The Supreme Court of the United States handed down a ruling yesterday that effectively bans the use of race as a factor in college admissions decisions, The Associated Press reports.
Race-conscious admissions plans violate the Constitution, the 6-3 majority ruled; colleges that get federal funding, as almost all do, could now be forced to alter their admissions policies. Chief Justice John G Roberts Jr said the programs “unavoidably employ race in a negative manner” that violates the Constitution.
“Many universities have for too long wrongly concluded that the touchstone of an individual’s identity is not challenges bested, skills built, or lessons learned, but the color of their skin,” the chief justice wrote. “This Nation’s constitutional history does not tolerate that choice.”
In other words, there may have been a time in American history when affirmative action was needed to make fair college admissions decisions, but that time is now past, following the majority’s logic. What is proper—and constitutional—is to base college admissions decisions on merit alone, without regard for past wrongs.
Both the majority and dissent put forth opinions that referenced the precedent-setting school segregation case Brown v. Board of Education (1954). While Chief Justice Roberts said the lesson of Brown was that “the time for making distinctions based on race had passed,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in her dissent, said that was revisionist history. “Brown,” she wrote, “was a race-conscious decision that emphasized the importance of education in our society.”
Long-term systemic racism and ongoing discrimination against racial minorities are contentious issues in American life, Republican presidential candidate former Vice President Mike Pence told NBC News. But giving students whose skin is a specific color extra points in college admissions is no longer a path forward.
President Joe Biden expressed disappointment with the decision. “The truth is, we all know, discrimination still exists in America,” he said. “But we cannot let the decision be a permanent setback for the country.”
I wanted to share some of my thoughts on today's Supreme Court decision on affirmative action: pic.twitter.com/Wa6TGafzHV
— Michelle Obama (@MichelleObama) June 29, 2023