The Democrats’ Fixation On 'Disparate Impact' Denigrates Minorities

The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has had a busy week or two trying to stamp out equal treatment of minorities.

First, the Miami Herald reports, it “has quietly revived an investigation of Florida’s Bright Futures scholarships,” which are awarded in part on the basis of SAT or ACT scores. Inside Higher Ed points out that critics of Bright Futures, and all programs that rely on similar tests, regard those tests as discriminatory because “on average, black and Latino students’ scores lag behind those of whites and Asians students.”

State Rep. Erik Fresen, the Miami Republican who chairs the Florida House education subcommittee on appropriations, replies to charges of bias by insisting that “Bright Futures, from its inception, has always been race, gender and creed blind…. [T[he program is unbiased and based only on the merit of individual students.”

That, of course, is precisely why the Obama administration, which regards  color- and gender-blindness as simply Jim Crow dressed up in modern garb, objects to Bright Futures. An Office for Civil Rights spokesman stated in an  email to the Miami Herald that OCR was “investigating allegations that the state of Florida utilizes criteria for determining eligibility for college scholarships that have the effect of discriminating against Latino and African-American students on the basis of national origin and race.”

If Florida’s Bright Futures program is discriminating against blacks and Latinos by relying in part (but only In part) on the SAT and ACT, then so is virtually every selective college in the country. Is OCR planning to investigate them all, and if not, why not? Perhaps OCR could also explain why it does not regard racial and ethnic favoritism as discriminatory so long as race or ethnicity is only one factor among many weighed by college admissions officers seeking “diversity,” but using test scores even as only one of several methods of determining academic merit is sufficient to call in the federal discrimination police. Apparently the Obama administration regards “diversity” as compelling for colleges, but not academic merit.

There is an additional, interesting twist to this conflict over merit in Florida: like the Asians in California who recently derailed a return to affirmative action there, some Latinos are refusing to play their assigned role as victims needing special treatment.

“Bright Futures was meant to be for our best and brightest,” said state Rep. Jeanette Nuñez, R-Miami. “As we’ve raised the standards and achievement level in schools across the state, it made sense to raise the bar for Bright Futures. I don’t think it is fair to say that just because someone is Hispanic or African-American, he or she doesn’t have to make that bar.”

In addition to investigating colorblind standards of merit in Florida, the DOE’s Office for Civil Rights issued its latest report this week accusing the nation’s schools of disparate treatment of black pre-schoolers, who “represent 18% of preschool enrollment, but 48% of preschool children receiving more than one out-of- school suspension; in comparison, white students represent 43% of preschool enrollment but 26% of preschool children receiving more than one out of school suspension.”

In a predictable March 26 editorial The New York Times declares it “an outrage” that “minority children at age 4 are already being disproportionately suspended or expelled,” even though its editorial notes in passing that “[f]ederal civil rights officials do not explain why minority preschool students are being disproportionately singled out for suspension.”

Indeed they do not, nor do they provide any evidence beyond disparate impact statistics for any discrimination at all, such as, for example, any indication that minority students are disciplined more often or more harshly for the same offenses as whites or Asians, who received the least disciplinary punishment. That’s because these federal officials, and the Democrats who appoint and support them, regard “disparate impact” alone as the smoke that never exists without the fire of discrimination.