On Thursday, June 29, the Supreme Court struck race-conscious admission policies with one ruling for a pair of cases – one involving the University of North Carolina and the other, Harvard University. This move overturns long-standing precedent that has sought to counter historical and ongoing racism and ensure equal access for Black and Latinx students in higher education. The Supreme Court ruled that both universities’ admissions programs violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution and are therefore unlawful.
“As a queer Black woman raising twin Black boys, this ruling is devastating,” said Stacey Stevenson, CEO of Family Equality. “We need actions and laws that advance racial equity, access, and justice for all students. This decision takes us backwards in time and negates five decades of progress. This is extremism and institutional racism wrapped in legalese.”
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion.
“The Harvard and UNC admissions programs cannot be reconciled with the guarantees of the Equal Protection Clause,” Roberts wrote. “Both programs lack sufficiently focused and measurable objectives warranting the use of race, unavoidably employ race in a negative manner, involve racial stereotyping, and lack meaningful end points. We have never permitted admissions programs to work in that way, and we will not do so today.”
Read the court’s opinion here.
“We must forge ahead to ensure that we dismantle barriers of white supremacy so that all of us – regardless of our backgrounds – have equal access and opportunity,” said Stevenson. “Black, Latino, Asian American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and Indigenous Americans deserve a fair shot at higher education and we cannot let the Supreme Court’s decision stop them from achieving their highest potential. The decision does not stop educational institutions from providing the support, policies, and resources which will help them reach their highest potential.”
Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by Justice Elena Kagan and Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, issued a scorching dissent.
“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,” wrote Sotomayor.
“Ignoring race will not equalize a society that is racially unequal,” she continued. “What was true in the 1860s, and again in 1954, is true today: Equality requires acknowledgment of inequality.”
“As in its decision in Dobbs, this Court continues to try to steer our country in the wrong direction,” said Stevenson. “We refuse to let this happen. We will work even harder to support and advocate for principles of racial equity, diversity, and equal opportunity. To all black and brown young people out there – we see you, you matter, and you deserve equal access and opportunity. We stand with you and will continue to fight with and for you.”