When UC–Davis, in a conciliatory gesture, invited Mosk to give the law school commencement address in 1978, students insisted that he decline the honor.

The problem is not that no academically gifted African-American students are seeking admission to college and universities. But there are not enough at the very top tiers to satisfy the demand, and efforts to change that have had a pernicious effect on admissions up and down the academic pecking order, creating a serious credentials gap at every competitive level.

Unfortunately, a student whose entering academic credentials are well below those of the average student in a particular school will likely earn grades to match. Bowen and former Harvard President Derek Bok, who were pioneers in formulating affirmative action policies, admit that the credentials gap has serious consequences.

We have fewer African-American scientists, physicians, and engineers and likely fewer lawyers and college professors.

If, as the evidence indicates, the effects of race-preferential admissions policies are exactly the opposite of what was originally intended, it is difficult to understand why anyone would wish to support them rather than adhere to the principle of color blindness.

I have no doubt that those who originally conceived of race-preferential admissions policies nearly 50 years ago were acting in good faith.

By lowering admissions standards for African-American and Hispanic students at elite colleges and universities, they hoped to increase the number of minority students on campus and ultimately to promote their integration into high-status careers. Should we allow the principle of color blindness under the law to be sacrificed in the hope that in the long run, it will help us become a society of equal opportunity?In they wrote, “College grades [for beneficiaries of affirmative action] present a … The grades earned by African-American students at the [elite schools we studied] often reflect their struggles to succeed academically in highly competitive academic settings.”Why is it not better to get bad grades at a top school than better grades at a school that is one or two rungs down from the top?Everyone knows that a good student can get in over his head if he is placed in a classroom with students whose level of academic preparation is much higher than his own.The problem is thus passed on to the schools another rung down, which respond similarly.As a result, students from underrepresented minorities today are concentrated at the bottom of the distribution of entering academic credentials at most selective colleges and universities.The real conflict over race-preferential admissions policies has not been about good or bad faith or whether we should aspire to be a society in which members of racial minorities are fully integrated into the mainstream. No less a liberal icon than California Supreme Court Justice Stanley Mosk warned of the risks associated with such temporary compromises with principle when, writing for the California Supreme Court in To uphold the [argument for race-preferential admissions] would call for the sacrifice of principle for the sake of dubious expediency and would represent a retreat in the struggle to assure that each man and woman shall be judged on the basis of individual merit alone, a struggle which has only lately achieved success in removing legal barriers to racial equality.[1] Justice Mosk understood something basic about race discrimination.