On Affirmative Action, What Once Seemed Unthinkable Might Become Real

Oct 28, 2022 · 844 comments
dtrain1027 (Boston, Ma)
When it comes to college admissions, Asians are the new Jews. If it wasn't acceptable to discriminate against Jewish students from 1920-60, why is it acceptable to discriminate against Asian students now? To ask the question is to answer it. Merit has to matter.
Ehillesum (Michigan)
Please, no more talk of precedents from progressives. Tearing down traction and precedent is what they do. And affirmative action is not only racist, it hurts people of color who did not need it by branding them as affirmative action babies and it’s engaged in far too late to actually help the students it purportedly helps. Catch them in kindergarten—if not, most can never catch up.
Etaoin Shrdlu (Planet Earth)
Affirmative action is racism. The SAT scores of white and Asian students are higher than those of blacks at every income level. In fact Asians in the lowest economic quintile score above blacks in the highest quintile. Aptitude and ability matter.
David MD (NYC)
As I jew, I know we had Jewish quotas in the Ivy Leagues and other schools for decades. Yale through part of the 1960s, Stanford just apologized for 1950's Jewish quotas. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/10/13/us/stanford-apology-jewish-students.html https://www.nytimes.com/1986/03/04/nyregion/yale-s-limit-on-jewish-enrollment-lasted-until-early-1960-s-book-says.html Jews do well because they have a 2000 year history of universal education for boys, and scholarship was most prestigious. Each Korean family reportedly has a (Korean version) copy of the Jewish Talmud. Mothers want to mimc Jewish success in education. Asians in general, like Jews have an immersive culture of respecting education, at least those Asians in the US. Even poor Asian families hire together tutors for the kids after school and on weekends. Among Asians in the US, there is "Tiger Parenting" The author of a book about it, is Chinese married to a Jewish man. It is also incredibly racist to lump all Asians together. Vietnamese are different from Chinese, from Koreans, from Taiwanese, from Singapore and Hong Kong residents, from those from Beijing and Shanghai and inner China. From those from South Asia, from India and various Indian states, to Philippines, to Thailand, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, .... Native Americans should have AA. We've had decades to Institue programs that help families mimic the emphasis on education that is among Jews and American Asians. That is the solution.
Greg (New York)
It’s telling that this entire piece doesn’t contain the words “Asian-American”, the folks who currently are actively discriminated against in higher education admissions and are at the core of the plaintiffs case. Because it’s uncomfortable to acknowledge that affirmative action based on race requires favoring one group by discriminating another group.
Marcus (NYC)
Harvard is essentially a hedge fund with an educational wing. They should stop taking tax breaks, pay taxes, and admit whoever they feel like without anyone telling them how.
Darien (White Plains, NY)
Affirmative action has benefitted white women more than black men and women. It will be interesting to note the impacts of AA is deemed unconstitutional.
Jake (NY)
granting special privileges to a one person based on his/hers skin color is discriminating against another person based on his/hers skin color. affirmative action is a form of institutional racism.
Robert (Around)
Note that anything done to address the real problems this country has and had with race and particularly African Americans meet and has met resistance every step of the way. Up to and including that there is a problem and even teaching about it now. How fragile certain people seem to be.
Practical Thoughts (East Coast)
Would anyone who is able to send their children to good schools, live in reasonably safe neighborhoods and provide a reasonably solid family trade places with the inner-city African American child in failing school? Would they trade their neighborhood amenities for a few extra points on an exam or a preference in admissions? I know I would not trade it. Only the exceptional make it out of those depressing situations mostly in tact. The majority remain stuck in place and become fodder for GOP Advertisements. How hard would it be to get into Harvard if African American and Native Americans were performing at the same level as middle and upper middle whites? By the way, there are inequities in Appalachia and the rural prairie states that do not get addressed either. Those kids just get washed over too because their communities are ashamed to ask for help.
Practical Thoughts (East Coast)
Affirmative action will be overturned and eventually banned in all institutions. What will not be overturned is the gross inequality that befalls children born into situations not of their choosing. Placed into conditions where only the exceptional rise and where the majority go on to a lifetime of despair. At the end of the day....you will never have equality in this society until everyone has access to a good education system. Children don't get to choose this, so we will continue punishing children because of the severe shortcomings of their parents until they themselves become parents with severe shortcomings. A truly optimistic and empathetic society would make sure that every child gets access to a real and supported education. A real education that works for the environment they are in, not the one we wish it to be. Another example of why the human race remains mired in violence, chaos and poverty.
CS (SF Bay Area, CA)
If we are truly about uplifting disadvantaged children, we should base the preferential treatment of college candidates on economic parameters. An economically disadvantaged Black, Asian , or Hispanic child had the same challenges and should be given the same support in college admissions regardless of their race. Why is there no convincing argument to making Affirmative Action (or whatever else it should be called) be based on economic need?
Practical Thoughts (East Coast)
@CS Agreed 100 percent! I don't understand why this hasn't been addressed. No child chooses their circumstances and we risk creating a permanent underclass. Generally speaking, I think working class and poor Asians, Latinos and Whites are reluctant to demand more support because that support is associated with African American stereotypes. Just a couple of points: 1. Unfortunately, when most people think about Affirmative Action, they are thinking about programs for African Americans. 2. A disproportionate percentage of African Americans are poor. This, in my opinion, is a contributor as to why their performance tends to trail the average. Other pathologies around mental health, low expectations and stereotypes tend to compound.
Mike Livingston (Philadelphia)
I think the Court will have the courage to overturn AA, and I think it will be correct to do so. Times change and people change. This author is still in the 1970s.
Blossom (The Buckeye State)
@Mike Livingston The Republican party is still stuck in the 1850s.
wenke taule (ringwood nj)
@Mike Livingston So is the country--maybe even back in the 1950's. Ms. Greenhouse understands this. This is Chief Justice Roberts "cruel" dream come true.
Robert David South (Watertown NY)
The right has shown that you can use other things that are statistically correlated with race to stand in for race. It's time for the left to learn to do that.
Snork (Canada)
@Robert David South. Progressives on the left do this all the time. Most of "systemic racism" seems, in reality, to be "systemic discrimination against people who aren't necessarily black at all, but are statistically more likely to be black.
Oscillation overthruster1859 (USA)
The author neglects a critical component for this case - purposefully I suspect since it is the new and central argument of the plaintiffs; Students for Fair Admission's argument is that, by using race as a factor in admissions which benefits black and latino (less so) applicants, it discriminates against asian and white (less so) applicants. Regardless of what you personally think about the merits of affirmative action, the argument that "because Brown is our law, Grutter cannot be" is not a "double bank shot". It is a perfectly logical and clever legal argument. I expect more from a Supreme Court reporter.
wenke taule (ringwood nj)
@Oscillation overthruster1859 It might be clever, but it denies the reality of deep rooted racism in America. Ms. Greenhouse is an expert on the Supreme Court.
Do what many civilized countries with the best educational outcomes do: remove racial consideration, but distribute funds equally to all school districts per capita (for each state). Then you have a real shot at removing the hurdles before poor minority kids, so they can get the same opportunities as white kids ensconced in richer neighborhoods. Money isn’t everything, I know. Teachers’ unions do a bad job selling this issue. But you’d be blind to see that the disparity in wealth and opportunities across school districts do not matter.
Jose Pieste (OH)
@C "But you’d be blind to see that the disparity in wealth and opportunities across school districts do not matter.” It turns out they don’t matter. In NJ, where I now live, it has been the law since 1990 (Abbott Ruling) that impoverished districts must be funded at the same level as the wealthiest districts. And it hasn’t made any difference. I assume many other states and localities have similar provisions at this point. But, I agree, even if it makes no difference, it is unjust to have disparate levels of funding.
Michael (Austin)
@Jose Pieste Equal (under-)funding in schools is a start, but doesn't provide equal educational opportunity when much of a child's education comes from activities outside of school and the home environment. Music lessons, art lessons, trips abroad with parents, trips to science and art museums, private tutoring, etc. Texas requires rich school districts to redistribute some of their school tax revenue to poor districts, so people in the affluent districts create private foundations to which parents contribute to provide additional resources to schools in affluent areas.
JP (New Orleans)
@Jose Pieste It hasn’t made any difference because the law is not implemented or enforced. The NJ schools are not funded equally even though it is the law to do so.
Bettina (Illinois)
Liberal Dem here - doing away with race-based aspects of admissions is the right thing to do. the inequity that leads to the need for affirmative action comes from underfunded K-12 schools in minority areas. Focus on that problem, and on providing more support for students whose poverty and home life work against their potential for academic achievement. AA is the wrong end of the horse.
Practical Thoughts (East Coast)
@Bettina True, but our society excels at doing what's expedient and talking around the hard and challenging things to do. Kick the can down the road
wenke taule (ringwood nj)
@Bettina Both should be happening AA and funding all schools equally. The problem of racial inequality is huge and it needs the whole horse not just one end or the other.
Jo (Nj)
Using race or skin color as a criterion for anything is just plain wrong and pure discrimination. It may help one person, but clearly hurts another.
Joe (Bogota)
The California University system just stopped doing affirmative action. The number of Black students accepted went down tremendously when they did that. So, either the UC system is now actively discriminating against Black applicants, as they did before affirmative action (which is what made that necessary) or there are other factors (socioeconomic, systemic racism) preventing underserved and economically disadvantaged populations from gaining the grades and scores necessary to get into college. Those other factors must be addressed. But accepting those who do not have the tools to succeed may not be the answer. We need to do more, earlier.
john (N.C.)
An easy workaround is for universities to adopt the Texas model whereby the top xx % of students from each high school (varies by University) are automatically admitted. Black/white/latin/male/female it doesn't matter. May not work for 53 billion dollar endowment Harvard as it's primary focus seems to be admitting rich legacy kids and full tuition paying foreign students. Works well for state schools.
Ellen (Tampa)
@john That's why students file lawsuits over their positions in the class rank. Not saying that the Texas method is bad, but never underestimate the willingness of Americans to file lawsuits to get their way.
Philboyd (Washington, DC)
You mean every American high school kid being treated equally and fairly and judged on her or his efforts, intelligence and accomplishments, rather than being punished for something he or she had no control over might become the law of the land? Terrifying! I'm just glad that wasn't the law when my 4.0 student daughter, who was class president and a first runner-up for a prestigious Presidential Scholarship among other accomplishments was denied her first choice because she was white -- while kids with much worse grades and no special attainment from her very class got in.
Blossom (The Buckeye State)
@Philboyd Lots of assumptions there, with probably zero evidence. Besides, if your daughter was as accomplished as you claim, she'd have done fine at any college or university. Not the end of the world thar she didn't get into one particular school.
Jeff P (Danville)
The most selective universities get far more 4.0 students than they can admit, in some cases they can fill the entire class. Other factors in idling Advanced Placement classes aren’t readily available in some lower income areas so even though they maybe as talented, or more, they have difficulty competing. It is not at all surprising that your daughter did not automatically get into her first choice.
You're misreading disgust with surprise. If his daughter was a "good" minority, she would have cakewalked into that school. The fact that she is penalized for her race is what's making him angry.
tomp (san francisco)
When did "Equal Protection" come to be mean to "Equal Outcome"? AA today is a cudgel to enforce "Equal Outcome", based solely on skin color. Rather than sweep away barriers and structures to ensure equal opportunity as intended by AA, it is now used to erect barriers and structures to block equal opportunity in the name of "Equal Outcome".
Snork (Canada)
@tomp. Critical race theorists don't buy equality of opportunity, which is kind of counterintuitive, given that affirmative action seems to be intended to provide something like it. Some even regard equality of opportunity as a "white" concept. I would think that if they really espoused equality of outcome, they'd be strict egalitarians, but they don't seem to be. But logical consistency isn't the strong suit of most critical theorists.
Mooße (Philadelphia)
Until not too long ago the Court did not have five (and sometimes six) justices who heeded Marshall's direction that it is the constitution that the Court is to expound, not favored political outcomes. Equal protection means equal protection. "Separate but equal" is not equal and giving favor to one student over another on the basis of race is not equal.
Marie (Highland Park, IL)
Affirmative action is unfair. Period. Many years ago my son and a friend of his applied to a competitive university. My son is white, his friend is black. They both had similar grades, and SAT and ACT scores. They both went to the same high school. My son’s friend was not disadvantaged. As I recall his mother was a lawyer and his father a physician. The friend was accepted to the university, but my son was not. The reason was clear and the decision was not just.
Blossom (The Buckeye State)
@Marie Wow. You assume the black student had no special qualities your son didn't have. Maybe he had extracurricular activities in high school your son didn't do. Or did volunteer work. Or was active in a church. You just automatically assume he was unqualified and took something from your son. Wow.
Sue (New Jersey)
@Blossom Parents talk, attend the same sports/club events/award ceremonies. We know what students are into what activities, extracurriculars, who is taking AP courses, who volunteers at the homeless shelter. Nothing is secret so when obvious bias happens it's known by all and hurtful to all.
damon walton (clarksville, tn)
@Marie Or simply your child got beat out by a better candidate regardless of his skin color.
Casual Observer (Los Angeles)
Biology and anthropology both reveal that race does not correlate with intelligence, compassion, creatively, character, nor talents. That means that the potential contributions of ten to twenty percent of Americans were restricted from being enjoyed by this country until the end of the era of deliberately excluding minorities from participating fully in this country’s many endeavors. It meant half with regards to women. Consider that with regards to Affirmative Action policies that do many have seen as promoting the undeserving over the better qualified.
Thom (SF)
@casualobserver "Biology and anthropology both reveal that race does not correlate with intelligence, compassion, creatively, character, nor talents." True. Which is why the Harvard data is so curious. In admissions data, leadership characteristics were found disproportionately lacking in Asian American applicants. Or perhaps this is the point you were trying to make?
RobNYC (Long Island)
Interesting column. But unlike Dobbs, the likely conservative ruling will be supported by more than 65% of the country.
TDD (Florida)
@RobNYC Correct, and it will not take away a right; it will affirm the right to equal protection under the law.
Phil (Tennessee)
@RobNYC I think the end of Affirmative Action would be supported by more than 65%. Probably approaching 80%. BTW, according to USA Today, 21% of Blacks intend to vote Republican in the midterms.
wenke taule (ringwood nj)
@RobNYC Hard to fight the white majority, who want it all.
It’s not a matter if fairness or equity. College admissions, as with everything in life, is unfair. It
Old Joe (New Jersey)
Since we have had AA for a while now are there any measurable results that have shown it’s having the intended effect?
Steve (Sonora, CA)
" ... between the unthinkable and the real is very short, and shrinking fast." Ed: Strike "real". Insert "fantastic".
T Smith (Texas)
Unthinkable? Not to me. I always thought it was a poor solution and, frankly, I have been proven correct.
