Less than a year after gutting key provisions of the Voting Rights Act, the Supreme Court is again taking aim at black Americans, and further undoing the civil rights gains that were made in the late twentieth century. In a 6-2 ruling, the high court upheld a Michigan ban on race-based affirmative action programs for college admissions. The Court’s ruling overturns a Sixth Circuit Court decision. Consequently, the Supreme Court’s decision effectively upholds similar affirmative action bans in the states of Arizona, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Washington, and California.
The Court’s ruling upholds a ballot measure passed by Michigan voters in 2006 banning race-based affirmative action. That ruling however will have damaging consequences for campus diversity. Michigan universities have experienced nearly a 40 percent drop in the percentage of entering freshman who are African-American since the law passed in 2006. In 2006, 6.4 percent of entering freshman were African-American. That percentage declined to just 4.6 percent in 2012. Hispanic enrollment has also declined sharply since the 2006 law passed.
What makes the Michigan law and the Supreme Court’s decision especially troubling, is that it only eliminates race-based affirmative action, but it does not end affirmative action for privileged affluent white children through legacy scholarships. Children of alumni, who are disproportionately wealthy and white, are still eligible for preferential treatment by Michigan Universities. So while Michigan voters and the Supreme Court cannot stomach an affirmative action based policy that levels the playing field for people of color to overcome a legacy of discrimination, they have no issue with rewarding the already advantaged by stacking the deck even further in their favor through Affirmative Action programs that aid the white and wealthy.
Two of the Supreme Court Justices, Clarence Thomas and Sonya Sotomayor, acknowledge that affirmative action played a role in their admissions to college and law school. However, while Sotomayor wrote a a 58-page dissent to the Supreme Court’s ruling upholding the affirmative action ban, Thomas predictably sided with the Court’s majority and closed the door, denying other African-Americans access to the types of policies that helped him succeed. Clarence Thomas once again held to his longstanding position that as long as he gets what he needs, he has no concern for fairness or in guaranteeing that the programs that helped him are made available to others. Clarence Thomas joined the Court’s majority in once again trampling upon the progress black Americans achieved in the twentieth century. After all, his Supreme Court appointment is for life, so he is all set.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.