Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ketanji Brown Jackson accused their conservative colleagues on the Supreme Court of ignoring the persistent presence of racism in the United States by striking down affirmative action on college admissions Thursday.
Sotomayor, in a 69 page dissent in a case against Harvard, he characterized the court’s ruling as one that «rolls back decades of precedent and momentous advances.»
By ruling «that race can no longer be used in a limited way in college admissions,» the court effectively «solidifies a superficial rule of color blindness as a constitutional principle in an endemically segregated society where race has always mattered and continues to matter,» Sotomayor wrote.
Sotomayor, the third woman and first Latina member of the court, has described herself as a «perfect affirmative action baby.» Jackson is the first black woman on the court.
“The Court subverts the constitutional guarantee of equal protection by further entrenching racial inequality in education, the very foundation of our democratic government and pluralistic society,” Sotomayor added. «Because the Court’s opinion is not based on law or fact and contravenes the vision of equality embodied in the Fourteenth Amendment, I dissent.»
The court ruled Thursday that the University of North Carolina and Harvard violated the Constitution’s equal protection clause by considering race as a factor in the admissions process.
The vote was 6-3 in the case of UNC and 6-2 in the case of Harvard.
Sotomayor dissented in both cases, while Jackson dissented in the UNC case and recused himself from the Harvard case. jackson was in harvard board of supervisors until last year. Judge Elena Kagan joined both dissenting opinions.
The ruling seeks to put an end to the systematic consideration of race in the admissions process.
A society that ‘has never been color blind’
The equal protection clause was designed to preserve «a guarantee of racial equality,» Sotomayor wrote, stating that previous cases have «concluded that this guarantee can be enforced through race-conscious means in a society that is not, and never been, colorblind.»
He then took an in-depth look at the history of school segregation and the court precedents that helped end the practice in K-12 education and extend that «transformative legacy to the context of higher education.»
Allowing colleges and universities to consider race as one of multiple factors in the admissions process «has helped equalize educational opportunities for all students of all races and backgrounds and has improved racial diversity on college campuses,» Sotomayor wrote. «Although progress has been slow and imperfect, race-conscious college admissions policies have advanced the Constitution’s guarantee of equality.»
Born into a Puerto Rican family, Sotomayor grew up in a public housing project in the South Bronx. Her mother instilled in her a belief in the power of education, the court said.
as sotomayor has detailed in his memoirs, she excelled in school as a child while also managing a diagnosis of juvenile diabetes and other challenges. After graduating from high school as valedictorian, she attended Princeton University and Yale Law School.
Over time, he rose through the ranks of the judicial system until he joined the Supreme Court in 2009.
Studies show students of color have higher graduation rates when they attend selective collegesearn more after graduation and build stronger professional networks.
Yet the number of blacks and Latinos graduating annually from 100 highly selective colleges that presumably use race as an admissions factor represents just 1% of all students at four-year colleges, according to an estimate by sociologist Sean Reardon. from Stanford University. for The New York Times.
Sotomayor concluded her dissent with the following comments.
“The majority view of race neutrality will entrench racial segregation in higher education because racial inequality will persist as long as it is ignored,” he wrote. «Despite the Court’s unwarranted exercise of power, today’s opinion will only serve to highlight the Court’s own impotence in the face of an America whose cries for equality resound.»
in a separate 29 page dissent in the UNC case, Jackson echoed some of Sotomayor’s arguments, writing, «Our country has never been color blind.»
Both justices criticized Justice Clarence Thomas for relying on «unreliable data» to inform his decision to overturn the affirmative action, in part based on the assumption that black and Latino students at elite universities underperform.
In a lengthy and contentious footnote to his dissent, Jackson said Thomas’ opinion calls on American society to continue to ignore «the elephant in the room: race-related disparities that continue to prevent the achievement of the full potential of our great nation.»
By insisting that the obvious truths about racial inequality be ignored, Jackson said, the court majority is preventing «our problem-solving institutions from directly addressing the true significance and impact of ‘social racism’ and ‘imposed racism’.» by the government'», using Tomas’ opinion phrases.
Like Sotomayor, Jackson excelled in high school and later attended elite schools known for being highly selective in the admissions process.
Jackson is a graduate of Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and Harvard Law School.