Earl Furman (Idaho)
Have read many complaints that the Supreme Court has neglected the will of the majority on abortion. Not hearing it about racial preferences being in danger.
scrappy (Noho)
@Earl Furman On the contrary, you are! They're just complaints about racial preferences for white people being in danger.
akamai (New York)
Much as I always love your columns, I have to say Affirmative Action was always in doubt. Many people equated it to quotas, to unqualified minorities displacing others. It always had a lot of enemies, and since this Court feels free to reject precedent whenever that agrees with its openly Right-Wing Agenda, I would say Affirmative Action is gone.
Mike (Springfield)
Overruling Grutter means not just the end of “diversity” as a goal in higher education…but also the end of “diversity” as a uniformly accepted virtue. From employment to housing…”Diversity” will become synonymous with “discrimination.”
Cecelia Cox (New Hampshire)
Mike: I disagree. It means the end of passing over highly qualified students to admit under qualified students deemed to be “disadvantaged”. ( which in my view is quite patronizing). Hopefully students of all colors and genders who are qualified will be admitted. No more dumbing down curricula and lowering standards to achieve an artificial “equity of outcome”.
Chris M (Arts District, LA)
Affirmative Action recognizes the unequal playing housing field created by our federal government. We can mostly agree that housing is a decent predictor for access to educational resources. This unequal field has existed basically since the advent of residential mortgages. From the 1930s to the 1970s, the government would specifically exclude integrated housing from its loan programs. From the 1960s through today, the government dramatically reduced and demolished public housing once a singularly defined community benefited from these loans. And all throughout the 2000s to 2022, our nation’s largest banks have been found guilty and paid millions to settle racially discriminatory lending practices. Universities recognize that affirmative action is a decent, non-prescriptive and imperfect tool to address these inequities. Opponents should put forth directly implementable tools with better outcomes OR just candidly share their opposition to expanding educational opportunity.
Earl Furman (Idaho)
@Chris M : I missed the part where the government gave preference to housing for Asians, so now they get discriminated against because of that.
Chris M (Arts District, LA)
That’s ok. It’s acknowledged as an imperfect solution and we are eager to learn of better solutions and/or improve the current solution.
Dr A (Los Angeles)
Affirmative action programs are not race-BASED, as so many people seem to think. But they are race- and class CONSCIOUS. There are many elements other than grades and test scores that contribute to college admission. If grades and tests scores were the only metrics, then colleges would serve only those with the resources to compete on the basis of grades and scores alone. Is that what people want?
Will (Murohreesboro)
Yes. Those with the best grades and scores will probably do the best in college, and colleges want those students. If students don’t have an equal opportunity to get the best grades and scores, that is a feeder problem and needs to be addressed at a lower level, before people are applying to colleges.
Pete (MelbourneAU)
@Dr A - Yet the endpoint is the same - highly qualified applicants are excluded from admission because black students score more highly due to their racial identity being heavily weighted when calculating that score. You can try and spin it however you like, but it doesn’t change the facts.
Blossom (The Buckeye State)
@Will Yet, much of the variation in test scores among groups has to do with parental education and wealth. Upper class parents usually have these kids participate in tutoring for the SAT and ACT from eight grade, for example. An wealthy average intelligence student who has had five years of tutoring for one test is naturally going to outperform a poor but higher intelligence student who has had zero tutoring. Test scores absolutely don't reflect intelligence or capabilities.
Michael (Chicago)
“Some level of race-consciousness to ensure equal access to higher education remains critical to realizing the promise of Brown,” the defense fund argues. Minorities already have equal access to higher education (except Asians, of course, against him the universities discriminate). What the defense wants is to sanction giving certain minorities greater access. That's turning the idea of "equal protection" on its head. It won't wash.
L. Scott Miller (Gilbert, Arizona)
Brown concluded that segregation was both morally wrong and constitutionally wrong based on the 14th amendment. However, it did not offer a set of legally required actions that would (could) end segregation in education or elsewhere. Since Brown, SCOTUS still has not done do. Indeed, it has ruled out or at least restricted some possible approaches. When SCOTUS nominees cite Brown as a "super precedent" in Senate hearings, it sounds good, but its operational power has always been very limited.
Claudia (new hampshire)
As Urofsky noted in his book on AA, there were institutional rules in place which excluded African Americans from labor unions and VA home loans, locking them out of the benefits available to Whites for two generations. The problem is whether what is important is the process or the outcome. Clearly, with respect to unions and mortgages, the process was poisoned. But admission to elite institutions as a means to the upper class is not so clear; it's not clear that those elite colleges actually change the economic fate of their graduates--especially Black graduates, who may be viewed as exceptions to the rule that a Harvard degree certifies brilliance.
Pottree (Joshua Tree)
A Harvard degree signifies brilliance no more than a USDA stamp on a piece of meat signifies tastiness.
Imperato (NYC)
@Claudia Harvard doesn’t certify brilliance but greatly improves your networking opportunities.
WarBabyReelist (Elk Grove CA)
The trait we call intelligence has reached its limit and turned into mush. Where can we turn now?
Alyson Lloyd (Philadelphia PA)
As an educated Black and Hispanic woman with a college education, BFA in screenwriting and film theory from Syracuse University (Go Orange), I find most of these comments disturbing and racist. I don't think you actually hear yourselves; I'm reading comments about how race doesn't matter. Well, guess what? It may not matter to you but does to me and a lot of people like me. There's a reason why Colin Kaepernick was let go by the '49ers and it wasn't because he was a bad quarterback; it was because he knelt in prayer to protest racial injustice and police brutality against Black Americans while the National Anthem was being played. So, for all of you talking about "race doesn't matter", it does matter if your race doesn't act the "right" way.
Jackson (Virginia)
@Alyson Lloyd And where is Colin now? Nowhere. And in case you didn’t notice, no NFL players are kneeling anymore. Now he did succeed in becoming very wealthy with his lawsuits. And he wasn’t a good quarterback.
Imperato (NYC)
@Jackson he wasn’t a great QB but he was a good QB.
Earl Furman (Idaho)
@Alyson Lloyd Race does matter to those who want to separate us by race.
PaulN (Columbus, Ohio, US of A)
I used to support affirmative action until I realized that the only justified action is the one based on merit.
Blossom (The Buckeye State)
@PaulN Merit is subjective. Who gets to define merit?
Snork (Canada)
@Blossom. Exactly. And, if merit, however measured, is tied to things that correlate with "race" (such as parents' socioeconomic status), then merit-based distributions are distributions largely based on luck. I'm not particularly in favour of AA, but the simplistic "rely on merit" position isn't very coherent.
Raccoon- (Seattle)
As someone who is mixed race, this insane discrimination needs to end. I just put white on all my apps because I knew describing my whole identity could only hurt my chances. Should students be made to feel like that?
scrappy (Noho)
Power, wealth, and achievement are largely and unfortunately tied to race in this country. Being "color blind" simply allows that unequal arrangement to continue. It's certainly not a cure for anything!
Jean Toomer (People’s Republic if Brooklyn)
@Jackson Being black in a country that was made by and for white people during a time when most white people want to go back to that time period isn't a reason to make sure that people are considered for jobs, schooling, etc.?
Able (Left Coast)
@scrappy Move to Silicon Valley and you will see how silly and wrongheaded your opinion is. Companies large and small are led by entrepreneurs of Chinese and Indian descent (or direct immigrants). Look at Google, Microsoft, etc. And even if the CEO is a white guy look at his lieutenants. You have no idea what you're talking about!
Yossarian (Pittsburgh)
When my two children were applying to college I instructed them to say when asked what their parents did for a living (it's on all applications) I told them to say that their parents are both CEO's (I told them just make up a company). I told them that would help them more than the essay.
Artista (San Jose)
@Yossarian How did it work?
Yossarian (Pittsburgh)
@Artista Great. One got in Purdue and the other Syracuse. Of course, we're being asked for donations almost every week.
Alyson Lloyd (Philadelphia PA)
@Yossarian I think that's Affirmative Action. The only difference was their color. Most CEOs are green. And green beats all colors in the US.
Joan Johnson (Midwest, midwest)
What does the question described in this opinion piece imply about higher education's commitment to maintaining some semblance of gender balance? Do the attacks against affirmative action and "diversity" goals have any implications for favoritism shown in college admissions for young men? Other than in a handful of heavily male fields, women have become a strong majority in universities and colleges across the country. To maintain gender diversity, men are now favored in admissions. Who among the folks attacking race diversity in higher education will stand publicly against affirmative action for men?
Able (Left Coast)
@Joan Johnson Are men favored in admissions? I've never seen a stat to that effect! Please enlighten us!
Baltus van Tassel (Mendocino)
Having worked in education, I and my colleagues joked that to get educational equality students needed only an upper middle class family. AA seems to be a cheap and inefficient way to level the playing field, as well as a zero sum game where some are given opportunities that are taken from others. Perhaps better, although more difficult, would be to provide each student with the kind of instruction needed to meet their goals, that is, "special education" for everyone - and then reward merit.
Erasmus Brennan (Chicago)
Pretty good analysis, but "racially conscious" admissions practices? That is such an annoying and misleading -- albeit common -- euphemism. Why not be honest and admit that these admission practices are racially discriminatory? (since they are) Why not be honest and say "Yes, these practices are racially discriminatory -- especially against Asian-Americans -- but we think that this racial discrimination is appropriate and needed to redress an awful legacy?" It would be so refreshing to see honesty and candidness here, instead of "hide the ball" euphemisms.
Livonian (Los Angeles)
To suggest affirmative action is still needed in 2022 to ensure colleges admit competitive non-white students is absurd. Like many schools, my employer, the University of California, is utterly obsessed with achieving a racially diverse campus. It was among the major proponents of AA in higher ed and has been at the center of many lawsuits wherein they fought to maintain it. So there could only be two reasons campuses have "not enough" black and Latino students, or rather, "too many" Asians students: 1.) because the latter are outperforming the former, or; 2.) all of the declarations of fealty to "diversity" throughout academia are a smoke screen for secret racists who are still excluding competitive black and Latino students. (It should be pointed out that California's cobalt blue electorate overwhelmingly voted down AA twice, most recently in November, 2022, with one of the highest turn-outs of Democrats in history.)
Imperato (NYC)
@Livonian correlation is not necessarily cause.
Livonian (Los Angeles)
@Livonian I meant, "November, 2020," i.e., during our last national election.
Splat (Rockville, WV)
@Livonian I'm impressed that you know what happened in November, 2022. How do you do that?
Prof (Michigan)
Republicans are reversing more than half a century of jurisprudence. That isn't a Court. It is a religious commission trying to shove their religion down our throats in hopes of creating a theocracy. Congress decides the number of justices. It has been 9 since there were 9 Circuit Courts. One justice to oversee each Circuit. We now have 13 Circuits. We need 13 justices. And President Biden should select them.
Pottree (Joshua Tree)
And Mitch McConnell can have a great time with confirmations.
Robert (Seattle)
One thing could be noted, in passing. The legal team here (which specializes in white supremacist clients) is using these Asian-American applicants in roughly the same way that the MAGA Republican party is using Herschel Walker. The Asian-American applicants have a legitimate complaint but it has nothing to do with affirmative action.
Artista (San Jose)
@Robert > The Asian-Americans have a legitimate complaint but it has nothing to do with affirmative actions. Please elaborate.
Robert (Seattle)
@Artista To be specific, it does not have anything to do with affirmative action that is intended to help those who have not received justice in this country. It has everything to do with the affirmative action that has helped the children of rich white families take most of the seats at all but a few of the more selective private and public universities. On average, the working- and middle-class Asian-American applicants are, all other things the same, significantly better qualified than the rich white ones.
earnest (NY)
Look how exercised our comments are! Perhaps this is rather a commentary on the elite college model of American life? It ought to be, how many childhoods has it spoiled?!
There are, I'm certain, many, many talented people of color out there in this vast country who can earn their way into prestigious universities without affirmative action. That policy needlessly only sullies their achievements. It's time to end. John McWhorter, a fellow Democrat and NYT columnist, is one of the most enlightened thinkers on race anywhere. He opposes race-based admissions, and it is worth reading why. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/28/opinion/affirmative-action.html The ones fighting hardest for/screaming loudest about affirmative action always seem to be the progressives looking to assuage their white guilt.
Blossom (The Buckeye State)
@CMC John McWhorter is nearly as conservative as Clarence Thomas. He's hardly unbiased.
Chris (Oregon)
Unfortunately we appear to have a current Supreme Court majority that lives in an isolated bubble where racist actions against non-whites are never noticed and, therefore, can be assumed to never occur. When you consider that the Supreme Court majority probably spends their evenings watching FOX News it's not surprising that they have a rather skewed idea of how racist the U.S. continues to be.
USS Cardo (Minnesota)
The notion of a legally protected value in "Diversity" - the rationale now in place - is also the product of a "made-to-order" legal lobby - the Harvard Law School faculty (see recent opinion piece by Noah Feldman). Racial considerations have evolved into the notion of equity of result vs. equality of opportunity. Equity in a social order is unattainable, and unattainable as a prerogative in the U.S. Constitution.
A Reader (USA)
I find it fitting and of-the-times that the court is using Brown against itself. The court is the product of Trump, who used 'fake news' to describe reality and honest reporting, railed against 'election fraud' while he was the biggest fraudster and denier, claimed to be 'really rich' while never paying his bills / taxes / and using the presidency as a mean to get $ out of government and his own supporters. This court will easily rule that night is day if Trump asked it to.
Kim (San Francisco)
The U.S. government should not even acknowledge the existence of the concept of race (or sex, for that matter).
RichardS (Mission Viejo, California)
It seems to me that education at the 2nd through 6th grade level should be the focus of African Americans. When it comes to admission to colleges, the work starts far back. If African Americans want the ladder up, then the real works starts there. By 7th grade, a student is already being channeled into pre-college level courses. This has nothing to do with the past, but the present. Either students and their parents start early or they will not be allowed into the college of their choice because they just can't compete with an Asian student that studied five times as much. Simple math and first things first.
Frank Knarf (Idaho)
If we want to provide proportional representation to certain underperforming minorities by applying different standards, we will have to limit the numbers of overperforming groups by applying different standards. This means capping Asian and perhaps Jewish enrollment at elite institutions, depending on how things develop. People occupying the same bubble as Ms. Greenhouse should ponder why the voters of blue California keep rejecting racial preferences. It is a fundamentally illiberal and unfair policy which is given cover by specious arguments about diversity.
JayK (CT)
It's high time for Affirmative Action to be terminated, not only in colleges and universities but in the workplace as well. "Merit" has somehow become a dirty word, almost taboo in fact, and that must come to an end. Belonging to an "identity" group should be irrelevant to that kind of decision making.
Joan Johnson (Midwest, midwest)
@JayK If affirmative action is eliminated in higher education, women will take over most colleges and universities in this country.
