Updated on August 2 at 6:20 p.m.
You can tell a lot about an administration by what cases the civil-rights division of its Justice Department pursues. In the Obama administration, for example, the division made police reform a priority, reaching more than twice as many consent decrees to force police departments to change their practices as any previous administration.
According to a document first reported by The New York Times, the Trump Justice Department has decided to focus on investigating and suing universities with affirmative-action programs that the department deems to have discriminated against white students. The document uses bland language, saying a new project will focus on “intentional race-based discrimination,” which obscures the magnitude of the shift involved.
The Justice Department said the stories were much ado about nothing, saying a job posting “sought volunteers to investigate one administrative complaint filed by a coalition of 64 Asian-American associations in May 2015 that the prior Administration left unresolved.” A spokeswoman added, “The Department of Justice is committed to protecting all Americans from all forms of illegal race-based discrimination.”
The Justice Department pursues cases of intentional race-based discrimination all the time, but those cases are almost entirely cases where minorities are the subjects of discrimination. While laws are, as former Republican DOJ staffer Roger Clegg noted to the Times, race-neutral in language, the laws were written to protect minorities, for the obvious reason that, as data show, systems from voting to schools to law enforcement have long privileged whites over minorities.