BARONE: The United States of Racial Quotas and Preferences

The White House on Friday, May 22, 2020, in Washington, D.C. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

On Tuesday, six days into Joe Biden’s administration, it became clear why Susan Rice, hitherto a foreign policy specialist, was named director of the Domestic Policy Council. Rice — unconfirmable for a Cabinet post after her unembarrassed Sunday show lying about the Benghazi terrorist attack — ventured into the White House press room to preview Biden’s “equity” initiative. 

With one possible exception, the specific policies announced were less important than the word “equity,” invoked 19 times by Rice and nine by Biden. Ending federal private prison contracts and strengthening relations with and combating “xenophobia” against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, are small potatoes as federal policies. 

Not so, perhaps, with the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing initiative, started under former President Barack Obama, repealed under former President Donald Trump and now due for spirited revival. The idea is for the feds to reverse local zoning laws and plant low-income housing in suburbs deemed insufficiently diverse. 

Actually, racial discrimination in housing has been reduced since the 1968 federal Fair Housing Act, to the point that in metropolitan areas from Washington to Atlanta to Los Angeles, most blacks now live in suburbs, not in the central cities to which they were tightly confined in postwar America.  

But for Rice and Biden, “equity” requires not equality of opportunity but equality of results. That’s one of the fundamental tenets of critical race theory training banned by outgoing Trumpites and reinstated by Biden on day one. 

A lower-than-population percentage of blacks in any desirable category, explains critical race theorist Ibram X. Kendi, must be the result of “systemic racism” (a term Rice used twice and Biden six times Tuesday). If you don’t agree, you’re guilty of “white fragility” and you must be a “white supremacist.”

As Andrew Sullivan trenchantly observes, “to achieve ‘equity’ you have to first take away equality for individuals who were born in the wrong identity group. Equity means treating individuals unequally so that groups are equal.” 

This is exactly contrary to the central thrust of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It could easily be judged, in particular cases, to violate the 14th Amendment. Individuals discriminated against might have standing to go to court.

And there will surely be many such individuals. Rice made clear that the policies mentioned Tuesday are just a start. “Every agency,” she said, with no suggestion of exceptions, “will place equity at the core of their public engagement, their policy design, and program delivery to ensure that government resources are reaching Americans of color and all marginalized communities — rural, urban, disabled, LGBTQ+, religious minorities, and so many others.”

For Rice and Biden, “equity” requires not equality of opportunity but equality of results.

That’s a lot of preferred categories, but one suspects that, as in George Orwell’s “Animal Farm,” some preferred groups will be more preferred than others. What we’re being promised is racial quotas and preferences in every conceivable program, in every possible corner of American life.

It may be objected that the United States is already well on its way to such a state of affairs. Racial quotas and preferences are firmly, almost fanatically, ensconced in higher education, at least in admissions to programs, if not in numbers of graduates. Corporate America’s human resources departments, Kendi’s most eager clients, revel in imposing racial quotas and enforcing “equity” orthodoxy. 

Even so, something still sticks in the craws of most Americans about treating some people differently from others on account of race or ethnic identity. “You don’t get to unite the country by dividing it along these deep and inflammatory issues of identity,” Sullivan writes.

Proof of this came from the unlikely precincts of California last Nov. 3. Democratic politicians under the influence of critical race theory asked voters to vote yes on Proposition 16 to overturn the 1996 Proposition 209 referendum barring state government, including universities, from discriminating on the basis of race. 

Some $20 million, with corporate elites happily kicking in, was spent to pass this Proposition 16, versus only $1 million to uphold Proposition 209. Yet Prop 16 — and the legalization of racial quotas and preferences — was rejected by California voters 57% to 43%.

That’s an even wider margin than the 55% to 45% by which 209 won in 1996, even though California has become far more Democratic since then: Bill Clinton carried the state by 13 points, Joe Biden by 29. 

That suggests that the Biden and corporate elite project to create a United States of Racial Quotas and Preferences is in conflict with a strong underlying current of American opinion that favors equal rights under law. 

Michael Barone is a senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and longtime co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.