JayK (CT)
@Joan Johnson That sounds like a totally fallacious claim. Please provide a credible source, otherwise I'll be forced to chalk it up to a fairly clever attempt at trolling. But if true, so be it. As it is, I have read that women already comprise well over half of the students. But I was not aware that there were attempts at "gender balancing" during the admission process.
Able (Left Coast)
@Joan Johnson Not a shred of evidence to back this up. Post a link and prove me wrong.
Dee (Los Angeles, CA)
Affirmative Action needs to go. All it does is fuel suspicions that people who are worthy of getting to where they are might have been chosen simply because of the color of their skin. Years ago, it was necessary but now-- as we see the success of more people of color in corporate America, in the arts, in academia it needs to be put to rest.
Suzanne (California)
“Equality of treatment” is as loaded a phrase as “affirmative action”. Honestly I’ve lived and worked a long time. “Equality” and “fair” do not consistently exist in any American cultural setting. It is a myth. While it existed, history will find that “affirmative action” helped break down systemic racist barriers to many opportunities. When it is gone, it remains for history to judge whether those opposing affirmative action can prove there is “equality of treatment “.
Art (An island in the Pacific)
This SCOTUS is embarked on a complete rewrite of the Constitution. They will use any gimmick available to accompli that. Be it the canard of Originalism, including the absurdity of attributing to the Founders Originalist ideas that they could not possibly have held, because there were no contemporary facts to support them, or the discarding, distortion or bastardization of concepts accepted and explicated for decades (e.g., overturning Roe) or even centuries (regulation of firearms, which none other than Scalia didn't doubt the federal and state governments had the authority for), this court is on a mission, one might even say, as in the Blues Brothers, a mission from God.
Imperato (NYC)
@dumpsterfire stare decisis…ever hear of it?
Follow the money. I live in an area of great ethic and racial diversity. I also live in a highly affluent area. I have observed the wealthy children of my colleagues, friends, and clients receive an advantage in college admissions because they belong to one of the "favored" races. Namely, their stats (GPA/SAT) are at the low end or below the median 75% rage published by the universities. Despite not being "non-hispanic white," these children have grown up in nearly unimaginable, intergenerational privilege, and do not need a "boost" in any way. Universities love AA because it is a win-win for them. That's why they are fighting this in court. They can pump up their "diversity" numbers and add revenue by admitting full-pay "minority" students (to the tune of $80/k per year in tuition for one of the defendant universities). Plus they get the possibility of donations made by the students' wealthy parents and grandparents. Don't hate the players (the rich students and the universities adding to their endowments); hate the game. Or end it, as SCOTUS seems poised to do. Replace it with an admissions approach that takes into account a student's relative opportunities.
Imperato (NYC)
@LL except “relative opportunities” are a lot harder to determine than race.
Snork (Canada)
@Imperato. Exactly. But measure (through whatever imperfect means) what you really want to measure. Using "race" as simplistic proxy is likely to be inaccurate, and is also obviously discriminatory.
Issac Basonkavich (USA)
This society created the inequality between the races. Minorities are at a disadvantage because of what the whites designed. This inequality does not go away with the stroke of a pen. The expression of inequality, the result of access to higher learning needs to be addressed at both ends. Minorities with grades that reflect the ability to proceed and accomplish higher levels of education but not among the highest levels must be given access to those higher levels of education. This is one bookend of the shelf of solutions. The other bookend needs also to be addressed. Minority children must be given equal advantage at the entry to education level. It took centuries to create this inequality and it was forced upon minorities. Our society must realize it will take a while to be addressed. Just saying it is not enough.
BS Spotter (NYC)
The title of the article is what’s unimaginable. A purely racist system that has failed in all degrees has got to go. It’s been in place for a generation now. In 1978 I applied to a professional school, and college classmates of mine who were richer, had professional parents, and were darker, were routinely interviewed and accepted before me. One was interviewed before interview season, on a weekend day, and was accepted that very same day.
MinnRick (Minneapolis, MN)
What's been unthinkable to many of us since Grutter, or even since the Regents of the U of CA decision, is how any right-thinking person could possibly conclude that the best way to address racial inequality was to push new and greater racial inequality. It was preposterous thinking then. It's preposterous thinking now.
Jon (NYC suburbs)
Greenhouse is omitting important context. O'Connor said: "We expect that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest [in student body diversity] approved today." The justification (a diverse educational environment) is a direct repudiation of Grutter's civil rights claim, which upheld a compelling state interest that would override it for a temporary period. The court made clear that its judgment was one of exemption (e.g. that race could be a *factor*, not an explicit quota tool) and not an affirmation of any American legal precedent. So SFA is effectively just asking the court to refresh and re-justify its imposition on the American people as individuals. They claim that the need is no longer compelling, and want to know when will people stop facing explicit institutional discrimination on the basis of their immutable characteristics. Courts are in the business of making decisions precise. If Marshall says “some level of race-consciousness to ensure equal access to higher education remains critical to realizing the promise of Brown,” SFA is pressing the question: how much? Failure to answer this question is indefensible in a matter of law.
kirk (montana)
I think it more appropriate to cut to the chase rather than wordsmith the language of cases heard decades and even centuries ago. The current SCOTUS Six are a group of religious zealots from a minority religion that believes in religious guidance of government. They have been groomed since law school by a dark money founded cult of authoritarian people to hold the antidemocratic beliefs that they hold. These radical reactionaries are on a mission to create enough chaos in our society that our citizens will acquiesce to being governed by a totalitarian elite. They are moving down the path to this goal. The cases that they hear are ones that will smooth the path and the outcome of these 'hearings' is predetermined. Just like Roe V Wade was predetermined. And, the SCOTUS Six have sunk the legitimacy of the SCOTUS to such and extent that their stench permeates the halls of freedom like that of the bodies of the black plaque rotting in the streets.
Alyson Lloyd (Philadelphia PA)
@kirk They aren't members of a minority religion; Christianity isn't a minority religion, They're Roman Catholic a denomination of Christianity. And please remember Evangelical Christians are just like them, their only "true differences" are Holy Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist.
Lily (Reno)
@Kirk Thanks for your succinct, clear, 100% accurate comment. I'm shocked that so many NYT readers/commentors apparently don't understand that EQUITY is light years beyond equality when it pertains to African-Americans.
Blossom (The Buckeye State)
@kirk Precisely. They want an America that exists solely for the benefit of wealthy, white, Christian, American born, heterosexual males. The rest of us will get to fight over the leftover crumbs.
Thomas (New York)
As for the arguments about the real meaning of Brown, the reality is that the current majority has absolutely no regard for precedent; Justice Thomas expressed his contempt for Stare Decisis openly, but the others have shown they share it. What matters is what the present majority considers the country's "compelling interest," and it is no longer diversity in education or anywhere else; "colorblind" means having the government refrain from interfering with efforts to maintain and increase the dominance of white people who call themselves Christians.
Brad (San Diego County, California)
In my view there is an alternative to current affirmative action policies. Applicants to universities could be asked to provide the education levels of their parents. Priority would be given to those whose parental educational levels are the lowest. An applicant whose parents both have graduate degrees would be less favored than those with parents who did not complete high school.
TW (Oakland)
@Brad the cultural revolution was so great for China, let’s relive those days here!
Dennis (Denver)
@Brad So my three children , who worked very hard all through school, should be discriminated against because of their parents. ?
@Brad: why?
Former Geek (NJ)
Let’s take race out of this discussion for a moment. An unappreciated (and definitely under-studied) aspect of Affirmative Action is what it did for the women of this country. There was a time in the 70’s and 80’s when, if you were seated next to a woman on a business flight, you could pretty much bet that she worked for AT&T, IBM, or the federal government, all of which had strong, federally-mandated affirmative action programs. Without them, women faced cultural and often institutional barriers to their opportunities and advancement. Was it appropriate for a woman to go on a business trip? Alone? With a male work colleague? Did women have the discipline, strength, authority to do tough jobs? Should pregnant women work? Mothers? Were women “suited” to analytic jobs in science and engineering? Law or medicine? Politics? Academia? The military? Or management? Each of which presented its own set of issues and barriers. Affirmative action helped knock a lot of those down, and has given us a generation of talented women making contributions. RBG graduating today would not be turned down by the law firms she had applied to. This was not an easy transition. AA has its downside, even for its beneficiaries. The negative views in these comments abounded and the process sometimes got ugly. It is easy to say that our world and our decisions should be a color-blind world of equal opportunity. That is a good goal. But it is not the world we live in.
Dennis Flannagan (middletown ,New Jersey)
the way we fund primary education in this country is a travesty. if your parents are poor. you live in a poor neighborhood. And go to an underfunded school often in a run down facility with little or no money for extra curricular activities. let alone money for music and the arts. if your parents are wealthy you go to well funded public schools or private institutions as an example. when my kids were in elementary school the highest bid item at the silent auction was my own offering of dinner for 6 cooked by me in your home. true value was at most $600. in my boss’s school. there were items such as a week stay in the Virgin Islands. and $7,000. worth of plastic surgery in order to expect kids from a lower socioeconomic background to compete fairly for admission to elite colleges and universities we need to start addressing their needs way earlier than their senior year of high school
Richard Hannay (Hong Kong)
All I know is this: if universities based their admissions on merit alone, the most prestigious institutions in the country would be FILLED with Asians. They would then have some whites and then a smaller proportion of Hispanics and a very small number of blacks. Does America want to accept the excellence of Asians? So far the country does everything to deny Asians the opportunity to succeed and be recognizEd for their success, also does America want to come to terms with the reality of IQ? Again, East Asians at the top. Please read Charles Murray. I have some advice to those who whine and constantly claim to be oppressed and “underprivileged.” Work a hundred times harder and be ten times smarter. Then you’ll earn some “privilege” for yourself.
Etaoin Shrdlu (Planet Earth)
@Richard Hannay Great last two sentences of your comment. I couldn't agree more.
Matt (Texas)
@Richard Hannay Asians don't complain. Asians put their heads down and work hard. They will never get their due. It I'd unfortunate bc they are a great example for everyone to follow. Most people would rather whine and complain about everything.
Blossom (The Buckeye State)
@Richard Hannay Charles Murray and his bell curve is pseudoscience that's been throughly debunked many times. IQ has zilch to do with race, ethnicity, skin color or national origin.
dubbmann (albuquerque nm)
Once again I find Linda Greenhouse's reporting on the USSC to be disingenuous to the point of dishonesty. She has, particularly on social issues and especially abortion, an agenda and that is not compatible with ethical journalism. The best thing I can about Greenhouse's 'journalism' is that at least now it's on the Editorial page.
Larry (Boston)
This discussion reeks with underlying assumption that anyone not of the white race is incapable of qualifying for college and are chosen only because of their skin color. Colleges and universities review applicants in numbers that far exceed the available slots. How to decide who gets in? If we want our colleges and universities to be more than employee factories, and we should want more than that, they must look at more than just test scores. Classes enriching the mind. Student life enriches the soul. Providing students with a soul enriching life experience requires students from different income levels, different geographic regions and off course, those with different life experiences. Unfortunately, in the United States, these are all still factors influenced by skin color.
Annabelle (NZ)
@Larry So if women are being paid less than men for the same work, it's hard not to believe that who you are influences how people perceive you and treat you.
Snork (Canada)
@Larry. OK, but isn't skin tone a pretty weak proxy for income levels, geography, and life experiences? If diversity of those things is indeed important, universities should take THEM into account, rather than assuming that they are perfectly correlated with race, since they're obviously not. Real diversity, as you point out, isn't really about race. So, let's stop making everything about race.
Able (Left Coast)
@Larry "This discussion reeks with underlying assumption that anyone not of the white race is incapable of qualifying for college and are chosen only because of their skin color." Take away a race-based preference and this will never happen again! Problem solved!
yes!! (DC)
Based on comment deletion in this and other columns, I fear progressive's needs to control speech and ideas, perhaps not as much as I fear the right wing.
This issue was put to the voters here in CA. The idea of racial preferences in college admissions was defeated soundly. As many have mentioned here......public school funding varies wildly based on the tax bases in counties. But that doesn't mean a kid can't succeed in that scenario (all racial groups are affected by this). The other issues are culture and the breakdown of the family unit.
@John Lee Pettimore I agree. Just don't do it based on race.
John Lee Pettimore (Cleveland)
@BB Colleges should admit whomever they want without bowing to the will of the bitter and resentful.
John Lee Pettimore (Cleveland)
@BB Do it based on whatever they feel is right.
Cynical (Knoxville, TN)
Affirmative action has been co-opted by white women and European Spanish-speakers who profess to be 'Hispanic.' It's time to fix it so it serves those to whom it was directed.
Edgar (Cape Cod)
Affirmative action is racist and clearly a violation of the 14th amendment. It must go the way of Roe v Wade. No trimming, just a clean excision. It is an insult to minorities to give rhem handouts based on the color of their skin. People must be judged by the content of their character. So called gay marriage is next. Stay tuned.
D (MA)
One must be the most willfully naive person on the planet to believe that racial minorities are given fair consideration for their skills and merits in the USA.
lehomme (marin1950)
@Edgar "Affirmative action is racist and clearly a violation of the 14th amendment." Hmm? Do you think that ANY effort to make up for the 343 years black Americans will prevented - By Law - from equal participation in American society - would be "racist"? Does American society owe such a people - ANYthing?
Newo (Norfolk)
@lehomme No, America doesnt owe any group anything.
Saints Fan (Houston, TX)
25 years ago Bill Clinton said, "Mend it, don't end it". When did the mending take place, exactly?
Peter Rasmussen (Volmer, MT)
Clearly a racist and discriminating policy. Why so hard for liberals to see that. People being denied advancement, because of their race? People being denied a place in university, because of race? People not hired because they're the wrong race? How does this fit into our Constitutional guarantees?
Saints Fan (Houston, TX)
It has been appropriately called reverse discrimination for 50 years. A young white navy vet without connections had a hard enough time getting into his school of choice without his race being held against him. He did it anyway after more than one try.
Saints Fan (Houston, TX)
The irony is that the virtue signaling Sandra Day O'Connor has in the last few years suspended her "25 years" comment and has wished that it would be go on ad infinitum.
kwb (Cumming, GA)
If the notion that everyone needs a college degree were not so prevalent, the number of unqualified applicants would be cut drastically, eliminating any perceived need to discriminate. Eliminate affirmative action and the need for layers of DEI bureaucrats that infest colleges today goes away. Another benefit would be reducing the number of remedial courses needed to do what high schools are failing to do.
ManhattanWilliam (East Village, NYC)
I despise the conservative makeup of the Supreme Court, but I have never supported Affirmative Action. Penalizing talented individuals (people!) as a way to combat inequality is not an acceptable solution in my opinion, it's as simple as that. Academic performance as gauged by colorblind standards is the only way to be as equitable as possible. Bring on questions of race or money and you're doomed to have more and not less FAIRNESS in decisions of whom to admit and whom to reject.
scrappy (Noho)
@ManhattanWilliam If the quality and accessibility of public education was equal across demographics, I might agree with you. But it's not. It's a simple as that.
