational context in percentages comparable to their percentage of the population as a whole; that everything would "look like America" if you could take the racism out. Flowing from that assumption, any detectable statistical disparities between groups can be taken as de facto evidence of racism, with the degree of disparity reflecting the degree of the racism.

The primary means of combating such systemic racism (and thereby reducing those disparities) are systems of racial preference and quotas. The preferences get translated into quotas in such settings because the quotas provide a numerical expression of the proportionality goal and permit measurement of progress toward achieving it (if 13 percent of the American population is, for instance, Black, then preferences must be used to ensure that 13 percent of the incoming students in a given law school are also Black, even if it means that some Black students with lesser credentials are given preference over some white or Asian students with superior credentials).

One would think that those truly serious about combating something as serious as systemic racism (as opposed to simply virtue-signaling and/or using such claims to mobilize political support and delegitimize political opposition) would therefore openly embrace preferences/quota systems with accompanying proportionality goals for as many areas of life as possible. If all aspects of our society are afflicted by systemic racism, as the claims suggest, then the use of preferences and quotas must be dramatically expanded to incorporate all aspects of our society.

An honest approach would thus mean quotas for just about everything, for all movie and theater casts, sports teams, symphony orchestras, college admission procedures, police and fire departments (and other government employment) and all private enterprises and workplaces. Quotas would be expanded in order to bring about racial redress and become the primary mechanism through which societal rewards would be allocated.

We could even extend the approach beyond Blacks to other disadvantaged groups (the handicapped, transgender people, Native Americans, short people, chubby people, even the homely), to ensure, in Harrison Bergeron fashion, as much social justice and fairness in American life as possible. Every possible form of "identity," per the underlying assumptions of identity politics, would expect to get their number of slots in accord with their percentage of the national population (a certain "double" or even "triple" dipping could occur, given the nearly endless array of traits that could generate claims of oppression in the intersectionality hierarchy).

An exceedingly complex racial/ethnic/gender spoils system would thus be established and managed by a vastly more powerful state/government. If everything in America must ultimately come to "look like America," then everything in America must be sorted by quotas, and something has to do the sorting.

The "merit principle" which most Americans have long believed should dictate success or failure in life would become subordinate to considerations of pigmentation and gender but could still be preserved in more limited form by applying it to each group after it has received its fair allotment of jobs and admission acceptances, but only within, not across the designated groups ("in group" competition, in which Black women applicants would only compete with other Black women applicants for the allotted number of Black women slots in the law school class, white women would only compete against other white women, Asian men only against other Asian men, and so on).

The process of fine-tuning which groups get what would be endless because any statistical disparities that remain in any areas of life (and there surely would be many) would be taken as evidence of more work to be done.

Those who claim that systemic racism pervades American life seldom provide much in the way of definitions and make no effort to explain why statistical disparities exist between all groups, not just Blacks and whites.

But if racism in America is truly as systemic as claimed, then it must be addressed in systemic fashion as well. And if the idea of a color-blind society in which race shouldn't count is now unacceptable (even, as some claim, racist in itself), then the only alternative is to become more rather than less race-conscious in our policies and decision-making.

If so little progress has been achieved on race relations and America therefore remains a pervasively racist place, as the rhetoric of systemic racism suggests, then it behooves us to contemplate more radical measures, including those suggested here.

So let's be honest about where we are going as we go there, to quotas for everyone and everything. Because that's what "equity" ultimately and unavoidably leads to.

Freelance columnist Bradley R. Gitz, who lives and teaches in Batesville, received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Illinois.