Next Monday the Supreme Court takes up the Harvard and University of North Carolina affirmative action admissions cases, but before getting to the constitutional doctrine of the matter, there is a vexing matter that is often overlooked: if we’re going to be giving out racial preferences for admissions (and government contracts, etc), who counts as a member of which minority group? The government’s racial classifications turn out to be something of a red hot mess, as David E. Bernstein explores in his new book Classified: The Untold Story of Racial Classification in America.

In this lecture delivered recently at Berkeley Law, Prof. Bernstein reviews some of the milestones and confusions in this whole sordid business. Give a listen—but especially pick up a copy of his book. It is relatively short, and easy reading despite the complications of the issue.

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