Law and race shouldn’t mix

By Stefan Herlitz

As the fight for equality rages on, legal protection is constantly being extended to groups that have historically been discriminated against, including women, ethnic minorities, and those of non-traditional gender or sexual orientation. We have passed anti-discrimination and hate crime legislation; we have fought court battles; we have sought to change society. In our most valiant efforts to stamp out discrimination, however, we have inadvertently perpetuated the concept of difference based on race by codifying it in law.

“Race” is not real. There is no objective method that can delineate the difference between “races.” Based on the current definition used by the National Center for Education Statistics, as well as the Common Application, I, the son of a Swedish immigrant, am of the same “race” as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. We have absolutely nothing in common but a racial label. We speak different languages, have differing religious beliefs, look nothing alike, are members of drastically contrasting cultures, come from different economic backgrounds and were born several decades and thousands of miles apart. Yet somehow, according to race theory, we are similar because we are both “white.”

Race only exists because of centuries of misconception; it has absolutely no grounds in genetics, biology or any of the hard sciences. The study of race is a social science, not a natural one. As such, I believe that our laws should not recognize it. Law ought to be about truth, justice and order, not outdated social distinctions.

That is not to say that we should drop the issue of discrimination— far from it, in fact. While race may not be “real,” discriminatory acts and practices are, and it is entirely possible to prevent and punish discrimination without a need for legal recognition of race. It ought to be illegal to discriminate in employment based on anything that does not affect the applicant’s ability to perform the duties of the job; this includes race as well as gender, social class and sexual orientation, without institutionalizing it, which is causing the problem.

Following this trend, hate crime laws should not exist. The entire purpose of hate crime legislation is to add additional penalties when a crime has already been committed, based solely on the perpetrator’s motive. But almost no criminal would go free in the absence of hate crime legislation. Murder is still murder and assault is still assault, even when prejudice is not involved. Severity of punishment ought to reflect the actual harm inflicted on the victim, not the reason why the perpetrator did what they did. It seems like hate crime laws only exist so that politicians can claim to be tough on crime and supportive of minority groups.

A similar issue is that of college admissions. Politicians continuously fight to keep Affirmative Action policies in effect when in reality, race has very little to do with college admissions. Many of the racial minorities who attend college are those who come from a financially stable, middle-class background: the reason that minority groups are so underrepresented in college admissions is that members of minority groups are more likely to be living at or below the poverty line than non-minorities as a result of historical discrimination. Children whose family incomes are among the top 25 percent are five times more likely to graduate from college than children whose family incomes are in the bottom 25 percent. Compare this to the fact that 43.3 percent of white versus 38.4 percent of black 18- to 24-year-olds are enrolled in college, and it quickly becomes apparent that college enrollment has much more to do with socioeconomic class than race.

Instead of wasting time fighting over a solution to a race-discrimination problem in college admissions, which quite frankly does not seem to actually exist anymore, the government ought to focus on making college more affordable for those of lesser means, a policy that could actually help close the education gap.

The government should not legally recognize anything that cannot be objectively defined, because such things have no basis in fact, and their social definitions are in constant fluctuation. The law ought to be solid, resolute and firmly based in observable reality, and it is for this reason that race ought not to be included anywhere in the legal code. While it will always be necessary for the law to protect victims of various forms of discrimination, it does not need to legitimize the beliefs of the discriminators in order to do so.

Stefan Herlitz is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]