By Brenda Robinson
Like spring this year, the Supreme Court decision, stimulated by the 2006 Michigan voters’ ban on affirmative action in the state’s colleges and universities, came late. The high court heard arguments on the case Oct. 15, 2013, following a Michigan federal court reversal of the voters’ ban earlier that same year. Last week, the Supreme Court reversed the Michigan lower court decision. Like 2013-14 ole man winter, this affirmative action dilemma just can’t settle down.
The justices ruling specifically said the decision for college and university special admission processes for minorities must be decided by the states, not judges. Thus, when Michigan voters, by a 58-42 margin, passed a referendum to amend the state constitution and ban any consideration of race in college and university admissions, the higher court said the law is constitutionally sound.
We might conclude the majority of white Americans just has a problem living up to the creed, “liberty and justice for all.” On the other hand, we might determine that the five Supreme Court justices who upheld the ban believe special consideration for the victims of discrimination is unconstitutional. Either position is un-American.
The Supreme Court ruled on a similar Michigan case 14 years ago. The higher court heard the case April 1, 2003 for a ruling on the University of Michigan Law School’s admission policy. The court ruled the school’s practice that gave special admission consideration for being a certain racial minority did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment. The court specifically used the Equal Protection Clause of the Amendment. The Clause requires each state to provide equal protection under the law to all people within its jurisdiction. This Clause was the basis for Brown vs Board of Education in 1954. This Supreme Court Decision that precipitated the dismantling of racial segregation and for other decisions rejecting irrational or unnecessary discrimination against people belonging to various groups. For the record, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, and Steven Breyer ruling on the 2003 decision was favoring “special admission consideration.” Regarding the 2014 ruling, Ginsburg voted to allow special consideration for race, Kagan recused herself from the vote (did not vote due to conflict of interest) and Breyer voted to ban special consideration for race.
This recent Michigan ruling was 6-2 in favor of keeping the ban. Even the liberal, Breyer voted with the conservatives. Let’s examine Breyer and President Barack Obama appointee Sonia Sotomayor’s opinions:
Breyer wrote, “If voters or their representatives have the right to adopt race conscious policies, so must they have the right to decide not to.” However, Sotomayor had a different take: “The decision infringed upon groups rights by allowing Michigan voters to change the basic rules of the political process in a manner that uniquely disadvantaged racial minorities. This refusal to accept the stark reality that race matters is regrettable. As members of the judiciary tasked with intervening to carry out the guarantee of equal protection, we ought not to set back and wish away, rather than confront the racial inequality that exists in our society.”
Breyer’s opinion ignores that racism exists in this country and the “playing field” is unequal. He failed to consider that blacks are still victims of unchained slavery regrettably due to some white people, politically, socially, educationally and economically, continuing to exclude black people from mainstream opportunities. There are also historical reasons, slavery and Jim Crow both sanctioned by the United States government, why black people must be granted special preference. In addition, other minorities are victims of discrimination not because of slavery and Jim Crow, but due to some members of the majority populations’ belief of their superiority over any other ethnics. Consequently, these ethnic groups also need special higher educational admission practices.
Seven other states have joined Michigan in successfully banning affirmative action admission policies in colleges and universities. Some civil right activist believe other states will follow. This Supreme Court ruling just re-emphasizes obtaining justice for blacks is a never ending story. And, like ole man winter, discrimination will keep coming back. The spring will arrive and rid the snow and wind, but only for a season. Activism will likely halt the spread and perhaps even rescind the ruling, but only for a season.
While we are waiting for the seasons to change, let us promote and support Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Perhaps we may discover, what Dorothy discovered in the musical, Wizard of Oz. Dorothy was worried about getting back to her home in Kansas after the hot air balloon left without her. Glinda, the good witch from the North, told Dorothy she really did not need the hot air balloon. Glinda told Dorothy to click her heels together three times and say, “There is no place like home.” Dorothy followed Glinda’s direction and in an instance she was back home in Kansas. Dorothy learned she really didn’t need the hot air balloon, but rather she had the power to get home all along. Historical Black Colleges and Universities have been there all along. Like the hot air balloon, do we really need those colleges and universities who left without us. Let’s go home to HBCUs.