The United States’ Supreme Court has ruled that colleges and universities can no longer take race into consideration when granting admission in a landmark decision that ends the widespread discriminatory practice of ‘affirmative action’.
Liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor was joined by Justices Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson in dissent, claiming the decision will result in a less equal education system in the U.S.
“The result of today’s decision is that a person’s skin color may play a role in assessing individualised suspicion, but it cannot play a role in assessing that person’s individualised contributions to a diverse learning environment. That indefensible reading of the Constitution is not grounded in law and subverts the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection,” Sotomayor wrote in a fiery dissent that, at one point, likened the majority decision to a “pig”.
“Ignoring race will not equalise a society that is racially unequal. What was true in the 1860s, and again in 1954, is true today: equality requires acknowledgment of inequality,” she added.
The decision “cements a superficial rule of colourblindness as a constitutional principle in an endemically segregated society where race has always mattered and continues to matter”.
Affirmative action has been practised by U.S. universities and colleges for many decades and, broadly speaking, has been tolerated as American society moved from segregation and discrimination to equal rights while, at the same time, attempting to address entrenched inequalities. However, after over half a century of preferential treatment for blacks at the expense of whites and, increasingly, Asians, many were beginning to ask for how long race-based criteria in university admissions were going to continue, particularly as the gaps were no longer closing, moving the endpoint based on achieving equality of outcome to an indefinite time in the future. This ruling is the culmination of that discontent and the worry that race-based differential treatment would become permanent in what many liberals see as an “endemically segregated society”.
Republican presidential candidates welcomed the ruling.
Nikki Haley said: “The world admires America because we value freedom and opportunity. SCOTUS [The Supreme Court] re-affirmed those values today. Picking winners and losers based on race is fundamentally wrong. This decision will help every student — no matter their background — have a better opportunity to achieve the American dream.”
Mike Pence said: “There is no place for discrimination based on race in the United States, and I am pleased that the Supreme Court has put an end to this egregious violation of civil and constitutional rights in admissions processes, which only served to perpetuate racism. I am honoured to have played a role in appointing three of the Justices that ensured today’s welcomed decision, and as President I will continue to appoint judges who will strictly apply the law rather than twisting it to serve woke and progressive ends.
Vivek Ramaswamy said: “Affirmative action is a badly failed experiment: time to put a nail in the coffin and restore colourblind meritocracy.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, however, called the Supreme Court affirmative action ruling “a giant roadblock in our country’s march toward racial justice.”
The consequences of this decision will be felt immediately and across the country, as students of colour will face an admission cycle next year with fewer opportunities to attend the same colleges and universities than their parents and older siblings. These negative consequences could continue for generations, as the historic harms of exclusion and discrimination in education and society are exacerbated.
By students of colour he seems to mean black students, as following the ruling Asian students will now have more opportunities rather than fewer. The assumption that black people benefit from preferential treatment has also been widely questioned, owing to potentially racist undertones of presumed inferiority and the patronising and undermining nature of being selected on race rather than merit.
Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy hailed the decision, saying that the justices “just ruled that no American should be denied educational opportunities because of race. Now students will be able to compete based on equal standards and individual merit. This will make the college admissions process fairer and uphold equality under the law”.
The decision will be popular with the public, who polls show generally oppose race-based admissions. In a Pew Research Center poll released this month, half (50%) of U.S. adults say they disapprove of colleges and universities taking race and ethnicity into account in admissions decisions in order to increase the racial and ethnic diversity at the institution. One-third (33%) approve, with the remaining 16% unsure. Support for colleges giving consideration to race and ethnicity is higher among Democrats (54% approve, 29% disapprove) and black Americans (47% approve, 29% disapprove) than it is among white Americans (29% approve, 57% disapprove) or Republicans (14% approve, 74% disapprove).
Read the full 237-page historic decision, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, here.