The Supreme Court recently ruled on another case involving affirmative action. The 6-2 decision in the case of Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action determined that voters in the state of Michigan have the right to amend their state constitution to ban race from being used in the college admissions process.
It is important to understand what affirmative action is not. The use of quotas has been found unconstitutional (Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, 1978) as well as the use of points systems (Gratz v. Bollinger, 2003). However universities are allowed to generally consider race for the “compelling interest in promoting class diversity” (Grutter v. Bollinger, 2003).
Eight states in America have banned affirmative action: Oklahoma, New Hampshire, Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, Michigan, Florida, Washington and California. In the case of Michigan, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the voters choosing to prohibit racial preferences from being considered in government decisions.
The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution provides for the “equal protection of the laws.” In other words, our laws should be applied equally and blind to any preferences, including race. But there actually 14 protected classes under federal law, including race, religion, age, familial status, veteran status, disability and more.
The danger of protected classes is that businesses, for example, are less likely to take the risk on individuals belonging to a preferential group because of possible litigation hassles should anything occur. Statistics from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission show that 71% of complaints are determined by the government to have no reasonable cause.
That leads to the important question of whether we need protected classes in America, including race. Should certain groups be given governmental preferences and for what purpose? Does this run counter to the essence of the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause?
Justice Sotomayor wrote a scathing dissent against the Schuette decision, arguing that race still needs to be a protected class in America because we cannot simply “wish away” the racial inequality that she believes still exists in our society. In her view, equal application of laws places an unfair burden on minorities.
If you ask Americans, 58% say they they favor affirmative action programs for racial minorities. But 67% of Americans believe that only merit should be considered for college applicants, not race. However the differing opinions along racial lines could not be more stark: 75% of whites believe college admissions should be solely based on merit, compared to just 44% of blacks who want merit only admissions standards.
When it comes to affirmative action, the ultimate question is how do we know when enough is enough? How do we measure the “success” of a program in rectifying the horrible institutionalized injustices of our history?
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AUDIO: Thomas Sowell ~ The Unintended Consequences of Affirmative Action