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Statement on the Affirmative Action Decision

Today the far-right activist majority of the Supreme Court dealt a devastating blow to the fight for racial justice and equality in the United States. The callous dismantling of race-based affirmative action in college admissions leaves us all in peril, as it cripples the ability of institutions of higher education to attempt to redress systemic racism while embracing student bodies that are more reflective of our country’s diversity.

But to make matters even worse, there were some telling exceptions in the decision. First, while the Court struck down preferences based on race, preferences based on other attributes such as legacy or donor status (a.k.a., affirmative action for the privileged) remain. Even more troubling, military academics are exempt from this ruling. Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.) called this exemption “outright grotesque” and that “The court is saying diversity shouldn’t matter, EXCEPT when deciding who can fight and die for our country—reinforcing the notion that these communities can sacrifice for America but not be full participants in every other way.”

In other words, affirmative action is okay as long as it benefits those with privilege. And the hypocrisy is glaring.

“A Tragedy for Us All”

In Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson's scathing dissent, she says “With let-them-eat-cake obliviousness, today, the majority pulls the ripcord and announces ‘colorblindness for all’ by legal fiat. But deeming race irrelevant in law does not make it so in life. And having so detached itself from this country’s actual past and present experiences, the Court has now been lured into interfering with the crucial work that UNC and other institutions of higher learning are doing to solve America’s real-world problems.

No one benefits from ignorance. Although formal race-linked legal barriers are gone, race still matters to the lived experiences of all Americans in innumerable ways, and today’s ruling makes things worse, not better. The best that can be said of the majority’s perspective is that it proceeds (ostrich-like) from the hope that preventing consideration of race will end racism. But if that is its motivation, the majority proceeds in vain. If the colleges of this country are required to ignore a thing that matters, it will not just go away. It will take longer for racism to leave us. And, ultimately, ignoring race just makes it matter more.”

But she also says this:

“The only way out of this morass—for all of us—is to stare at racial disparity unblinkingly, and then do what evidence and experts tell us is required to level the playing field and march forward together, collectively striving to achieve true equality for all Americans. It is no small irony that the judgment the majority hands down today will forestall the end of race-based disparities in this country, making the colorblind world the majority wistfully touts much more difficult to accomplish."

Today, we pledge to do just that. The fight is far from over.


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