I’m enjoying Jason L. Riley’s book Maverick: A Biography of Thomas Sowell. In a chapter titled “Higher Education, Lower Expectations,” Riley adds to his discussion of Sowell’s critical views on affirmative action by telling of Yale law professor Stephen Carter’s experience with school officials at Harvard Law School. Carter had been rejected when he applied but then received phone calls from Harvard officials apologizing for their mistake. What was their mistake? They had thought he was white. Here’s the passage Riley quotes from Carter’s Reflections of an Affirmative Action Baby.

They were quite frank in their explanation of the “error.” I was told by one official that the school [Harvard] had initially rejected me because “we assumed from your record that you were white.” (The words have always stuck in my mind, a tantalizing reminder of what is expected of me.) Suddenly coy, he went on to say that the school had obtained “additional information that should have counted in your favor”–that is, Harvard had discovered the color of my skin….

Naturally, I was insulted…Stephen Carter, the white male, was not good enough for Harvard Law School; Stephen Carter, the black male not only was good enough but rated agonized telephone calls urging him to attend. And Stephen Carter, color unknown, must have been white: How else could he have achieved what he did in college?