There’s the idea of a meritocracy, which is that the best people for the job are chosen based on their merit, not because of their noble titles, color of their skin, etc… Ideally this gets you the best people for the job, all else being equal.
Then there’s fairness, which is a related, but distinct idea. It’s where the “all else being equal” comes in. Right now, in many places there are substantial barriers against various groups that set things up such that our existing theoretical meritocracy is less all-encompassing, and more aimed toward choosing the best white, middle to upper class person for the job.
The rub is that there are barriers that are directly generated due to racist or classist governmental policies, or due to the legacies of similar policies in the past. And there is the reverse of that; the Ivy League bias against Asians is a good example.
And then there are situations where groups just may not do what they need to “win” in a meritocracy. For example, my wife and I consider the well-being, education and development of our children to be of paramount importance, and as such, we put a lot of effort and resources into that. Our kids don’t have the best vision, so we spend a lot of money on glasses and eye exams and what-not. We read to them every night. We make a concerted effort albeit often unsuccessful, to limit screen time. We make special efforts to feed them right and teach good eating habits. And so on… Is it fair to screw our children around on behalf of kids whose parents did not put in the effort?
That’s where meritocracies get sticky; Asian families clearly put a LOT of effort and resources into academic success. Why should some Asian kid be denied a Harvard slot that they essentially earned, just because some non-Asian kids didn’t put in the work? That’s the real issue with most attempts to fix perceived issues with meritocracies; they invariably end up fucking some person who was a better candidate on behalf of a lesser candidate with some kind of sob story. Anecdotally, I recall my university having a “provisional student” program, where they took some kids who didn’t quite make it into the school and who were perceived as possibly not being able to go to college otherwise, and they’d give them provisional status, and make them come to summer school to get acclimated and remedy their academic shortcomings. A noble idea, except that every one of those provisional students represented a student who did make the grade and was being denied a spot at the school they qualified for on behalf of someone who did NOT qualify.
My choice would be to set the meritocratic system up as monolithic, impartial and strict, and then spend the effort trying to level the starting field, instead of trying to tweak the system itself.