Whether you like Trump or not, it can’t be said he didn’t get us big wins at the top court level.
In a sharp rebuke to affirmative action practices frequently used to increase the representation of Black, Hispanic, and other underrepresented minority groups on campuses, the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday invalidated race-conscious student admissions programs at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina.
The judges granted the appeal of lower court decisions upholding the two elite institutions’ initiatives to promote a diverse student body on behalf of Students for Fair Admissions, a group formed by anti-affirmative action activist Edward Blum.
The verdict, supported by the court’s conservative members with the liberal justices dissenting, was 6-3 in favor of Harvard and 6-2 against the University of North Carolina. Ketanji Brown Jackson, a liberal justice, abstained from the Harvard case.
The 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which had legalized abortion across the country, was overturned by the court in two landmark decisions last year, which were also led by the conservative justices. The court also expanded gun rights in a single big ruling.
As stated in the majority opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts, “Harvard and UNC admissions programs cannot be reconciled with the guarantees of the Equal Protection Clause,” alluding to the principle of equal protection under the law in the U.S. Constitution.
Students “must be treated based on his or her experiences as an individual not on the basis of race. Many universities have for too long done just the opposite. And in doing so, they have concluded, wrongly, that the touchstone of an individual’s identity is not challenges bested, skills built, or lessons learned but the color of their skin. Our constitutional history does not tolerate that choice.” according to Roberts.
“At the same time, as all parties agree, nothing in this opinion should be construed as prohibiting universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration, or otherwise.” Roberts added.
In addition to addressing racial inequality and exclusion in American society, many institutions of higher learning, businesses, and military leaders have long supported affirmative action on college campuses to ensure a talent pool that can bring a variety of perspectives to the workforce and U.S. armed forces ranks.
The ruling, according to liberal justice Sonia Sotomayor, “subverts” the constitutional principle of equal protection and further solidifies racial inequity in education. She said in a dissent that Jackson and Liberal Justice Elena Kagan had also signed. “Today, this Court stands in the way and rolls back decades of precedent and momentous progress,” they wrote.
The “court cements a superficial rule of colorblindness as a constitutional principle in an endemically segregated society where race has always mattered and continues to matter.” Sotomayor continued.
Blum’s group charged UNC with discriminating against white and Asian American candidates in lawsuits filed in 2014 and Harvard with prejudice against Asian American applicants.
The implementation by UNC, a public university, of an admissions policy that is not racial neutral, according to Students for Fair Admissions, violates the 14th Amendment’s promise of equal treatment under the law.
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance, was allegedly broken by Harvard, a private university, according to the group.
Harvard estimates that 40% of American schools and institutions take race into account in some way.
Affirmative action has long weathered Supreme Court scrutiny, most notably in a 2016 decision involving a white student who sued the University of Texas after being denied admission and was supported by Blum.
The Supreme Court has moved to the right since 2016, adding three new justices appointed by former Republican President Donald Trump as well as three justices who dissented in the University of Texas decision.
Harvard and UNC have claimed that limiting the consideration of race would result in a significant decrease in the enrollment of students from under-represented groups. These universities use race as just one factor in a variety of individualized evaluations for admission without quotas, which is permitted under prior Supreme Court precedents.
Critics claim that these laws are discriminatory in and of themselves and have attempted to overturn them for decades.
The United States has a history of slavery of Black people, which ended only after the American Civil War when white men fought other white men in order to free the slaves.
The decision drew a rapid response.
Democratic U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer stated in a statement that “The Supreme Court ruling has put a giant roadblock in our country’s march toward racial justice.”
Republican Senator Tom Cotton stated on Twitter that “Affirmative action is systemic discrimination. I’m thankful the Supreme Court held this discrimination violates the Constitution. Admissions should be decided on merit – not by color of skin.”
No matter the reason or situation, many American conservatives and Republican elected figures have contended that favoring one race is unlawful. Some have argued that because America has evolved past the racist practices of the past, including segregation, and is becoming more diverse, remedial advantages are no longer necessary.
The controversy gave the conservative majority of the Supreme Court a chance to reverse earlier decisions that supported racial admissions policies.
The group’s claims were denied by lower courts, which prompted appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court asking the justices to reverse a significant precedent stating that universities might take race into account as one component in the admissions process due to the compelling interest in diversifying the student body.