Supreme Court Upends Affirmative Action

by Peter Candia
SCOTUS Affirmative Action

In a groundbreaking ruling, the Supreme Court has declared that colleges and universities are now prohibited from considering race as a determining factor in the admissions process. This landmark decision overturns a longstanding precedent dating back to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled that the Affirmative Action admissions policies utilized by Harvard College and the University of North Carolina were unjust. This decision carries extensive implications not only for higher education but also for the American workforce.

The case involving UNC was a 6-3 decision with each conservative justice backing Chief Justice Roberts, while Harvard’s case was decided 6-2 with Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson recusing the case. 

The Argument For and Against Affirmative Action

Proponents of Affirmative Action—such as many Democrats in Congress—have criticized the court for placing obstacles on the journey to racial equity. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer stated: “The consequences of this decision will be felt immediately and across the country, as students of color will face an admission cycle next year with fewer opportunities to attend the same colleges and universities than their parents and older siblings.” 

“If SCOTUS was serious about their ludicrous ‘colorblindness’ claims, they would have abolished legacy admissions, aka affirmative action for the privileged. 70% of Harvard’s legacy applicants are White. SCOTUS didn’t touch that—which would have impacted them and their patrons,” said Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of the decision.

On the other side of the aisle, Republicans are celebrating the conservative court’s decision. Senator Ted Cruz called it “a great day for America.”

GOP Senator Mitch McConnell also touted the decision, stating: “Today’s rulings make clear that colleges may not continue discriminating against bright and ambitious students based on the color of their skin.”

But, what exactly is Affirmative Action?

What Is Affirmative Action?

Affirmative action is a policy or set of measures implemented to address historical discrimination and promote equal opportunities for individuals from underrepresented or marginalized groups. It aims to increase diversity and inclusivity by considering factors such as race, ethnicity, gender, or socioeconomic background during the selection or admission processes. The goal is to provide a fair chance for individuals who have faced systemic disadvantages and promote a more equitable society. Affirmative Action became a reality in 1965, during Lyndon B. Johnson’s Presidency. 

The Exception in the SCOTUS Ruling

There is an exception in the Supreme Court’s ruling, though. 

According to the ruling, United States military service academies are allowed to continue considering race as a factor in their admissions processes. Chief Justice Roberts mentioned in a footnote within the majority opinion that the cases under consideration did not specifically address this issue. He also acknowledged the potential existence of unique interests that military academies might present, indicating the possibility of future cases examining this matter.

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson criticized this carve-out, writing: “The court has come to rest on the bottom-line conclusion that racial diversity in higher education is only worth potentially preserving insofar as it might be needed to prepare Black Americans and other underrepresented minorities for success in the bunker, not the boardroom (a particularly awkward place to land, in light of the history the majority opts to ignore),” in her dissent.

Controversy Surrounding Affirmative Action

Affirmative Action has been controversial ever since it made its way onto the political playing field. Conservatives have long criticized the program, citing it as racist in nature for putting white Americans and Asian Americans at a disadvantage in college admissions and the like. This, of course, only tells half the story as in 2021, enrollment for black Americans (37%) and white Americans (38%) were nearly identical, according to the Department of Education, with Hispanic students slightly behind at 33% and Asian Americans ahead of the pack with a 60% enrollment. 

Before Thursday’s decision, nine states had already banned Affirmative Action. New Jersey, however, was not one of them. 

Still, it is short-sighted to suggest that there isn’t a nuanced discussion to be had for both sides of the argument. But, one thing about SCOTUS’ June 29 ruling is for certain: Chief Justice Roberts says racial diversity cannot be a factor in college admissions… unless you’re willing to take a bullet for your country. 

About the Author/s

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Peter Candia is the Food + Drink Editor at New Jersey Digest. A graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, Peter found a passion for writing midway through school and never looked back. He is a former line cook, server and bartender at top-rated restaurants in the tri-state area. In addition to food, Peter enjoys politics, music, sports and anything New Jersey.

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