Snork (Canada)
@scrappy. Unfortunately, those things are not equal WITHIN demographic categories either. That makes things more complicated than race-based admissions can handle.
Jose Pieste (OH)
The tortured mental gymnastics that Ms. Greenhouse must conduct in order to find legal justification for outright racial discrimination (affirmative action) tells you all you need to know.
Thinking Aboutthings (Seattle Area)
Affirmative action, as it has been practiced for decades, is the very definition of state-sponsored systemic racism. Reasonable people want equal protection under the law and in practice. Race-based preferences and quotas are not equality. They are unfair and misguided social engineering that creates winners and losers based on skin color. The precise opposite of what we should be striving for.
Flyover Country (Anywhere)
At least Linda or her editors finally reigned in all SCOTUS is illegitimate and a threat to democracy. Major Threat/Minor Threat/Not a Threat to democracy: Supreme court: 27%/34%/36% Electoral College: 27%/35%/34% Mainstream Media: 59%/25%/15% In a Times/Siena survey, respondents’ concerns about democracy often diverged from typical expert analysis. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/10/18/upshot/nyt-poll-threats-democracy.html
Lori (IL)
There is no doubt that affirmative action is flawed BUT I can only think of it's value to education in these terms: Consider the inequities of our current educational system as a cancer. Brown v Board of Ed was like an attempt to guarantee that anyone with cancer would have the same, easy access to the best treatments. If SCOTUS guts affirmative action with this ruling, it would be arguing that the hope of Brown had been achieved, and race no longer need be a factor in college acceptance. We know that there is NO equity in education; students living in wealthy areas thrive educationally in ways other students cannot. Wealth in America is not as racially diverse as the population, so the court case will damn minority students by prohibiting them access to superior schools. It's like treating one end of the cancer patient spectrum with the best technology and pharmacology but handing the other end an aspirin. Consider, too, that our global world opens more Ivy League attendance to newly rich foreign students -- not a bad thing at all! However, we should not forget the belief that by its size, China has more Honors students than the US has total students; this ruling could prioritize foreign acceptance OVER domestic. If racial balance is not a priority, seats in Ivy League schools could be consumed primarily by legacy students and crazy-smart kids from other countries -- further disadvantaging under-served racial minorities at home.
Tyrone (CA)
Affirmative action will be found unconstitutional. There will be no adjustments for income or class. Legacies will flourish. Blacks will virtually disappear from elite schools.
reader 000001 (Washington DC)
As a non-white person who has been actually discriminated against - throughout my life (n-word, etc.), college admission (where I was not the “right” minority for the college admission committee and its representatives), corporate america (ditto except here, received no support from the White c-suite), I find Ms. Greenhouse’s analysis inapposite and off-putting. Look at Affirmative Action today - random administrators, executives, “diversity” consultants, and admissions “experts” making decisions based purely on their idiosyncratic preferences. Look at the fact that the majority of Blacks admitted at an undergraduate level are children of immogrants and not the descendants of American Black slaves. Look at how the term “Hispanic” is so broad that it covers anyone who has moved from Europe to South America to the US within any time frame - is a White Hispanic of European descent different from a White American of European descent vis a vis discrimination that America has to rectify? If so, how? All of Affirmative Action has to go - it is incoherent, impossible to implement fairly, and a creation of a White liberal elitist class that fundamentally harbors racist suspicions of their own that Blacks are actually dumber than Whites.
Jack (New York)
With the best of intentions, we have conflated equal opportunity with equal results. Institutions of higher learning have no self interest in discriminating for any reasons other than aptitude and to suggest that they conspire against minority students is ridiculous. We are either a meritocracy or we are not. As painful as it might be, the most important discussion we should be having is why the average math SAT score for a person of color is 427. We need to get rid of affirmative action tomorrow.
Mitchell myrin (Bridgehampton)
Discrimination based on skin color, religion or ethnicity is always wrong. In the 1940s and 50s as Ruth Bader Ginsburg has told us there were quotas on Jews at elite institutions like Harvard because too many excelled. Today it is Asian students that are discriminated against for the exact same reason. Why punish excellence? The left has given up on equality and substituted equity instead. Equality is opportunity, equity is all about outcomes.
FSK (Missouri)
The joke is going to be on the Republicans when they realize Asians are taking the most competitive colleges' admission places and their precious white children are let out.
T Smith (Texas)
@FSK What makes you think it’s the Republicans who will be more adversely affected than Democrats? I see no difference but you obviously have it in for Republicans.
Jackson (Virginia)
@FSK Why do you assume Asians aren’t Republicans?
vbering (Pullman WA)
Discrimination on account of race is unfair. A black person should not be favored on account of race. Discrimination based on circumstance is not unfair. Affirmative action helping poor people is reasonable.
Revoltingallday (Durham NC)
We once thought a college degree would mean a well rounded remunerative life. What we’ve learned instead is that getting a college education is a distance second behind having upper middle or upper class parents that give you advantages no college education can buy- stability and connections, jobs and downpayments for homes. Affirmative action is over. It was always the worst way to create an equitable society, except for all the others. Now we get to try all the others. Oh joy.
Monica (Mississippi)
Most of the commenters want to stop affirmative action because it is, according to them, “discriminating” on the basis of race. How admirable. I just love how some people jump to the end and refuse to acknowledge the beginning or the middle. Oh, if only, the slaves could have said stop enslaving on the basis of race. Oh, if only my grandparents could have said stop denying me the right to vote, an equal education, job opportunities and housing on the basis of race. Oh, if only I could say, stop denying me the right to vote on the basis of race by using your seemingly neutral voter id laws, removing polling places that are accessible in my neighborhood, removing ballot boxes, failing to install a sufficient number of voting machines so that I can vote without having to stand in line for 8 hours, drawing gerrymandered districts that ensure that no matter how many people like me show up to vote the white minority will win, denying me opportunities at work places based on my “black” name or address, refusing me home loans at a reasonable interest based on my race rate despite my credit rating. Need I go on. The very progenitors and recipients of white privilege who discriminate every day and cannot see it, suddenly want to stop “discriminating” when they think their skin color is not yielding its usual results. If only we could stop discriminating, then we could stop affirmative action.
Steve (Greenbrier)
@Monica I respect your argument. We are linked by a tragic history Northern people could never comprehend. I had a friend from NJ, lived down the hall in high school. He got mugged leaving a concert in Philly, kept talking about going after people of color. I couldn't change him, I had to let it burn out inside him. Retribution. I f you are a college admissions dean, will you really feel all that good about turning down some white girl from Tupelo, to even the scales? Iam so sorry for what we did to your family and so many others, but isn't Retribution how we got into this horrible dance?
Susanonymous (North America)
It seems most NYT commenters on this column have not grasped the takeaway from the Black Lives Matter movement. What other races besides Blacks and Native Americans have been oppressed by slavery and genocide upon which America was built? The effects of slavery and genocide reverberates to this day in terms of wealth, poverty, and health care, environmental, housing, educational, employment, and policing disparities. The foster care to prison pipeline anyone??Discrimination and bias against other POC is real but let’s understand the systemic differences. White Supremacy culture loves to lump all “minorities” together as if they’re experiences are all the same and out the races against each other. Such a white thing. I don’t know that affirmative action is the best solution but dismantling it will have deleterious effects. I think focusing on income inequality is possibly a better solution for admissions but the “haves” would eventually file a lawsuit that the “have nots” are getting preferential treatment. And if we wanted to really get to the root of the problem we would have reparations.
Andy (San Francisco)
I’ve never been convinced that affirmative action is the way to go, and I am a liberal. For one, it contorts the concept of meritocracy. For another, there are always skeptics when, say, a Black lawyer comes out of Harvard Law; it is unfair but it is not deemed the same as a White Harvard Law graduate, or Harvard MBA, or Harvard undergrad. Attack me if you want, but it is true, and completely unfair and maybe a remnant of unconscious bias. I think earlier intervention would be much more effective overall — grade school, high school — in righting wrongs and addressing imbalances. Acceptance at these prestige institutions should be blind to everything but academic achievement.
Keep Affirmative Action For As Long As Slavery Existed (Southern Europe)
Cute argument. It assumes that most white Americans are colorblind. They are not. And they are the decision makers in society. How long should affirmative action exist? For as long as America profited off the free labor of Black people. Also, newsflash: the idea of organizations or industries being meritocratic is ludicrous. You make it actually illegal or de facto illegal to hire Black people in companies for centuries, and then when the law or practice comes to end, people are suddenly colorblind? America is built on mythologies. When the very founding of the nation was a giant exercise in white supremacy, colorblindness and meritocracy are its two biggest delusions.
The Observer (Pennsylvania)
@Andy Fully agree that earlier intervention in grade school, high school etc would be most effective to create equal opportunity. I do not know how it would be done when the school funding is based on property taxes. Are we ready to change that with identical funding for all schools?
Zion (New Mexico)
@Andy a liberal will oppose affirmative action if that liberal is intellectually honest.
AuH2O64 (Texas)
Not being Solomon, I’m on the fence on both affirmative action and abortion rights. I’d argue either way either subject, if arguing hadn’t become a blood sport in recent years. But, let me note, that the polls indicate affirmative action is opposed by a majority of Americans. A few months ago, my leftier friends needed smelling salts about the “risk to majority rule” after SCOTUS defied the polls on the Roe matter. Just saying. Goose. Gander.
Dana Pico (Estill County, KY)
The 25-year timetable in Grutter v Bollinger expired on June 23, 2028, less than six years from now. To me, Affirmative Action ought to be wholly unconstitutional as far as the government is concerned, and the University of North Carolina's AA program invalidated. But Harvard is a private school, and if it wants to consider race, that should be the university's choice.
Bruce Williams (Chicago)
The Fourteenth Amendment is so clearly phrased that introducing an element of discrimination into it is not by detecting it's intention, but by imputing. Using Aaron Burr's dictum you could do the same for the other amendments as well. The policies that have ensued have introduced another element, stigma, into the application and that can't be erase except by erasing the policy and dealing with the problem in other ways.
Chet (Jay)
Life will be very simple if everyone gets the same treatment regardless of their skin color. The same group that now wants to implement Diversity, Equality (or is it Equity?) and Inclusion has for the longest time supported Affirmative Action policies favorably applied to just one skin colored group at the cost of tipping the scale against the other lighter skinned groups. Call it Hypocrisy at it's worse! There should be no need for Civil rights / NAACP groups to complain once Race, Ethnicity and Gender are eliminated as preferences or qualifications.
TonyP (New Jersey)
@chet -“Life will be very simple if everyone gets the same treatment regardless of their skin color”. Couldn’t agree more. And until that time, we must be hyper vigilant in protecting institutions that assist towards that lofty, elusive goal. As we watch Republican state houses do all they can to minimize the voting power of Americans based on their skin color, we have to realize that that “simple life” is still far in the future.
Blossom (The Buckeye State)
@Chet "Life will be very simple if everyone gets the same treatment regardless of their skin color " That's never happened in America and never will.
Film maven (New York, NY)
A couple of weeks ago, Stanford apologized to the Jewish community for its past antisemitic admission practices. Notably, it also apologized for denying its own antisemitism. I wonder how long before today's leading universities feel the need to apologize to the Asian-American community for their race-based discriminatory practices as well as their insistent denial about it.
Wayne (Rhode Island)
Maybe after they all admit their antisemitism in admissions. Lots of campuses exhibit antisemitism. Let's not brush over it.
BS Spotter (NYC)
Not “lots” but “most.” UC Berkeley has 9 grotesquely antisemitic campus organizations.
Blossom (The Buckeye State)
@Film maven Yet Asians are still overwhelmingly represented in higher education. So they idea that Asian Americans or Asian immigrants are being denied admission to colleges en masse holds no water.
Patrick (Pennsylvania)
You really want to throw up, you should read the essay questions for entry into the UNC business school. Each essay revolved around your commitment and contribution to diversity, equity and inclusion!
KellyS (Santa Monica)
@Patrick same for many of the summer programs (for high school students) at the "elite" universities...
Oracle at Delphi (Seattle)
The media lives in its own little world. People don't believe you fight discrimination with more discrimination.
Jack (And Jill)
The definition of diversity seems to be that everybody has the same opinion, but they come in different shapes, sizes and colors.
NorainBoston (Boston,MA)
@Jack Bingo. At my Fortune 100 company which I eventually had to leave because I just could not stomach the mental gymnastics over DEI all day every day it was all about color of your skin/sexual orientation AND conforming to group think. They didn't want diversity of thought or experience at all (which I am all for) - they wanted a marketing brochure and a way to protect themselves legally. These people went to all the same schools and started at all the same companies. So this isn't just about college - in fact I think students can do well a myriad of places truly. Being denied opportunities at work - promotion and raises, leadership training, mentoring, because there's a quota system with affinity groups based on "identity" - well we are seeing the fruits of that divisiveness every day. I quit when I was told that the most productive members of my team could not be rewarded commensurate with their actual value.
William (Minnesota)
It's no surprise that the present high court is set on a precedent-shattering course, because this court is the result of decades of intense planning and funding by so-called conservatives to load the entire judicial system with rabid partisans, with special focus on the high court. As those political operatives celebrate the recent reversals of precedent, they are emboldened to rework all the laws of our country to reflect the credo of the Republican Party. to contort the Constitution to suit their political priorities, and to ensure that elections give Republican candidates every advantage the law can provide. The sooner the populace and the Democratic Party realize this seemingly unstoppable trend, the sooner this assault on our democracy can be halted.
dressmaker (USA)
@William Amen!
KM (Pittsburgh)
@William The rulings upholding affirmative actions were the contortions, as AA is plainly unconstitutional. This is a return of basic rule of law, and long overdue.
TomCat (Pittsburgh)
Unfortunately for the citizens of the US the SCOTUS has completely lost its moral authority to rule on anything related to the 21st century. It seems as though SCOTUS is stacked with hacks who believe we live in the 18th century and in that time they would be called Tories.
Barry Schreibman (Cazenovia, New York)
Affirmative action based on race is inherently anti-democratic because inherently anti-merit. Better to emphasize class than race -- striving for a diversity based on inclusion of the poor of whatever race.
Dave (New Jersey)
At a certain point people have to earn their way. For well over 50 years there have been myriad programs in place to ameliorate inequities. When is enough enough? As Justice Roberts eloquently stated, “the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”
Pottree (Joshua Tree)
The Chief's statement was ridiculously simplistic when he made it and it's even worse when repeated. If I could send Roberts a plaque with a legalese Latin translation of roc munis I would. We all suffer from the stultifying limitations of his background.
