Op-Ed: The Supreme Court will end affirmative action. What happens next?
On Tuesday, May 5, the Supreme Court sent a signal to the nation that one way or another, the court is going to end affirmative action, in the same way that it rejected racial preferences used to admit poor minority students to top high schools. The court’s conservatives have won, and now they will end the practice that has brought more than 1 out of 10 black Americans to the top of their fields in just the past few decades.
This is a very good and fair decision for millions of Americans, who have faced discrimination for centuries. For the next two centuries, affirmative action will die.
However, we must begin to look at the implications of the ruling. The question now is how the court will deal with the effects of the ruling and how it is going to decide what to do next.
The First Three Supreme Court Rulings
The court handed down its first ruling on the issue of affirmative action in 1972 in Bakke v. Regents of the University of California. A unanimous court said that the Constitution requires the government to treat all of its citizens equally, and that includes not using race as a factor in admission decisions. (This is a good thing to have said in 1972).
In a more recent ruling, in 2003, the court in Grutter v. Bollinger said that the Supreme Court should determine when universities begin using race as a factor in admission decisions. It also said that the court should use race as a factor only after the government has met the ‘Bakke standard’ of ensuring equal treatment of all students. (This was also in 2003. In its last review of the decision, the court reversed itself, saying that it would look at race as a factor only after the “compelling government interest test” had been met).
Finally, in Fisher v. University of Texas, the court ruled in 2011 that the government cannot use race as a factor in high school admissions. The decision was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy. Justice Scalia and then Scalia’s replacement, Clarence Thomas, both diss