President Johnson’s Executive Order 11246 in 1965 required federal contractors, for the first time, to take affirmative action to ensure equal opportunity based on race, color, religion, and national origin.
The Supreme Court has since weighed in on several affirmative action cases, with two more at Harvard and UNC forthcoming, but thus far, have found that schools may consider race as part of the admissions process.
Meanwhile, with increasing frequency, our government, private corporations, academic institutions, and other organizations are doling out significant rewards and preferences to individuals and groups of individuals based on color, race, gender, and other select characteristics.
Consider the following:
Recent distribution of the COVID vaccine in many areas was prioritized not for the patients who were most vulnerable and in need of the vaccine, but on the basis of race. Further, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer recently announced a prestigious fellowship that will specifically exclude whites and Asians.
Our president recently announced that he would not consider any candidates for the open job of Supreme Court Justice who were male, white, Asian, or any race other than black. He subsequently announced that billions of dollars of the American Rescue Plan would go specifically to black farmers perceived to have been disadvantaged by racism. And just this weekend he announced a new multimillion-dollar “Climate Gender Equity Fund” to address purported inequalities women face in climate finance.
Our vice president recently announced that neighborhoods of color would receive top priority for federal aid in the wake of Hurricane Ian.
The Minnesota Teachers Union recently finalized a contract that requires the school district to fire non-minority teachers first if layoffs become necessary, regardless of their seniority in teaching or in the district.
Similarly, Twilio announced it will follow its “anti-racist” credo as it cuts its workforce by 11%.
Many of our universities now openly give heavy preference to some races for admission and other areas. A comparison of equivalent MCAT and GPA scores among races of medical school applicants shows that Hispanics/Latinos and Blacks for example now have a dramatically higher chance of being accepted to medical school than Caucasians, and an even greater advantage over Asians.
Further, many of our universities now arrange for segregated dormitory occupancy, commencement ceremonies, and other campus events. An increasing amount of state funding for public universities is determined by their performance in “first generation” enrollment. Accordingly, increasing amounts of scholarship money are available to these students.
This is but a sampling of the rapidly expanding benefits being awarded.
Who Is ‘Blue’?
A sort of short-hand may prove efficient for further discussion here, giving the generic term of ‘Blue’ to any of the variety of attributes that produce the types of special consideration and rewards referenced above.
A ‘Blue’ person is a preferred candidate, depending on the given rubric — possibly female, transgender, Hispanic/Latino, Black, Native American, or any race other than Caucasian or Asian, or one with the requisite attributes of the constructed category.
As both the number of these decisions and their consequences have grown, so has the debate regarding the legality, fairness, and usefulness involved. But an equally pressing, perhaps more seminal question pertains to the simple definition of the categories involved.
Put bluntly, “Who is ‘Blue’?” — not conceptually, but in actual practice.
One might assume that the answer to this question would be straight forward, that the favored attributes of ‘Blue’ are discreet, justly and easily assessed, uniformly applied across all organizations, and well understood by both applicants and the public. That is far from true.
Many people are surprised to learn that currently, determination of both gender and specific race for students and employees is legally the individual himself. It is determined by whatever boxes are checked by the applicant on the official application — for admission, employment, or a loan for example.
A person who might appear to be Asian to many observers might in fact contend (check the box) that he is Native American or black, or any other race with which he self-identifies. Any employer, committee member, or interviewer who would counter the applicant’s declaration would be doing so illegally.
Determining who is ‘Blue’ raises all sorts of uncomfortable and ugly questions — harkening back to the controversial One-Drop-Rule of the slavery era.
Nevertheless, avoiding the questions doesn’t mean they won’t get answered. In fact, they are being answered now – albeit often behind closed doors. If we intend to continue expanding ‘Blue’ as a license to rewards and opportunity, here are some of the types of questions that are pressing:
Am I ‘Blue’ if, as with the U.S. Census Bureau, I simply identify as such – regardless of my appearance, genetics, or ethnicity? If the answer to this remains “yes,” are we prepared for what will undoubtedly be a massive increase in ‘Blue’ candidates – perhaps more ‘Blue’ than Non-Blue?
Is there a minimum percentage of a given race that I must genetically possess to be considered ‘Blue’? Is that percentage the same for all races?
What role does “color” or skin pigmentation play in the decision? Am I ‘Blue’ if I am genetically Asian but with darker skin pigmentation than many black Americans? Or 100% Hispanic or Latino genetically, but my skin pigmentation is lighter than many if not most Caucasians?
What role do environmental factors play in determining who is ‘Blue’? What if I am genetically Caucasian but adopted and raised by Black parents, or the reverse?
Are there gradations of ‘Blue’ – combinations or degrees of attributes that make someone a deeper ‘Blue’ than others; and accordingly, more deserving of preference/benefit? If so, who is more ‘Blue’ – a person who is 80% Mexican genetically, born in Mexico and lived there for 10 years, is bilingual, and immigrates to the U.S., or a Mexican-American who is born and raised in New York, is 100% Mexican/Latino genetically, raised by Caucasian parents, and speaks English only – perhaps with a Brooklyn accent?
Am I ‘Blue’ if one of my parents attended college, but not the other? Or neither of my parents attended, but all of my siblings did? Or if all of my family attended, but none graduated?
Are ‘Blue’ policies exempted from Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act?
An almost infinite number of additional questions of this type can be constructed with variations of race, ethnicity, skin tone, gender, percentages, and scenarios.
Who is ‘Blue’? And then, there is an equally difficult second question: Who gets to answer the first question? Will these be decisions for the courts, or the candidates, or will they be left up to the individual institutions offering the given benefits?
With the tangible stakes alone determined by the answers to these questions now climbing into the hundreds of billions — likely trillions of dollars — it would seem urgent that they be addressed.
Dr. Greg Salsbury was president of Western Colorado University from 2014 to 2020. He is the author of the 2006 award winning book But What If I Live? the follow up book Retirementology – Rethinking the American Dream in a New Economy, which topped Amazon’s “personal finance” category. He earned his doctorate from the University of Southern California and received Master’s degrees from both the University of Illinois and USC’s Annenberg School for Communications.
The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.