George (Flyover)
‘It is no coincidence that challenges to the constitutionality of both affirmative action and the Voting Rights Act appear on the court’s calendar in a single term.’ It’s no coincidence because they are two sides of the same coin. In both instances, the texts involved quite clearly state that discrimination using race is prohibited. But also in both cases, we have been told by the court that discrimination is permissible (or even required) if done to benefit some groups. Not only is that confusing and illogical, it is just plain wrong. Roberts is correct - if you want to stop discrimination on the basis of race, stop discriminating on the basis of race.
Lecteur (France)
No discrimination based on race is too worthy a goal to make exceptions.
Richard (Easton, PA)
Affirmative action addresses the problem of inequality from the wrong end. The issue exists because of disparities in public K-12 education. Improve the quality of schools in poor neighborhoods -- neighborhoods that continue to bear the scars of red-lining and racial mistrust -- to meet an equal standard for all.
BB (Geneva)
@Richard And who is going to do that? White parents, both liberal and conservative, fight school integration at every turn. As a result, schools are more segregated now than they were in the 1970s.
Randy (Houston)
@Richard Perhaps, but that is not the point of this column. Ms. Greenhouse is observing that the anti-affirmative action forces are turning Brown v. Board of Ed. on its side, using sophistry to make that landmark case seem as if it stands for the exact opposite of what it tried to achieve.
Jo Williams (Keizer)
“Justice Thomas quoted Justice Harlan’s “our Constitution is colorblind” language from his Plessy dissent in the last paragraph of his 31-page opinion, which was mainly a passionate expression of his view that affirmative action has hurt rather than helped African Americans.” This is, was, the pat rationale against affirmative action; never mind generations of discrimination, of determined efforts in every arena, from schools, housing, military, banking…we will start from here and go forward, color blind. And equally, holding affirmative action to a…25 year limit? How many years were minorities barred from colleges, law schools (and look at those class pictures on some law school walls…not a woman, minority in sight.) But ignore history, reality. Plain words. Ignore a Civil War, ignore the reasons we needed Voting Rights legislation a century later. Bakke, as with Roe, balanced rights; balanced. The 14th Amendment took down that bar across the door to access…it’s authors well knew it opened it. But ignore intent, history? If a corporation pollutes a river, poisons acres….we don’t say, ok, from now on, no more pollution…but what’s there, we will leave it. We clean it up, make it whole again. Diversity has been a goal, a whole…and frankly, 25 years doesn’t begin to clean up the poison.
William Case (United States)
The precedent set in Grutter v. Bollinger is that racial and ethnic preferences are temporarily permissible only for the purpose of creating diversity. But Harvard, the University of North Carolina and other schools that grant racial and ethnic preferences only pretend they are interested in diversity. The U.S. Census Bureau, as instructed, partitions America into five racial categories and two ethnic categories (Hispanic or non-Hispanic.) The bureau has never asserted that its groupings reflect the true diversity of America. They reflect which populations groups are designated as protected minorities in civil rights legislation. The 2020 Census was the first census that asked all Americans to designate their ethnicity. It revealed America has 998 ethnic groups. These 998 ethnic groups reflect the true diversity of America. If college and universities were interested in diversity, they would ask all their students to designate their ethnicity on their registrations forms. They would discover their campuses are wondrously diverse and that racial and ethnic preferences are not needed to create diversity. But instead they recognize only groups designated as protected minorities in civil rights legislation. Their goal is to ensure protected minorities make up about the same percent of college students as they do of the U.S. population. They are not interested in diversity; they are interested in racial and ethnic quotas.
Dennis (Missouri)
Ms. Greenhouse, I'm happy you are discussing this. Affirmative Action for years has helped Americans in education for many years as you have pointed out. However, I know when it was implemented, my racist Republican white non-friends were infuriated when; President Kennedy's Executive Order 10925 (1961): "The contractor will take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin" was signed. Yes, I'm old.
J. Waddell (Columbus, OH)
Since some Supreme Court justices and their supporters believe the Court should follow public opinion, will they vote to eliminate racial preferences since that is what 70% of Americans want?
Thomas Moore (Washington DC)
The state flagship university I attended has strived sincerely and creatively to increase Black enrollment to a level closer to the state population of Black people. It has failed, despite affirmative action. This might indicate there are more comprehensive problems in our society and economy... no surprise there. Schools have various workarounds such as using family income and wealth. But as the above testifies, we have a lot more work to do to create a true equal opportunity society.
BG (Texas)
Affirmative action would not be needed if the US had ever confronted the legacy of slavery. Many white people still believe in the superiority of the white race and elect people who will preserve white privilege. Our history shows that whenever black communities started building wealth, a white mob often murdered the people there and burned their assets. Tulsa is just one example. We should be asking why today black and brown children attend some of the worst public schools while white children attend some of the best. Yes, there are poor white people, too, but in many parts of this country, a white person will still be hired instead of a black person, even when the white has lower job skills. Chemical plants that make nearby residents sick were located in minority neighborhoods. Freeways were built that demolished black neighborhoods. That is the legacy of slavery, and it continues to this day as many Republican conservatives continue to glorify the Confederacy and its support for slavery. Equality is still a goal in this country, not reality.
deb (inWA)
'Settled legal precedent' loses all appeal for so-called conservatives once minorities and women start being elected to higher office.
reality check (nyc)
consideration of race just a tiny little bit? just like only little bit pregnant? how does that work in admission? ok we gave you some plusses for being non white but you still don't make it because you are Asian?
Virginia (South Carolina)
Let’s not forget that many factors tip the scales in favor of one applicant over another in admissions, not just affirmative action. Eliminating affirmative action will not create a 100% merit system in admissions, where the highest grade points get admitted Schools factor in legacy ( your mother/ father) went there, donations, location (desirable geographic mix), grade point, SATs, high school/ college attended (diversity of schools desired), essay and many other factors. Race has only ever been one of the factors.
Susan Anderson (Boston)
I would like to see affirmative action for the truth. Unfortunately, the long-term SCOTUS supermajority no longer cares about fairness and honesty, only about "winning" and, sadly, all too often finding victims to blame. In an existential crisis, disempowering women and other races in favor of the likes of "perfect" fetuses and supposed white victimization tropes is not going to work. We have a planet and a civilization at risk, and they've got their blinders on. At least, if they must be religious, could they please go back and reread the Gospels and follow Jesus's actual teachings? Same with the Constitution, can the selective self-serving reinterpretations please stop?
Susan Anderson (Boston)
The separation of fetuses and mothers is shocking to me. I'm for life after birth. The magic thinking needs to stop.
Garrulous (Eritrea)
Many leftists and liberals believe that the contemporary Republican Party represents a threat to democracy – a reasonable belief, to be sure. But this framing lends itself to an abstract analysis of the problem. If one peruses the miasmatic nooks and crannies of right-wing discourse, one quickly discovers that there is a all-too-real plan in place for subverting the past half a century of social progress: namely, the repeal of the Civil Rights Act. It should come as no surprise that the SCOTUS decision concerning Affirmative Action will amount to either an affirmation or repudiation of the Brown decision; this is precisely the aim.
Alexis it Doesn’t Have To End (Bunkhars)
@Garrulous Utterly unreasonable; just like the other side believing the Dems are "the threat". We must stop this way of thinking if we ever want to reconcile. For the good of the country.
If we put all of this energy into excellent daycare, preschool and grade school, discouraged young single women from having children they cannot afford to raise, and stop giving babies and young children devices with screens, it might go a long way towards obviating the need for affirmative action. Isn't the goal eventually for students to be admitted or applicants to be hired by merit, not racial preference? If so, we need to go back and start at the beginning. The time to do what it takes to ensure that an 18 year is prepared to thrive at a competitive university is not when he/she is 18, through a process of manipulating statistics to achieve preferred outcomes.
Susan Anderson (Boston)
@RE How about universal access to affordable contraception and empowering women everywhere?
Jackson (Virginia)
@Susan Anderson How about they have that now?
@Susan Anderson: sounds good.
frankly0 (Boston MA)
Would it be in any way surprising if AA was abandoned before the basically arbitrary deadline of 25 years suggested by O'Connor? O'Connor's notion was that in 25 years, AA would not be necessary because the gaps would have been closed. But there's absolutely no evidence that the gaps have closed even in the slightest over the current 19 years. Does any reasonable person expect that in the next 6 or 7 years the gaps will suddenly disappear, or even greatly tighten? History has now spoken: AA shows no promise of ever closing those gaps. Why should we have to wait out the full 25 years to conclude what's 100% obvious now?
Ampleforth (Airstrip One)
Affirmative action makes every Asian and White person skeptical of the skills of every Black or Latino person in a skills training program or skills needed profession. Those of us in skills education know that the skepticism was too. Often justified by the abilities of our colleagues. That is the quiet part said aloud. It was the unintended consequence of well meaning action. It overwhelmed any benefit. End affirmative action yesterday.
Tony Francis (Vancouver Island B C)
Affirmative action across the board is a fast track to mediocrity shrouded in victimhood. Blame and guilt are no replacement for hard work and gumption in a person or a nation.
Matt (Texas)
Socioeconomic factors are probably a bigger deal now than identity. It costs more to help poor kids.
Dee (Los Angeles, CA)
@Matt Exactly!
Ralphie (CT)
Affirmative action was probably necessary in the 1960's and 1970's. But it's now been in place for over five decades. Let's agree that it shouldn't continue forever, because if it did, we would be admitting there was a group of people in this country who can't compete on a level playing field. And such an admission would therefore taint the accomplishments of any member of that group. In fact, it has already done that. If people believe that diversity contributes to the educational experience, where is the evidence? The only type of diversity that should make a difference in education is diversity of thinking.
The arguments both for AA in this article and against in these comments come from a view of “helping underprivileged minorities.”This is the wrong way to look at it. White people (and Asian Americans) are going to graduate and work in highly diverse companies. They are going to need to be comfortable working with people very different from them and often different from who they grew up with. This is part of what college teaches. Isn’t this the real benefit of a diverse college experience? Why in the world would we not want higher education to include lessons about functioning in the real world with a true diversity of people?
Admiral (Sparta, NJ)
@KLH Absolutely correct. But there is no need for race to be a factor. If an applicant from a minority has the necessary qualifications to be admitted, which university would do anything but send an acceptance letter. The problem being addressed in this case is whether race should be a substitute or additional qualification that can be put on the scales to offset weak qualifications elsewhere. What is the justice of that when the race-favored but weaker applicant displaces a more qualified applicant of a different group? The way end racism is to stop being race-conscious.
@Admiral I think what you are saying is colleges will have diversity because they will still admit some number of various minorities thus allowing my learnings above to occur. But that is not the case. UC Berkeley has seen black enrollment drop from 7.4% to about 3% (and falling) despite accepting a much higher number of black candidates. A tipping point occurs where minority students do not want to be on the campus no matter how good the education is if they are a tiny fraction of the student body. In the end they will attend schools like Howard and Spellman and we will be going back to the days of “separate but equal”
T Cat (Tempe)
When are legacy admissions going to be done away with? It is a form of selective discrimination against students whose family did not have the social and financial resources to attend elite colleges, or college at all, previously. After all, the scions of the wealthy are often far, far less intelligent and talented than many middle and lower class kids. Exhibit A: George Bush Exhibit B: Jared Kushner Exhibit C: Donald Trump A socioeconomic Affirmative Action has been needed since Ronny Reagan's trickle down on the middle class and working poor.
Admiral (Sparta, NJ)
@T Cat The answer of course is money. But if you look at college ranking publications, you will see two dollar figures: the "list price" and the "average tuition." In the most prestigious universities, the difference is huge: the average is often less than half the full price. Why? Because rich kids pay the full price and poor kids get a free or very low cost education. For every legacy, rich kid, there is a poor kid who wouldn't be there but for the rich kid. Is anyone hurt by this socialization?
eric c (new york)
The title of the essay is "unthinkable". That's a good way to put it. The proponents of AA generally do not care to think about the impacts of the well-intentioned beliefs, and what it translates to in reality. We have too many administrators/policymakers who believe they're right just based on good intentions. We need people whose solutions actually work.
Ylem (LA)
As some of the comments below imply, our society would be much more accepting of affirmative policies based upon social and economic class, rather than ethnic identity. It would be fairer too and still ameliorate racial inequities. But it is hard work and expensive. It would require intensive intervention in early grades. It would also have to involve family counseling, improved medical care for children, and other costly remedial measures to give people born into unfortunate circumstances as fighting chance.
Susan Anderson (Boston)
@Ylem Yes, universal free quality education for all. Not breaking out a few fortunates and giving the money to profit seeking specialist schools that don't threaten the poor fragile parents' biased belief systems. Teachers need more pay and more respect, and resources need to go to all schools equally, not just to those who can afford to grab power and affirm their wealth and status, and drag along a privileged few to make themselves look "fair".
nancy (Michigan)
Michigan amended its constitution. I’m not sure it made much difference. The kids move down one notch to a school that they qualify for.
The only thing that affirmative action affirms is the right to discriminate in the name of so-called social justice. And, yes, I'm a Democrat. Americans do not support it. Which is why I predict that Affirmative Action is going, going, gone.
E (W)
Your kid didn't get into his/her dream college in part because of his/her race. S/he is very sad and disappointed. Discuss.
Blossom (The Buckeye State)
@E 1. What proof does the student have that they were denied admission because of race? 2. There's too much emphasis put on "dream" colleges. A bright, accomplished, hard working, motivated student will do just fine in any institute of higher education. And if a student doesn't get into Harvard, but gets into Yale, that's the end of the world?? Really??
April (NYC)
My mother once told me if I lost the game because of one bad bounce or one bad call by a referee that I didn’t deserve to win the game. That when you dominate, these small things don’t matter. Many a disappointing loss. Never blamed anyone else but myself. Disappointment is part of life. Winners don’t let a single disappointment hold them back. They use it to drive them forward.
Alyson Lloyd (Philadelphia PA)
@E That's the problem right there "dream "college. Too many people are dreaming and not waking up! Of course, all high school/college graduates should apply to their "dream college" but they should apply to other colleges as well. Or as Mick Jagger sang, No, you can't always get what you want You can't always get what you want You can't always get what you want But if you try sometime, you'll find You get what you need. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ef9QnZVpVd8
Paul (San Francisco)
I know, if you are in favor of affirmative action, create spots for others by not sending your kids to college.
EBeres (New Mexico)
Keep Affirmative action. Let people decide which race they belong to. If men who identify as women can compete in women's sport, then let white/asians identify as black/hispanic and compete for affirmative action spots. Liberals will be super happy!
Should race be allowed as a consideration in college admissions? I am tempted to put "race" in quotations. Classifying people by their "race" has no objective scientific merit. It is in itself racist. If one of your sixteen great great grandparents was of black African descent, what is your race? Not that long ago you had to use a separate water fountain because you were "colored." As a Jew, the Nazis would have regarded me as a member of "the Jewish race." A columnist in a newspaper that shall remain nameless (The Washington Post) regards the current US Open tennis champion from Spain as "of color" because he has a Spanish name. Racial mixing is an inevitable process that proceeds and will inevitably continue to proceed in one direction. This is basic science, the science of population genetics. Two interbreeding populations become one population. Will be become a "colorblind society?" Yes, but more than that we will continue to lose the ability to classify or separate people by race.
