WASHINGTON, D.C., June 29, 2023 – Today the Supreme Court ruled that Harvard and the University of North Carolina’s affirmative action programs can no longer be used to ensure racial diversity at their institutions. This is a profound blow to equality in higher education and our democracy.
In the cases of SSFA v. Harvard and SSFA v. University of North Carolina, the conservative justices concluded that the 14th Amendment — the whole point of which was to address the discrimination faced by Black Americans post-slavery and the resulting inequalities — must be interpreted in a colorblind fashion. Treating race like a zero-sum game, Chief Justice Roberts explains that any opportunities that might be granted to compensate for disadvantages they might face solely because of their race somehow then violates the guarantee of equal protection.
Alliance for Justice President Rakim H.D. Brooks issued the following statement:
“Today’s decision is a painful rejection of both precedent and the Court’s nearly seven-decade commitment to racial equality. Since Brown v. Board of Education, the nation has committed itself to using our system of education to remediate past discrimination and to promote integration. For the first time, the Court tells us that our quest was not only unconstitutional but immoral — and does so in the name of Brown.
“As Justice Jackson rightly points out, this is obscene. How dare Justice Roberts use the very laws passed to protect against segregation in a way that will surely maintain it. This is not what those who blazed a path for racial equality in the wake of the Civil War could have envisioned. In fact, the decision spits on the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement in the movement’s name — and casts a long shadow over all of us who are the beneficiaries of their sacrifices.
“We can only be thankful that Justice Sotomayor has now called on us to do the work that the Court refuses to do. As she said, ‘Despite the Court’s unjustified exercise of power, the opinion today will serve only to highlight the Court’s own impotence in the face of an America whose cries for equality resound.’ We must be sure that it is her words that are remembered decades from now, not those of Justice Roberts and the justices who have decided that multiracial democracy is not worth fighting for.”