Affirmative Action Under Review



Every year a number of landmark cases come before the U.S. Supreme Court. Last term, the Justices delivered headline rulings on Arizona’s immigration policies and on the Affordable Care Act, and tomorrow the Supreme Court will hear Fisher v. the University of Texas, the latest challenge to affirmative action to be heard at the nation’s highest court. Fisher v. UT carries great implications for the civil rights movement as a whole.

In advance of oral argument, here’s a brief overview of tomorrow’s case: Fisher v. UT reexamines an issue decided in a 2003 case relating to the legality of affirmative action procedures in college admissions processes. Abigail Fisher, who attends Louisiana State University, claims she was denied admission to UT because the process favored minority applicants. At question in Fisher is whether a race-conscious admissions system is legal if a race-neutral plan already creates academic diversity.

Another case, Grutter v. Bollinger  (2003), provides some useful precedent in this situation. In the Grutter decision, the Court suggested it would take 25 years until the use of race-based admissions was no longer necessary. Yet, just 9 years later, the Supreme Court is hearing another race-based admissions case. As the legitimacy of affirmative action is once again called into question, it is worth our taking a moment to consider the important role that it serves in American society.

In 1965, then President Lyndon Johnson explained, “you do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him up to the starting line of a race and then say you are free to compete with all the others, and still just believe that you have been completely fair.” This traditional interpretation of affirmative action has been largely supported by the Reform Jewish community. In 1977, the URJ passed its resolution, “Affirmative Action,” which stated that it is “morally obligatory that universities, labor unions, employers and governmental institutions… provide economic and educational opportunities for qualified Blacks, Latinos, women and economically disadvantaged persons and minorities.” Our tradition has always been sensitive to the plight of the stranger and the oppressed, and our narrative reminds us that we too were strangers in the land of Israel.

It should be no surprise that race-based inequity still exists. As such, affirmative action continues to play an important role in ensuring that the civil rights movement continues to advance the cause of racial equality.

While we await the Court’s decision in tomorrow’s case (probably months away), it is important that we continue to recognize the steps that must be taken to protect the civil rights of all Americans.

 

Thanks to Avra Bossov for her help in writing this blog.

Image courtesy of the Indiana Standard

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Mikey Pasek

About Mikey Pasek

Mikey Pasek is an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant. He is from Philadelphia, PA, and is a graduate of Bates College. Follow Mikey on twitter @mikeypasek and on the web at www.michaelhpasek.com

5 Responses to “Affirmative Action Under Review”

  1. From Your Article:

    “As the legitimacy of affirmative action is once again called into question, it is worth our taking a moment to consider the important role that it serves in American society.”

    My Experience with Affirmative Action:

    In 1984, I was denied a job, because I am a white male. I know this, because they told me to my face. It’s been 29 years, since that happened. Am I to accept that my 11 year old son will face the same nonsense 10 years from now, all in the name of ‘equality’? As in ‘Animal Farm’, by George Orwell; apparently, we are to accept that “some animals: are “more equal” than others.

    From You Article:

    “While we await the Court’s decision in tomorrow’s case (probably months away), it is important that we continue to recognize the steps that must be taken to protect the civil rights of all Americans.”

    My Take:

    “All Americans”, except white male, hetrosexuals who attend church on Sunday, who work hard in school, who…

    • Charlie Arnowitz

      Hi Steve,

      While the system of affirmative action is, like anything, imperfect, the Reform movement strongly believes that it is a key driver of the modern civil rights movement. Affirmative action is one of the positive tools we have for rectifying discrimination. The Supreme Court has now ruled on the Fisher case that this article described; while the Court remanded the specific plan at the University of Texas to a lower court under stricter scrutiny, it upheld the constitutionality of affirmative action in general. As America becomes a more diverse and equitable society, it is essential that we provide equality of opportunity for Americans of all backgrounds.

  2. הרואה אוכלוסי ישראל אומר ברוך חכם הרזים שאין דעתם דומה “If one sees a great crowd of Israelites (omitted by RAC in their Court brief )one should thank God for not having made them all of one mind.” The RAC misquoted this from Brachot58a, leaving out the word “Israelites” and so distorted the actual meaning of the qoute.The inconvenient truth is that the real quote has nothing to say on the race issue at hand. There is so much truth in the Talmud that we have no need to misrepresent it

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Affirmative Action Back at the Court | Fresh Updates from RAC - November 1, 2013

    […] On October 15, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments for Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, a case with important implications for affirmative action programs and civil rights more broadly. The Court evaluated the constitutionality of Michigan’s prohibition on the use of affirmative action in public university admissions decisions. The case comes on the heels of last year’s landmark Court decision about affirmative action, Fisher v. Texas. […]

  2. Supreme Court Upholds Affirmative Action | Fresh Updates from RAC - June 26, 2013

    […] Need a refresher on the case? Check out our blog from October, which outlined the legal challenge. […]

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