Admiral (Sparta, NJ)
@PETER EBENSTEIN MD Excellent observation. This is why the United States is one the most racially integrated countries in the world. That is one of our strengths: the hybrid mutt is always stronger and smarter than the purebreds. It has taken a few hundred years and much bloodshed to get where we are. Inter-rcial marriage is becoming common. Kids in elementary schools are color-blind until corrupted by the imposition of race-consciousness by well-meaning but foolish curriculums. We should be celebrating the end of affirmative action.
jkia (WA State)
Thank you, Peter Ebenstein, M.D.! And not just college admissions. As more and more people do their own genetic testing and find out “where they came from and to whom they are related,” one could hope the questions of race could be better understood and find some compassion at the very least. But we know this Supreme Court will never rule on the side of the dispossessed. They will rule for those with the money and the influence, like Ivy League colleges with their huge Foundations and grants from wealthy white donors.
Blossom (The Buckeye State)
I "love" all the comments from people claiming to know some white high school graduate who ranks in the top of all high school grads around the world academically, and who is also model level beautiful, fluent in twenty languages, an Olympic level athlete, plays ten instruments, and is as saintly as Mother Teresa, yet, was denied admission to every college on the planet because some unqualified, criminal minded, slacker minority students with GEDs took her admission slots. It ranks right up there with the fiction of Ronnie Reagan's fur draped, diamond laden, Cadillac driving welfare queens
Lefthalfbach (Philadelphia)
I put up what I thought was afairly clearly sarcastic post about whether a colorblind society would mean no white men getting into Harvard since so many eAsian-American high-schpool seniors get perfect SAT scores. Someone must have complained because the comment was taken down. Are we really so literally minded now and so polarized now that sarcastic comments must be marked "..../s..."?
William (Westchester)
Who can parse out the effects of a sense of obligation to the government for the position attained through 'handicap'? Does all the printed money buy enough voters who think they can't make it on their own? Will such groups manage to sustain apparent legitimacy for prosecuting international rules of the jungle? Is it really enlightened to announce with happy face that we have now made it possible to simulate professional success? Policy choices domestically cannot be absolved from causation of the perilous status quo. Ukraine sucks up the energy. Don't expect perpetrators to fall on their swords. They've got havens.
paul S (WA state)
We are increasingly a failed state, and getting worse. This court is so far off base, so obviously political, so obviously tainted by corruption, Justices routinely lie during their confirmation hearings (Kavanaugh: "Rowe is precedent upon precedent" What a sorry state of affairs.
Matt (Texas)
@paul S it's always been that way. More people pay attention now.
EB (North Carolina)
This is unfortunately going to legally enshrine/support that saying something or someone 'is colorblind' and 'doesn't see race' is fine/legitimate when it in fact systemically perpetuates racism. As most persons of color will point out, 'colorblind' people are not willing to see or credit the systemic issues that keep persons of color from advancing. Structures today have ongoing iniquities because their deep, deep roots go back to the times when persons and governments very much DID see race and the inequalities built during these times were so all encompassing that suggesting 50 years of the bare minimum attempts to not actively harm people of color magically fixed it all is laughable. If you don't see race, you then are also not looking to fix the inequalities that persist. (Also-to be clear- as literally every test looking at subconscious bias shows, people who say this are also just lying to themselves and definitely DO see race). It is also extremely important to point out for this issue that the American Black population has specific inequities and challenges and for whom Affirmative Action was most intended to help level the playing field for. Blackness is erased when we use 'persons of color' as shorthand because it erases divisions, such as in this case between Black and Asian, that are relevant. Affirmative action has been maligned for so long it will indubitably fall, but extra unfortunate that it's going to entrench racist philosophy on its way out.
Brandon (Oregon)
Correct me if I'm wrong, but because African Americans are over represented in lower socioeconomic strata, wouldn't an affirmative action program based solely on a socioeconomics by definition help African Americans more?
Don (Keninitz)
@Brandon Yes, but it doesn't SOLELY benefit them, which is why universities prefer to use race, which does.
@Don So yes and No? The goal was to help ancestors of slaves and as Justice O'Connor alluded to at some point it had to go way. We can have race and color based tests in this country moving forward
Alyson Lloyd (Philadelphia PA)
@Brandon Affirmative Action also benefits women and all people of color and ethnicities.
Douglas Weil (Chevy Chase, MD & Nyon, Switzerland)
It will take some pretty impressive rhetorical gymnastics for Justice Thomas to argue that a practice that increases access to higher education for African-Americans (and more generally people of color) "hurts" African-Americans. But then,I doubt Justice Thomas cares how convincing he is as long as he has four additional votes to strike down the use of race in college admissions.
MarkS (California)
Thomas has written extensively on affirmative action, maybe you should read what he has to say. For example, from a 2007 interview: >Thomas says that after he graduated from Yale, he went on several job interviews with "one high-priced lawyer" after another and the attorneys treated him dismissively. "Many asked pointed questions, unsubtly suggesting that they doubted I was as smart as my grades indicated." The fact that he couldn't get a job would shape his thoughts on affirmative action programs for years to come. Thomas wrote, "Now I knew what a law degree from Yale was worth when it bore the taint of racial preference. I was humiliated—and desperate." https://abcnews.go.com/TheLaw/story?id=3667079&page=1
Donalan (Connecticut panhandle)
As is often the case, the arguments here boils down to which factors the court wants to consider more important. Undoubtedly the result will be expressed as a consequence of logic and law, but psychologists tell us that most decisions requiring a balancing of considerations are made subconsciously, by weighing emotional reactions, and then rationalized after the fact by our extremely clever conscious brains. That neatly explains why conservative judges consistently reach politically conservative results. It’s amazing to me that our very clever jurists do not seem self-aware enough to understand this. How can they possibly look at their track record of decisions matching their political preferences and not be aghast at their own motivated decision making?
Liberty hound (Washington)
If diversity in education is a such a compelling goal, how do we justify HBCUs and women's colleges? Do Morehouse, Spellman, and Wellesley colleges offer an inferior education because they do not represent the full diversity of America?
Dan (NYC)
@Liberty hound You are not supposed to ask these common sense questions, but just blindly accept what liberals tell you.
WarBabyReelist (Elk Grove CA)
Back in 1960, coming from an all girls high school, I only applied to coed colleges as I preferred a more diverse environment - more reflective of the real world. So yes.
Try New Ideas (Nj)
It’s time people make their own affirmative action. I affirm to make a difference in the life and that of my family to the best of my ability and wherever it takes me. AA was a crude tool to right an injustice but it has outlived its usefulness.
Bosox rule (Canada)
Wow, how do you twist the meaning of the 14th Amendment into a call for segregation or no minority consideration? Your court has gone mad. If Conservatives were correct all along about your Constitution and it's meaning then a new Constitution would seem in order. How much does today's media world allow this entire debate to get distorted?
Jackson (Virginia)
@Bosox rule Why are you even getting involved?
jack (Las Vegas)
The question, "whether the Constitution permits the consideration of race at all, " is important. If slavery made race critical to the supreme court, the current racial breakdown, which will be 50% non-white soon, should change our, and the justices', thinking and preferences. Should we move beyond the black-white question and move to the multi-racial?
Blossom (The Buckeye State)
@jack South Africa has always been majority black, yet was ruled by a white minority for centuries. The idea that once white people become a minority in America that racism will disappear is naive. Not only will it not disappear, but the white minority ruling party will entrench their power via law and force.
M Ford (USA)
Affirmative action caused the student loan crisis to hit the Black community the hardest. It allowed people to get into school while not meeting the same requirements. This caused Black people to drop out at higher rates compared to other students. They have the loans, but no degree to pay them back. https://www.theguardian.com/inequality/2018/jan/17/why-do-black-students-quit-university-more-often-than-white-peers https://calmatters.org/education/2022/08/black-students-retention-csu/ The bailout for the failure is expected to cost billions. Biden and the Democrats have already authorized the first round of reparations to the victims. But, the immediate need to shield these people from continued abuse is why the issue is before the courts. Universities, after hundreds of years of tormenting Black people, have found another way to do it and make money off them. This is why Republican civil rights leaders are back in court to protect Black people from additional harm.
Al Mostonest (Manassas, VA)
Affirmative action is misguided attempt to alleviate the consequences of economic injustice on individuals while maintaining an unequal economic system that concentrates wealth and power in the hands of a few. It doesn't work because people left out of the affirmative action initiatives (which, by definition, are the majority) feel left out and discriminated against. And, specifically, it has become an albatross around the necks of Liberal Democrats (for good reason) and many of the excellent people who fit the profile for affirmative action (whether they benefit directly or not) because their achievements become suspect. You can't legislate morality and good behavior but we can go a long way in establishing economic justice for the workers of our country.
Al Mostonest (Manassas, VA)
@Jonathan Smoots I would argue that letting "perfect be the enemy of better" is what you are doing. Work is a basic "cause and effect" contract between people and "fairness" is a logical component. Why confuse basic living with "morality" and conflate exploitation with manners and hidden attitudes? Which Liberal Democrats have done. Life is not a Dickens musical where we all "show a little heart" and end the play holding hands singing "We are the world."
Davey Boy (NJ)
“Justice Thomas quoted Justice Harlan’s “our Constitution is colorblind” language from his Plessy dissent in the last paragraph of his 31-page opinion, which was mainly a passionate expression of his view that affirmative action has hurt rather than helped African Americans.” I really would like to get into Justice Thomas’ head and see what he thinks are the real reasons he sits on the Court . . .
Jackson (Virginia)
@Davey Boy Maybe it’s the same reason Jackson, Kagan, and Sotomayer are there.
Dennis (Missouri)
If all of us were blind, with no concept of color, or sense of racism, wouldn't that be wonderful. Although, in a perfect world, what is that? More overturning of civil, moral, and personal freedoms, the world is becoming a place of slavery, authoritarianism, and hypocrisy.
I didn't agree with Affirmative Action. I still don't. I see it as reverse discrimination. But before AA, it was extremely rare to see a Black kid on a college campus. Now it is not rare at all. And that absolutely necessary, critically important societal change would not, in my opinion, have happened without Affirmative Action. So whether I agree with it or not, I am very pleased with the results of Affirmative Action -- the integration of American higher education -- and the great benefits of this transformation for Americans, both White and Black, moving forward.
Greenhouse promote a Constitutional shellgame: no one shall be denied equal protection because of race beomes we can sometimes deny some people equal protection as collateral damage because of our good intentions towards previous "victims." Instead of the goal of a color-blind society, we would get the hyper-color-conscious society of Joe Biden et al., with no clear end ever to when we stop "remediating" claims of past grievances. Bakke was wrong and, as the Court has discovered, bad jurisprudence is not wine--it doesn't get better with age. Time to kill it.
Daniel A. Greenbaum (New York)
Why isn't a lot more done from kindergarden on to make affirmative action unnecessary. It is vaguely interesting that both the right and the far left agree that certain minorities aren't up to the task of competing with the majority. What needs to be done is not to make things easier but more help needs to be given.
Sbaty (Alexandria, VA)
Unthinkable?? After the election of Trump, the term "unthinkable" should be stricken from the American lexicon. We actively seek and elect the most deranged, dangerous and mentally unfit people we have for our leaders. The idea that Herschel Walker may soon become one of the most important people in American history is all the proof you need as to our future. The mind boggles.
Alyson Lloyd (Philadelphia PA)
Please learn the difference between "equality" and "equity." https://www.diffen.com/difference/Equality-vs-Equity
Dan (NYC)
@Alyson Lloyd It's an easy one, equal opportunity vs. equal outcome regardless of invested effort and abilities. Pure communisms that is removing incentive and dragging the whole country down
Sierra Morgan (Mi)
We need to exercise or right or we will lose them. The 14th Amendment uses the words All Citizens and Any Citizens. Both all and any mean the whole, no exclusions. As a reminder, the the 14th Amendment was drafted and enacted during Reconstruction when there were more Black people in all levels of government than there are now. Ms. Jackson Brown is mistaken in her claim that the drafters of this amendment did not intend for this amendment to be "colorblind" and that the intent was to continue to prop up segregation. The segregation in the 14th Amendment is between men and women, not skin color. This was fixed by the 19th Amendment. It is time to realize that we create our own path and there is a seat at the table waiting for us ALL, we just have to extend the effort to walk up to the table and sit down. All candidates, students, and people in general need to be included. Dr. King gave his life for a reality where content of character was what we ALL are judged by. Colorblind laws and Constitutions do not diminish us. Human beings are like diamonds. Our flaws, features, strengths, etc. are facets that give us uniqueness, radiance, and beauty. Unity needs to be the goal. And like diamonds, we do not lose our uniqueness if we are united with others.
Pat Baker (Boston)
I think colleges should give preference based on economic or social class not race. The Obama girls do not need any assistance but a poor white girl who grew up in poverty but maintained “good grades” without every advantage should be encouraged and helped financially and with tutors etc.
Jackson (Virginia)
@Pat Baker Why don’t they just take the people with the best grades and most potential?
Will (Minnesota)
Affirmative action has always been a more divisive than unifying force in higher education, but it has helped to populate student bodies more diversely and in ways that reflect the broader demographics of the nation. The problem isn’t so much with the idea of acting affirmatively to acknowledge structural racial disparities in education, it’s in the way colleges and universities responded by further segregating rather than integrating students by creating distinct spaces and organizations for racial groups. All of this happened under the rubrics of promoting race-based “safety” and “comfort,” but in depriving students of opportunities to negotiate differences, rather than be protected from them, schools have failed to build on the hope that affirmative action once offered. In this regard, it’s probably fair to say the idea has outlived its usefulness and it’s time to try something else.
Strix Nebulosa (Hingham, Mass.)
What is happening here is the crafty and sophistical premise that if race has no reality in biology (as it does not), then it can have no reality in society or law, either. Face-recognition algorithms do not treat white and black faces alike, as currently written, but since that discrimination is not intentional and since race "isn't real" anyway, it does not matter. Race isn't real, so we can pay no attention to the ways that it is misused, consciously or not, in social and legal policy. Furthermore, because it is not real, it is not permissible to remedy those misuses. It reminds me of what Yossarian says in Catch-22 when the Army Air Corps regulation is explained to him: You'd have to be crazy to be willing to fly more missions, but if you say you can't fly more missions because you're crazy, that proves you're sane and you have to fly more missions. He gives a little whistle and says, "That's some catch, that Catch-22."
