The South African Sources of the Diversity Justification for U.S. Affirmative Action

This essay reveals that the “diversity justification” for affirmative action has its roots in part in the South African anti-apartheid movement of the 1950s, and that when Justice Powell wrote the controlling opinion in the Bakke case, placing diversity at the center of our discourse on race in America, he was relying on arguments developed in the anti-apartheid movement that the right to admit a racially diverse student body was a key element of academic freedom. When examined in this light, Justice Powell’s opinion was more concerned with academic freedom than racial justice.