Affirmative Action: Supreme Court to Decide if Michigan Law Violates the Constitution


The Supreme Court has decided that it will hear an affirmative action case involving a six-year-old voter referendum in Michigan that prohibits colleges and state employees from using race or ethnicity. This is the second high-profile affirmative action case the court has agreed to hear arguments on. Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action will look at whether or not voters are allowed to ban things like affirmative action. Race and ethnicity are a fundamental part of our individual identity. Prohibiting their consideration is not only folly but antithetical to the growth of equality and opportunity for all Americans. 

The Supreme Court will hear arguments on the Michigan case prior to announcing their decision on Fisher v. University of Texas. Reuters reports that this is unusual for the court who usually waits until it has decided on one case before taking up another on a related matter. 

The ban in Michigan was passed in 2006 and prevented public employers and colleges from considering race or gender when making a decisions on employment or college admissions. The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of appeals ruled that banning affirmative action violates the U.S. Constitutions equal protection law. The referendum was started in part by Jennifer Gratz who was at the center of the famed 2003 Supreme Court case on affirmative action. 

It is safe to say that white people fear affirmative action. In general, we really dislike the idea of being treated differently. We find it discomforting that a decision regarding our eligibility to school may be based upon something as trivial as our skin color which we have no control over. 

The Atlantic discusses the fear white America has we over affirmative action. Forty percent of white adults believe they know someone who was rejected from college due to affirmative action policies. In reality, only the top twenty percent of college universities even use racial preferences. This would mean that affirmative action makes up only 3 percent of a selective colleges total admissions. Hardly the epidemic so many white people would have you think it is. 

The deans of Harvard and Yale Law wrote a wonderful joint Op-Ed about why race matters in school admissions. 

“Rather, our point is that race can be an important, if not essential, aspect of the life story of many applicants and that our ability to assess the individual character of these applicants would be crippled by a rule forbidding us from considering applicants’ race.”

The two go on to say that race blind admissions would be nearly an impossibility as the school and student would likely come face-to-face at some point.

It is impossible to take away someones race from their individual story. It cannot be done, nor should it be. If you deny someone the ability to say that their race or ethnicity impacts their life experiences, then you deny that person those very experiences. Engaging in the erasure of another persons experiences in the name of a color blind system that cannot logically, functionally, or otherwise exist, will not get us any close to equality.