Alyson Lloyd (Philadelphia PA)
There's an old saying most people posting here need to learn: Being white don't make you right Being Black won't set you back And being brown won't bring you down. As for the Asian-American students and their argument against Affirmative Action; I would suggest they be careful. Getting into Harvard and UNC only guarantees a diploma. A diploma doesn't mean you're going to get a job interview or a job after graduation. Face it, people, when a company sees your resume, the first thing they see is your name; some names are linked to certain ethnicities or people of certain skin colors. There are prejudices against people based on that alone. So having a PhD from Harvard doesn't mean a thing if they read your name and the prejudices start. Why do you think so many Europeans "anglicized" their last names when entering the US? So, if you're against affirmative action, is it really because it's "reverse racism" or because certain people might be treated like you?
Saints Fan (Houston, TX)
@Alyson Lloyd You're 20 years behind the times of what you think is going on. No one anglicizes their names anymore. Thats the point. We no longer need AA, if we ever did.
Jack (Rockville, Md)
Affirmative action and enforced busing were measures introduced with court approval to address the legacy of slavery. That much is clear. However, I am not supportive of the way affirmative action has been applied in many colleges and universities of the country. In the 60s and 70s I understood and supported the need for strong institutional measures to address the inequality that was carried out under Jim Crow. Indeed, as a Black American, I may have benefited in some way from it since I attended an elite university back in the late 60s. However, today I have misgivings about affirmative action in higher education as presently structured and applied because many of its beneficiaries are not descendants of slaves, such as foreign students of color or Latinos, or enjoy economic circumstances not available to Black people decades ago. The people who are benefiting from it today are facing a drastically different political and economic circumstances. If it is outlawed as unconstitutional in its present form, I believe affirmative action should be replaced with policies that are designed to provide a boost to poor and lower class young people regardless of their race from disadvantaged circumstances. That would get us back to the original purpose of the 14th Amendment and government policies designed to make this a more just and equitable society.
JFM (Hartford)
What is missing from all the arguments is the acknowledgement that while the Constitution may be color blind, the behavior of people is not. Affirmative action is an attempt to fix the problems caused by discrimination. If the fixes are deemed discriminatory, human behavior to resume discrimination is unleashed and we have handcuffed ourselves. All the intellectual arguments pro and con become worthless.
DonD (Wake Forest, NC)
In NC racial inequality in K-12 schools openly persists. The Republican led state legislature underfunds public schools in violation of the state constitution. Financially well off schools districts make up for this while poorer districts with large minority populations suffer. This racist behavior has recently infected the state's public university system (UNC in particular), led by right wing Boards of Governors and Trustees appointed by the same Republican led legislature, who are opposing not only affirmative action policies but also the teaching of Critical Race Theory.
yes!! (DC)
@DonD The focus of your comment is on availability of funds to public schools. So, why not support admissions with preference for students from poorer districts? The point you raise doesn't necessarily support preference based on race.
TDD (Florida)
Enforce the Constitution and anti-discrimination laws by the language in them. We will never reach racial equity if we continue to focus on race in making decisions. Affirmative action may seem like an enticing shortcut but it will actually prolong our path to true equality and equity.
A. (NJ)
@TDD You could put a period after "equity" and still be correct.
TDD (Florida)
@A. (I presume you mean the first instance of 'equity.') If you believe that (which I do not), then we certainly should end any attempt at affirmative action or other balancing mechanism. Why create the inevitable polarization, animosity, and resentment if it will simply never work? Let so-called "social Darwinism" have its way.
LDurk (Rochester, NY)
Well, two thoughts. First, that the SCOTUS "originalists" clearly will be exposed as intellectual frauds should they interpret the 14th amendment as being race neutral. It was passed to address the political and social reality that freed slaves required protection following the Civil War. Everyone then knew that and that was the express intent of the winning side. Quite frankly, that's a distraction; an insulting one especially given Brown v Board. Totally intellectual frauds should SCOTUS allow this reasoning to become precedent. Not that this SCOTUS has much respect for stare decisis. The real issue is that Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was right. Our courts must ensure that equal opportunity is equal opportunity because American socio/economic/political /judicial culture prizes individual accomplishment and holds individuals accountable within a fair framework of rules and laws. Discrimination based on race denies that as a norm. Affirmative Action has become an expected norm. Great aspirations, efforts, people, ideas, Civil Rights legislation have morphed into a racially deterministic bureaucracy and an associated grievance industry. An industry that argues that equal outcomes based on race are the only permitted measures of AA and that anyone who argues is a racist. Education is ground zero. Affirmative Action, as it is now practiced, is an insult to all of us who marched, demonstrated, argued for and voted for the Civil Rights movement.
Mr. Bentley (East Side)
Always embedded in this discussion is the widely held belief by helicopter parents that getting IN to a college is more important than what one does there to get OUT.
Alyson Lloyd (Philadelphia PA)
Friends, Whenever I hear people say they're against affirmative action, I remember something my father said, "Everyone wants to be Black until the police show up." (My father was retired lieutenant from the NYPD's 41st precinct.)
Bill (Des Moines)
Let’s hope they end affirmative action. It hurts the recipients as well as others. Why should the black child of a doctor and a lawyer have an advantage based on skin color over a white or Asian kid based on skin color? Why should a recent immigrant from Africa or Mexico be given a privilege based on something that never happened to them or their family? Try defending that.
Half Sour (Jersey)
Death. Taxes. Linda Greenhouse characterizes a decision resulting in a policy outcome she finds undesirable to be legally untenable and evidence of an illegitimate Court run amok.
David Potenziani (Durham, NC)
Setting aside the argument that affirmative action diversifies our student populations—ideally, a worthy use of educational funds for empowering blacks and educating whites about race—perhaps a better approach is to look beyond it. Affirmative action is, at best, a band-aid on the wounds of racism in American history. Full reparations for racial slavery, Jim Crow, redlining, denial of GI benefits, Tuskeegee "experiments", and a host of other official and unofficial racist policies and practices should be our pathway forward. Being black in America means that your family was denied many of the benefits that white people take for granted. (Or don't even notice in the case of MAGA Republicans.) The inability to accumulate multi-generational wealth, even prevented from getting to own your own home, has doomed generations from benefitting from the fruits of their labors. Affirmative action is weak tea when we need both strong medicine and a healthy diet to heal longstanding wounds. Tax the zillionaires back to the upper middle class and use the money to redress past wrongs. It will make us all stronger.
magicisnotreal (earth)
Why does every racist always try to make their racism seem like it is race neutral when they use our government to enforce it? Racism in how our government is used by some who gain our authority to guide it is a fact. "Race Neutral" was/is a sly way of allowing racism if it wasn't too open in the eyes of those same people. The need for proactive racial protections and assistance will not end until the people who keep asking when we can end them stop asking and get on with living their own lives without trying to control the lives of others. Seems like we have moved backward into the age where the people who are against progress use what authority they have to make it seem their backward ideas are really just fairness allowing different ideas to be given a "fair" chance in spite of being disliked. Reason and common sense is gone and the merest technical argument is given weight it does not have.
SeaTac (wa)
let's face it these cases are about access to ELITE Universities and Colleges. your general state school has no race barrier. so the question, at its core, is does skin color beat out ability? put another way, do lower performing students get a boost because their skin color is a preferred shade? if white folks claimed that privilege state, you can imagine the howls of racism so why isn't it racist to claim that privilege by non-whites? claiming to fix some historical inequity is a red herring. The past is over, you cannot "fix" it. it just is what it is. if we are to be truly integrated then merit is the only standard that can be used to evaluate who deserves a spot in an ELITE institution.
William (St Louis)
As long as K-12 funding is based on local property taxes, any method of attempting to right the differences upon entry to college will fail. The kids that come from the localities with money to spare will always outperform, at a population level, those coming from the localities that don't at the time of testing and into the college years. The SCOTUS and the Haves are plenty happy to keep the system broken as it is and fight the battle of equality after the game is already up - at the college admissions office.
Tim B (West Coast)
There’s been serious public debate over the constitutionality of affirmative action for as long as I can remember, and I’m not young. O’Connor’s opinion essentially said things would change in a timeline that’s fairly short, as far as constitutional law goes. To describe as “unthinkable” the possibility that it would be held unconstitutional shows a peculiar naivety.
Gambel’s Quail (Out West)
White Americans I know are not concerned about "replacement theory." They're worried about reverse discrimination. Judging by the comments here, it's time to end the process of sorting Americans by race for whatever reason (however well-intentioned), as it appears to be fostering, not improving divisions. America's citizens are going into what are likely to be tough times in the international community - economically and politically. Our education systems are already falling apart. We really need to bring the best and brightest through our universities. A leg up for poorer kids who shine even under trying circumstances makes so much more sense than any racial criteria. College has never been a social experience or networking opportunity for anyone but the one percenters anyway. For average Americans, college has been a means to a good job - an education. There will be plenty of opportunities in one's life to experience people from different backgrounds.
padem (nyc)
@Gambel’s Quail You started off sensibly about real and perceived reverse discrimination but I think overstate your case at the end. What I would add is that social engineering cannot be expected to solve all difficulties. I am glad we have had affirmative action but we cannot have it forever.
Gambel’s Quail (Out West)
@padem I appreciate your comment. I am concerned that our education system is no longer keeping pace with systems in other developed countries. How to fix that is complicated on many fronts, as you indicate.
Thomas Zaslavsky (Binghamton, N.Y.)
@Gambel’s Quail White Americans who worry about "reverse discrimination" are taking advantage of hundreds of years of privilege (and years of their own personal privilege) that they don't recognize and are understandably reluctant to give up.
KE (Seattle)
I grew up in the Seattle neighborhood that brought the Parents Involved case. I was also a white kid whose skin color was used as a deciding factor for my elementary and middle school assignments. It’s a terrible thing to be judged on the basis of your skin color. It does not matter what color, it is a terrible thing. To suggest that anyone can fairly make this determination at any stage of the education game is asking to much of admissions officers and administrators. And, it can never be done equitably because each student is unique and brings life experiences that are far beyond the color of their skin.
TrueNorth (Vermont)
There are many reasons to question the wisdom and effectiveness of particular strategies to ensure a diverse student body. But these concerns are legislative, not constitutional. Our constitution has reflected race consciousness from the very beginning and has been amended several times to protect the rights of racial minorities. The Court should stay out of good faith efforts to promote true diversity and inclusion, just as educational institutions need to do a much better job helping those who are truly disadvantaged.
nise (east coast)
thank you for the article. thank you for the responses. affirmative action attempted to address the issue but the real issue is implicit bias, socioeconomic stratification which does resemble our cultural differences but doesn't mimic. If you want to fix affirmative action, vote for universal pre-k and expanded school lunch program. Remove vouchers for private and parochial schools. Instead of focusing on secondary education that has years of advantages and disadvantages, focus on elementary school learning. If all kids in elementary school had a fair chance to learn, on full stomachs with proper equipment and books, you might see a change. currently school income is based on taxes and parent participation which is highly stratified on cultural and economic class lines. If the amount of time and energy went into programs like music and arts, English and foreign languages, math and science as athletics, we would see a difference. honestly the issue is that affirmative action isn't a bandaid on a bullet wound. it's a bandaid on someone who's been poisoned. And what's more no one is asking how to prevent the patient from being poisoned. People bring up good points about race but race isn't the first issue. I think if we fix socioeconomic issues first, either racial issues will correct themselves or become more obvious depending on who is right.
eric c (new york)
Finally, one more thought -- For all the contortions and picking and choosing that these university administrators do (or other well-intentioned government officials), does it actually result in better OUTCOMES that match what was intended? All this interference and believing what you're doing is right -- has it worked? And if it's not working, do you just argue that you didn't do it hard enough, and need even more? When does that argument have an end to it? By the way, is it within your scope of responsibility and right to do this? Why did university administrators believe that they had the right or responsibility to fix this in their sphere? If they do think that, why don't they go even further? If you open this can of worms, it never ends.
Thomas Zaslavsky (Binghamton, N.Y.)
@eric c Why? Because they have decent impulses to improve their country. If not in education, then where? Besides, there are very good reasons the U.S. needs integrated schools at all levels.
Alan J. Ross (East Watertown MA.)
The need for affirmative action in our colleges and universities is a direct causal outgrowth of our seperate and UNEQUAL K-12 public school systems. Fix That and Maybe we have something to talk about. Actually, fix that and maybe affirmative action will no longer be as necessary.
Cassandra (Arizona)
Affirmative action, Citizens United, gun carrying, gerrymandering, voting rights, abortion..., and now Republicans saying that if they win the Senate they would not approve any judges whom Biden might nominate. We have government by a minority of very angry voters who are being manipulated by avaricious oligarchs. If Trump and company were being paid by Putin, what would they do differently?
Todd Stuart (Key West)
@Cassandra Not sure, if Biden was being paid by Putin would it be any different?
Mark Gardner (USA)
It would behoove our courts to make sports quotas, legacy admissions, Dean's lists, and other such shenanigans of privilege unconstitutional along with race-blind admissions.
Danny Boy (Lakewood, CA)
Reading these comments here gives me hope!
La Belle Catalane (Marseille)
Re: after having been deemed constitutional in higher education for more than four decades.. Affirmative Action is known in France as Positive Discrimination. And it is positive discrimination To cite The Harvard Crimson  “Asian-Americans admitted to Harvard earned an average SAT score of 767 across all sections. Every section of the SAT has a maximum score of 800. By comparison, white admits earned an average score of 745 across all sections, Hispanic-American admits earned an average of 718, Native-American and Native-Hawaiian admits an average of 712, and African-American admits an average of 704.” https://www.thecrimson.com/article/2018/10/22/asian-american-admit-sat-scores/ Now, you can make arguments that admission to higher education should not be based on merit. Fine But: There is no legal definition on “who is black” If you know one, Ms Greenhouse, cite it. It more than puzzling, viewed from France , as US government legislation such as HR S.2023 ““Relief for America's Small Farmers Act,” bequeathed benefits to ‘black but not white farmers without a definition who falls into the category Quantitative measures, from DNA analysis are available, but are not used in affirmative action Viewed from France, most puzzling : How can legislation be passed for groups, without a legal definition who belongs into the group ?
E (los angeles)
@La Belle Catalane While France did brutally colonize many parts of the world, they did not engage directly in chattel slavery and subject black people in their country to centuries of slavery and terrorism. Therefore, to compare positive discrimination in France to affirmative action America is misguided. The issue is not about who is black or how to define black or any other race, it's about figuring out a way to create a thriving diverse society where everyone has a fair chance to succeed.
Me (NY)
It is always those who live in a bubble that harbor racist ideologies. The more diverse the learning communities of America, the better off society will be.
Jordan (Melbourne FL)
Affirmative action is plodding heavily towards the mouldering grave that it so richly deserves, the hand writing was on the wall for it ten years ago, and good riddance when it finally dies. Discrimination to cure discrimination? It can't be in our collective rearview soon enough.
EF (Virginia)
Instead of basing it on race, why not base it on socio-econimic status?
