Racial preference has never achieved what proponents promised. Why would it this time?
The Supreme Court ruled Monday that race can be a factor, but not the predominant one, when states draw maps for legislative districts. If that formulation sounds familiar, it’s because the same court has offered similarly useless guidance regarding affirmative action in college admissions. Both state officials and college administrators deserve better, as do the supposed beneficiaries of these policies.
Race-driven legislative districting is an outgrowth of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was intended to ensure that historically disenfranchised blacks had the ballot access guaranteed by the 15th Amendment. The law’s passage was followed by a sharp increase in black voter registration, particularly in the Deep South. In 1964 black voter registration in Mississippi was less than 7%, but by 1966 it was 60%. In Georgia the figure climbed from 19% to 51% over the same period. It would seem that the law had worked as Congress intended.
As with so much civil-rights legislation, however, the goal posts moved over time. An effort to ensure ballot access became an effort to secure the election of black officials. And despite decades of evidence that whites now regularly vote for nonwhite candidates—including Barack Obama, who in 2008 carried a majority of white voters in nearly a third of states—we continue to pretend that voters must be racially segregated in order for blacks to win office.
Besides being outdated, current interpretations and enforcement of the Voting Rights Act probably do more to hamper black candidates and facilitate racial polarization. Running for office in a district....
Jason L. Riley is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, and a Fox News commentator.