The US Supreme Court barred the use of race and ethnicity in university admissions on Thursday, thereby ending a decades-long practice that increased educational chances for African-Americans and other minorities.
One year after eliminating the assurance of a woman’s right to abortion, the court’s conservative majority revealed its willingness to dismantle liberal regulations that had been in place since the 1960s.
The decision was reached by a six-to-three vote along conservative-liberal lines, following years of vehement opposition to “affirmative action” programs that sought diversity in school admissions and business and government hiring.
In the majority judgment, Chief Justice John Roberts stated that while affirmative action was “well-intentioned and implemented in good faith,” it could not persist forever and amounted to illegal discrimination against others.
“The student must be treated based on his or her experiences as an individual — not on the basis of race,” Roberts wrote.
The court said that universities were free to consider an applicant’s background — whether, for example, they grew up experiencing racism — in weighing their application over more academically qualified students.
But deciding primarily based on whether the applicant is white, Black or other is itself racial discrimination, Roberts wrote.
“Our constitutional history does not tolerate that choice,” he said.
In a scathing rebuttal, Justice Sonia Sotomayor accused the majority of being colorblind to the reality of “an endemically segregated society.”
“Ignoring race will not equalize a society that is racially unequal. What was true in the 1860s, and again in 1954, is true today: Equality requires acknowledgment of inequality,” she wrote.