Let’s make the strongest case for race quotas in the U.S., using the Korean height example. North Koreans and South Koreans apparently diverged sharply in average height in the later 20th century due to capitalist South Koreans being better fed than communist North Koreans.
Say that North and South Korea have a period of detente and decide to unify their Olympic team (they’ve done that on occasions in the past). They decide to send a joint basketball team to the Olympics. But, it turns out, 95% of the best basketball players on the peninsula are Southerners because they average so much taller.
But the leadership decides to put more North Koreans on the team than merit would justify in order to generate interest in basketball among North Korean kids in the hope that they or at least their children will grow up to be as tall as South Koreans due to less bad nutrition in North Korea than in the 1990s.
Clearly, this joint Korean Olympic basketball team would pay a penalty in the near term for replacing some of the taller, better South Koreans with shorter, lousier North Koreans. But making the culture of North Korea more basketball-oriented just might pay off in the very long run if the North Korean regime has really learned its lesson about economic dogmatism and future North Korean kids grow up to be about as tall as South Koreans.
Likewise, I think a lot of 1970s Americans who backed racial quotas had similar hopes: Sure, blacks are behind today, but many grew up with their parents picking cotton in the Jim Crow South. If we show them that the bourgeois world welcomes them, they’ll become more bourgeois.
And to some extent that indeed happened. There are more bourgeois blacks in Georgia today than in 1970.
But my impression is that the trend toward competence convergence appears to have petered out in the later 20th century, and today nobody really expects convergence anymore.
The last time anybody seemed to take seriously the idea that with just one more generation of affirmative action, blacks should be able to catch up, was Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, putting a 25-year time limit on race quotas in her 2003 Grutter decision.
(It’s unclear what exactly O’Connor’s thought process was: did she suspect 25 more years of affirmative action would do the trick or that 25 more years, 50 years since Bakke in 1978, would demonstrate: OK, we tried. You can’t say we didn’t give affirmative action a fair test. But two generations of quotas is enough.)
But nobody believes blacks will have caught up to whites by 2028 anymore. (And the ongoing Asian tidal wave has put blacks even further behind in competing on merit for the good colleges and jobs than in 2003.) Or any other date they’d specify (absent genetic engineering).
Instead, we see the rise of Ibram X. Kendi’s demands for discrimination against whites to subsidize blacks for, roughly, ever.
E.g., the S.F. reparations commission called for 250 years of massive income subsidies for blacks in San Francisco.
Thus, contemporary mainstream discourse on race has become ever more antiquarian to cover up the last 54 years of affirmative action. Instead of thinking about the last 54 years, which is pretty much a blur in the NYT, we are told to obsess over FDR’s redlining, Tulsa, Emmett Till, slavery, etc. Follow The Science: Redlining in 1938 is why blacks don’t score high on the SAT in 2023!
So, respectable opinion on race is focused more and more on subsidizing backs forever: when reparations fail to Close the Gap, that will be seen as proof that Systemic Racism is so insidious we need more reparations. Reparations Now, Reparations Tomorrow, Reparations Forever!
But whites participating in respectable discourse aren’t supposed to notice this huge shift in the premises behind affirmative action since 1970. Whites’ model of the world is supposed to still be the one that seemed fairly plausible in 1970: We will have race quotas to help blacks catch up for some limited time.
You don’t think some of these differences are the product of 70,000 years of separate evolution, do you? That’s racist!
We are supposed to testify we believe that the reason blacks remain behind whites in 2023 (and don’t mention the Asians) is purely environmental, much like it’s not implausible to think most of the reason North Koreans are shorter than South Koreans is environmental, and could largely go away in a few decades, so quotas would no longer be needed.
Thus, those who are skeptical of the conventional wisdom’s 100% environmental explanation for why blacks are behind must be driven out of respectable discourse because their data and logic subvert the case for expanded and eternal quotas/DEI/reparations.
After all, we are talking about Real Money here.