“Racism exists in America” and the Supreme Court’s “decision does not change that”, Biden says after the ban on the use of race as a factor in deciding to grant admission in schools in a new affirmative ruling.
A Supreme Court ruling has put an end to the admission policies of Harvard College and the University of North Carolina which uses an applicant’s race as one of the basis for granting admission, bringing an end to affirmative action.
The court held that affirmative action in higher education violates the Constitution. The decision on Thursday will reverberate across campuses nationwide.
It ruled 6-3 along ideological lines in the University of North Carolina case, and 6-2 in the Harvard dispute, as Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson recused herself. Chief Justice John Roberts authored the majority opinion, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett.
Thomas read a concurring opinion from the bench. Justice Sonia Sotomayor also read her dissent aloud, the first time a dissenting justice has done so this term.
“The Harvard and UNC admissions programs cannot be reconciled with the guarantees of the Equal Protection Clause,” Roberts wrote. “Both programs lack sufficiently focused and measurable objectives warranting the use of race, unavoidably employ race in a negative manner, involve racial stereotyping, and lack meaningful endpoints. We have never permitted admissions programs to work in that way, and we will not do so today.”
However, Roberts said that universities can still consider “an applicant’s discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration, or otherwise.” Military academies are effectively exempt from the decision, due to the “potentially distinct interests” they present.
The ruling noted that students should be evaluated based on their experiences as an individual, not on the basis of race.
“Many universities have for too long done just the opposite,” Roberts continued. “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.”
However, Sotomayor was of a different opinion and argued that it was “not grounded in law or fact and contravenes the vision of equality embodied in the Fourteenth Amendment.”
“Today, this Court stands in the way and rolls back decades of precedent and momentous progress. It holds that race can no longer be used in a limited way in college admissions to achieve such critical benefits,” she said. “In so holding, 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.”
She further said that the Supreme Court’s recent ruling “subverts the constitutional guarantee of equal protection by further entrenching racial inequality in education, the very foundation of our democratic government and pluralistic society.”
Her view was also shared by Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson and Justice Elena Kagan.
Jackson, the first Black woman to sit on the Supreme Court, berated the court’s decision saying that the majority “surges to vindicate equality, but Don Quixote style — pitifully perceiving itself as the sole vanguard of legal high ground when, in reality, its perspective is not constitutionally compelled.”
“Simply put, the race-blind admissions stance the Court mandates from this day forward is unmoored from critical real-life circumstances,” she wrote. “Thus, the Court’s meddling not only arrests the noble generational project that America’s universities are attempting, it also launches, in effect, a dismally misinformed sociological experiment.”
The Supreme Court in 2003, approved schools to consider race when making admissions decisions in the Grutter v. Bollinger case. The court on Thursday, overturned the 2003 ruling, saying it was “for all intents and purposes, overruled”.
It was not the first time the US apex court has overruled its past decision and risked many precedences. It recently held back the constitutional right to abortion which was recognized since 1973 in Roe v. Wade.
According to Harvard’s filings with the court, over 40% of universities, and 60% of selective schools, consider race as a factor in granting admissions. Institutions such as the service academies, the U.S. military, and the federal government have relied on the Supreme Court’s past decisions recognizing that the educational benefits of diversity justify limited consideration of race in admissions, according to the Biden administration.
Universities have warned that ending race-conscious admissions programs would lead to a significant drop in the representation of Black and Hispanic students, especially in elite institutions.
President Joe Biden condemned the Supreme Court ruling, saying it will weaken the strength of America – which is diversity.
“You know, I’ve always believed that one of the greatest strengths of America — and you’re tired of hearing me say it — is our diversity, but I believe that.”
“We cannot let this decision be the last word. I want to emphasize: We cannot let this decision be the last word.”
“While the Court can render a decision, it cannot change what America stands for.”
“Because the truth is — we all know it: Discrimination still exists in America. Discrimination still exists in America. Discrimination still exists in America.”
“Today’s decision does not change that. It’s a simple fact”, Biden said.