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Americans agree that racial discrimination is a serious problem. They just quibble slightly over who's actually suffering from its effects.

But numerous recent studies have found that many Americans -- in particular those who backed the election of Donald Trump as president -- believe that white people are facing discrimination. A Washington Post-ABC News poll during last year's election campaign asked which was a "bigger problem in this country -- blacks and Hispanics losing out because of preferences for whites, or whites losing out because of preferences for blacks and Hispanics?"

Nationally, more people (40 percent versus 28 percent) said that the answer was preferences for white people. But among Republicans who supported Trump for their party's presidential nomination, the overwhelming answer (54 percent to 12 percent) was that preferences for black and Latino people were hurting white people.

Such a severe disconnect from reality demanded the election of a president twice divorced from it to set things right.

Now as president, more or less, Donald Trump has boldly confronted "racism at (the) highest level" -- at least as his supporters define it.


The Trump administration on Tuesday withdrew Obama-era policy guidelines that encouraged the consideration of race in college admissions.

The guidelines encourage colleges to voluntarily promote diversity and "avoid racial isolation" in their admissions practices. They were issued to provide guidance on the administration's interpretation of a number of Supreme Court cases related to affirmative action.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, officially the most embarrassing member of Trump's cabinet once again, explained in a statement I doubt she herself wrote or could read without assistance: "The Supreme Court has determined what affirmative action policies are Constitutional, and the Court's written decisions are the best guide for navigating this complex issue. Schools should continue to offer equal opportunities for all students while abiding by the law."

The timing here is probably not coincidental. Justice Anthony Kennedy often sided with the liberal wing of the Supreme Court on affirmative action cases. He was the fifth vote in the 2015 case of Mediocre Entitled White Lady v University of Texas, which found that considering race in college admissions didn't violate the Fourteenth Amendment.

Kennedy's upcoming retirement has generated reasonable fear about the fate of abortion rights, but it's obvious that his Federalist Society-approved replacement will side with the conservative wing on affirmative action, and it's equally obvious that DeVos's deliberately worded statement is laying the foundation to act swiftly on such rulings.

You might now ask, "Maybe ending affirmative action isn't a bad thing? Didn't Martin Luther King say that we should judge others by the content of their character and not the color of their skin?" Well, King said a lot of other things you don't hear from Republicans on MLK Day.

Black conservatives, a sadder sight than a Cosby Show rerun, are especially drawn to what seems like a simple demand for fairness. They often pop up on FOX and tap dance a pleasingly rhythmic denunciation of affirmative action. There are two popular tunes: 1) Why do we need affirmative action when the Obama daughters exist? and 2) Affirmative action is insulting to black people by claiming we need "special" help from white people.

The second point makes sense if you don't exist in a predominately well-off white world where white people do in fact rely on "special help" from other white people. Affirmative action pales (pardon the pun) next to legacy admissions, which got "gentleman C" student George W. Bush into Yale. Daniel Golden describes in his 2006 book "The Price of Admission" how Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner greased his way into Harvard in 1998 thanks to a $2.5 million "gift" from his father.

My book exposed a grubby secret of American higher education: that the rich buy their under-achieving children's way into elite universities with massive, tax-deductible donations. It reported that New Jersey real estate developer Charles Kushner had pledged $2.5 million to Harvard University in 1998, not long before his son Jared was admitted to the prestigious Ivy League school. At the time, Harvard accepted about one of every nine applicants. (Nowadays, it only takes one out of twenty.)

I also quoted administrators at Jared's high school, who described him as a less than stellar student and expressed dismay at Harvard's decision.

"There was no way anybody in the administrative office of the school thought he would on the merits get into Harvard," a former official at The Frisch School in Paramus, New Jersey, told me. "His GPA did not warrant it, his SAT scores did not warrant it. We thought for sure, there was no way this was going to happen. Then, lo and behold, Jared was accepted. It was a little bit disappointing because there were at the time other kids we thought should really get in on the merits, and they did not."

Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump both pulled themselves up by their bootstraps without racial-based government assistance. They attended -- totally on their own merits --- the prestigious Wharton School, where their father was known to show up once or twice when he was a student.

In another account of Don Jr.'s college years, Scott Melker, a former Penn classmate, wrote on Facebook: "Donald Jr. was a drunk in college. Every memory I have of him is of him stumbling around on campus falling over or passing out in public, with his arm in a sling from injuring himself while drinking."

Ivanka easily outperformed her brother in academic so-so-ness.

Eric, a 2004 Wharton graduate who declined to give his last name, said "most college-educated people were a little offended" by Trump's complicity in some of her father's controversial behavior.

Eric added that Trump "didn't seem all that super intelligent" but that "she seemed nice enough."

Of course, Trump's "super elite" supporters among the white working class don't care if rich white people receive special treatment. They're damn mad over the possibility those black people might. Some good news they likely won't acknowledge is that they do receive some consideration in the push for diversity on college campuses.

But rural voters, on average, played a key role in electing President Trump, and many say they are turned off by what they see as excessive liberalism in higher education, and especially at liberal arts colleges.

So this admissions cycle, Warren Wilson focused on rural. It added recruiting trips to high schools in rural parts of the state and refined the college's messaging. Warren Wilson has a working farm, which they played up. The college also has a strong music program that includes instruction in regional traditions such as traditional fiddling, clogging, bluegrass, banjo and more.

Early indications are that the strategy is working. The numbers aren't large, but after years of stagnant applications from some parts of North Carolina, the numbers are going up.

Rural areas (Trump territory) are predominately white, and last I checked, bluegrass wasn't that popular in Harlem. I suppose promoting a "specific" type of diversity to "avoid (ideological) isolation" fits right into making America great again.

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).

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