Pottree (Joshua Tree)
Why not make it easier and base it upon who has an Asian or Jewish mother leaning over them with a baseball bat for 12 years? Why not get rid of special considerations for applicants from expensive and prestigious prep schools, for legacy admissions, for offspring of large donors? Buying your way into the limited class of admits is unfair whether you use the currency of accidents of birth, sports proficiency, apparent "race", or just good old American bribery. Aren't there way more than enough qualified applicants that a nice freshman class could be devised by random selection from the group of all qualified applicants? What the issue involves is a complicated American soup of notions about who we are when anybody who has actually gone to college knows most freshmen haven't yet figured out or arrived at who they are by the time they arrive on campus full of trepidation and enthusiasm. What is on the line is a question like, Should almost all the incoming freshmen be Asian the way just about everybody used to be WASPS before WWII? Should we offer an extra leg up to those who have faced a steeper slope in life? Do we really believe that admission to certain gateways of higher education will predict the country's leaders tomorrow - and is this kind of exclusion the best way to move into the future? What did you learn in school today - that it's hard to move beyond the known traditions of aristocracy and onto a new frontier of society more like America's promise?
James (New York City)
It is a known fact that black students get preferential treatment in elite schools. I went to one of these schools. Black students were noticeably way behind. Race blind admission is FAIR. There seems to be a bizarre aversion to Asian admission. Sorry, but be smart and win.
Bob Jonsen (Left Coast)
Pathetic essay. Not one word about those who are discriminated against with Affirmative Action. First and foremost is the Asian-American Community, many of whom are immigrants and lower income. Why should these Asian- American students be shut out of top schools. They have studied and worked hard only to find they aren't,,t the "right" race. They are experiencing the discrimination Jews faced in the 40's to 60's. Harvard even implemented a "Personality" score in order to screen out Asian-American, as if these kids don't have personalities. Just awful. Sadly it's verboten to discuss the root causes seated in family life. Likewise, much has been written about the ill effects of admitting students to programs beyond their capabilities.
Berkeley Grad - AA Beneficiary (California)
The Supreme Court’s conservative majority is preparing to uphold the old social hierarchy again where white Christian males are at the top with placement in the highest paying most-respected jobs, white women in the middle and Black and Brown people at the bottom with the hardest lowest-paying jobs. That’s what the coming blow against affirmative action is about (although it’s disguised as an issue about Asian Americans.) It’s too much for white Americans to have to see their “inferiors” in what is supposed to be their top roles in the social order. Affirmative Action has been an equalizing force in our social order, providing greater access to higher Ed and better jobs for historically marginalized communities. It has been a blow against the existing racial hierarchy. That is why it’s on the chopping block. (P.s. fyi one of the greatest beneficiaries of affirmative action in higher ed has been white women.)
caseworker (West)
Clarence Thomas certainly didn't benefit from Affirmative Action, so this is another matter on which he can be totally impartial. Next: Loving v. Virginia?
Ellen (NYC)
Race is a made up construct, with shifting meaning. And historically used to distinguish 'whites' from 'everyone else' - even though the meaning of 'white' is always shifting. If colleges want diversity... do they really want diversity of skin tone? Or do they want economic diversity? Religios diversity? Family structure diversity? ... all of these and many other human attributes might well contribute to group discussins. But skin tone? If colleges can not determine who would bring other perspecitives to a college, they arent looking hard enough. Look at family income, look at urban/rural/suburban mix, look at religion (oops! cant do that! why not?), look at family size, look at any number of other things.
Pottree (Joshua Tree)
Back in the 1960s I personally knew a struggling Harvard man who was a little less than nothing special in the brains department, yet he was in their freshman class because he was not from the Northeast or West Coast (he was from some seldom represented state like Iowa) and he had a family name that many Black people have, although he was white. He was not rich but did enjoy a generous financial package - the Crimson kept him out of the red, you might say. This student was admitted because of "diversity" and had to get help with his studies from us lower orders across the Charles River who would never have been so accidentally admitted to Harvard yet were much more "qualified" academically. Just saying, things backfire.
Robert (Seattle)
The legal team for this case (which specializes in white supremacist clients) along with the Republicans who are supporting their cause, are operating under the usual race-based dog whistling, namely, that too few Jared Kushners and Ivanka Trumps are getting into Harvard and Penn because too many unqualified Black applicants are being admitted. The truth of course is something altogether different. A majority of the seats at all but a few of our selective private and public universities have been gobbled up by rich white applicants like Kushner and Trump. They've taken those seats at the expense of largely working- and middle-class Asian American applicants who are, all other things the same, significantly better qualified. Black or Latino applicants have never had a fair and proportional share of the seats.
Robert Wood (Arkansas)
Linda Greenhouse is SO good!
Joseph P. Gring, Jr. (Connecticut)
https://archive.seattletimes.com/archive/?date=19950626&slug=2128294 According to this article in the Seattle Times, Clarence Thomas received a scholarship set aside for racial minorities from Holy Cross and was admitted to Yale Law School as part of an "aggressive and successful" affirmative action program designed to have 10% minority enrollment in the class of 1974. Also according to this article, in a 1983 speech to his staff at the EEOC, Clarence said: "but for them [affirmative action laws], God only knows where I would be today." The radical change in his opinion of affirmative action now that he's climbed the ladder is sickening. He has always been unfit to be a justice of the Supreme Court and he is a disgrace not only to the law, but also to humanity.
Joseph Katz (Hamburg, Germany)
I sure hope so. It's time to end racial discrimination. Even if it is called "affirmative action" or "diversity".
ss (Boston)
"after the election of the first Black president and the profound racial reckoning of the past few years" You may want to rethink this: First, the president was half-white. Why his blackness is absolutely always called upon is not clear to me. He is biracial and never really was too much about his blackness when he needed votes. Second, those racial reckoning of the last few years have been violent, and many people are in two minds about it. Politically, extremely useful for one side, but a lot of what was happening is at least murky and not to be proud of. Third, the author is aiming at Brown knowing too well that the current SC justices are way better and more reasonable than those from 60 or 90 years ago. It is not that justices back then were disgrace, every SC is a reflection of the society and US today is an immensely better place than it was when those Brown etc. decisions were made. Lastly, why the author demeans the plaintiffs in the pending cases when it is very clear that Affir Action may easily and legitimately be seen negatively depending on the angle from which you look at it? Before any rant, mind you, it is not KKK who is participating in the case here.
Pottree (Joshua Tree)
I thought this way for a while, too. But President Obama chose to identify as Black and, really, isn't that really his call? If he says he's Black, that's good enough for me, just as someone who says she's intrinsically female gets to make her own decision about her gender.
Matthew (Bay Area, California)
#StopAsianHate. end affirmative action, end universities having racial quotas for Asians. This racism has got to go.
RK (Raleigh, NC)
Black men at Harvard have a higher graduation rate than white men at Harvard. There must be equitable and proportional representation of Black students.
N.D. (Wisconsin)
I am a hispanic female working towards a Ph.D. in STEM at a public research university. Most of the faculty at my school (who are mostly white and male) are strong advocates of affirmative action, but I do not agree with them. I think I face more discrimination than I would if there wasn't affirmative action. People (not everyone, but many) assume I was admitted to the program because of my race and gender, without knowing anything about me. I believe I was admitted because of my personal merits, but it's an uphill battle to gain the respect I would have if there wasn't this immediate assumption that I benefited from affirmative action. In moments of self-doubt, I wonder myself if maybe it's true. I think many minority students feel this way. I think weighing socioeconomic factors when deciding on admissions would work much better than using race. This would still help racial minorities, but without leading to as much discrimination, since it's easier to hide one's socioeconomic background.
Colona (Suffield, CT)
Well if the court can return the world to 1953, perhaps Justice Barrett can return the world to a time when women were kept at home to take care of the 2.5 children.
Both cases sound like losers for the defenders of affirmative action, particularly given the Supreme Court majority now in place including that stalwart lifetime beneficiary of affirmative action, none other than Clarence Thomas, leading the charge. Guess who will write the majority opinions.
J Kile (White Haven, PA)
The problem here is not the Constitution, it is human nature. People want what they want. They want to increase their chances to go to the college of their choice, they want to say any lie or hateful thing and not be called on it, they want. Period. This issue of college admission, as are many issues, is one of fairness, of trying to level the playing field for all. But the truth is many do not want that. They always want the advantage. Being white, being rich, being powerful, are natural advantages that those who have them are willing to exploit. They are more than glad to bend or twist the laws in their favor. A la Donald Trump. I learned this serving in local government. Many people want corrupt government, they just want it corrupt for them. I am not sure how to solve the issue of human greed and selfishness. It is behind a host of ills in our country and it is not getting better.
Jimmy (Bee)
@J Kile I think we, humans writ large, need a more fundamental philosophy anchored in humanism & naturalism if we're to survive more peacefully with both ourselves & our planet. tbd
Dave Updegraff (Duluth)
So, the argument against Affirmative Action boils down to... you are not allowed to take the current state of the world into account when deciding how to improve the state of the world. You must instead imagine that you're already in that improved world, and you will magically be so.
KM (Pittsburgh)
@Dave Updegraff No, the argument is that the constitution specifically forbids discrimination based on race, which is what affirmative action is.
Steve S (Albuquerque, New Mexico)
Then again we must hope that African Americans head to the polls as our democracy is increasingly under attack by the most conservative Republican Party in history.
PAB (Maryland)
White women were the primary beneficiaries of affirmative action, not black people. Not one black person in America was ever lulled into believing this country wanted to correct racial injustice.
Gary Cohe (Great Neck NY)
As long as five people masquerading in Black Ro es can overturn years of precedent on narrow votes and twisted logic these situations will happen more and more. The Federal judges were given lifetime appointments to avoid political decisions. But now that we see Justices during confirmation hearings telling bald faced lies there is no need for lifetime appointments. This is way more of a threat than voter fraud to our democracy. Term limits now.
Peter (Denver)
University Texas at Austin provides a preview how AA can adapt to such pressures. Instead of using racial/ethnic criteria, they accept the top fraction in each high school or neighborhood. That leverages that fact the US is still ethnically and financially segregated.
Bill (Turtle Island)
@Peter That wouldn't work for Ivy League and many other private colleges that give preference to "legacy" kids regardless of how poorly they perform.
John Jabo (Georgia)
Affirmative Action will ultimately fail because it was not really "affirmative." It benefited mostly middle- and upper-class minorities who did not need a helping hand. Poor minorities and poor whites were once again left behind in this ham-handed, feel-good effort, which was at once elitist and racist. Good riddance.
Susan (USA)
@John Jabo So true. I don't understand why no one cares about poor Hispanics or poor Asians or poor white people who have little to no opportunity. These groups have been completely ignored for decades. It should also be noted that only a select few white people are rich and powerful,. Affirmative Action should not benefit middle and upper class students. These students should have to compete alongside other "privileged" students.
Ohio Mom (Cincinnati)
There are just 34 other comments as I write this. Almost all fit under the category “Tell me you are white without telling me you are white.” Disclaimer: I am white. But I understand and see how pervasive and insidious prejudice against Black people is.
Fully Recovered Liberal (New York)
@Ohio Mom What does that have to with gaining admission to our top universities? Don't we just want the best and brightest each year ?
Joan White (San Francisco Ca)
@Fully Recovered Liberal And are we going to get rid of affirmative action for the well connected? How many students get into top schools because Dad, or more recently Mom, went there. People complain about preferences for athletes, but at least they have some talent. Some of these other kids’ biggest asset is that their parents can write a big check.
Dave (Westwood)
@Fully Recovered Liberal "Don't we just want the best and brightest each year ?" As long as they are male and white. /s
AKJersey (New Jersey)
Yes, this Supreme Court will outlaw all affirmative action by race in all venues, public and private. The GOP members of the Court firmly believe that there is no discrimination against blacks, but that discrimination against whites is widespread.
Don (Keninitz)
@AKJersey Incorrect. What they believe is that it isn't fair to discriminate against one group - Asian-Americans in this case - to favor another: African-Americans.
As minority rule in America sinks into it's later stages and it's increasingly likely permanent condition, lot's of previously unthinkable things will become common place. Who knows, maybe one day journalists will even acknowledge that America failed as a functional republic/representative democracy decades ago and had they acknowledged that fact we might have had a chance of restoring it.
Peggysmomil (NYC)
As the Grandmother of several Grandsons, one who is adopted and is not white all brought up in educated families with the best student of all of all of them being white how should I feel if he gets rejected because he is white? I want them all to succeed but do not want the one who is rejected because of the color of his skin while he bar far is a better student than the others who are white as well as brown skin to lose out for that reason while the others both white and brown get into better schools when they cannot compete educationally.
OldWoodMay (Arlington VA)
I'm a moderate Democrat. I fully understand that bigotry remains a major force in this county. It's clear we have not achieved equal opportunity for all. But I've never liked Affirmative Action and I don't like it any better now. It's not much of a solution and I believe it re-enforces our society's tendency to divide up opportunity on the base of race I will be glad to see it struck down. What I want instead and fully support is class or wealth based Affirmative Action. That will take the racial poison out of the equation yet also help minorities disproportionately given their generally worse economic conditions. Universities don't like this idea because it would be harder to administer and much, much more expensive in terms of aid. Too bad.
Robert (Upstate)
@OldWoodMay not really about what you “like”. This column is about constitutional law.
Mike (NY)
For all the commenters saying that affirmative action privileges people based on race, do you have that same aversion to other privileges? Do you equally support ending legacy admissions? What about the wealth lavished on men’s sports teams that isn’t matched in women’s sports? Do you think private schools that cater primarily to wealthy families should be abolished and that public school funding shouldn’t be contingent on the wealth of the local neighborhood? If you answer “no” to any of those, your hypocrisy is showing. For all the commenters asking when affirmative action should end, there’s a fairly obvious answer: when there aren’t measurable disparate outcomes based on race. The racial wealth gap is real, measurable, and objective fact. Same with health outcomes. We know there are lingering effects of slavery and Jim Crow, and pretending like they don’t exist is just gaslighting. Affirmative action is not a great solution. It’s like chemo being used to treat a fatal cancer—unpleasant, imperfect, but better than the alternative.
Newo (Norfolk)
Absolutely end legacy. Sports is due to revenue and a silly comparison. Why should a 50 billion dollar industry pay the same as an industry that loses money?
Michael (Morris Township, NJ)
People did not march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in outrage over legacy admissions. Perhaps we would be better served with the Euro model and divorcing athletics from college; feel free to take it up with the president of your alma mater. (The sex disparity results from the fact the people will actually pay to see men play; women? Not so much.) Spending has precisely zip to do with accomplishment; in places like NJ, we spend the most on the worst schools, and charters, often in the same buildings as their traditional counterparts, often produce better results at a fraction of the cost. It is NOT hypocrisy to demand equal treatment based on achievement. You might as well have railed against the inequitable results of having good – or two – parents. The racial wealth gap is almost entirely related to poor decisions by poor people and has nothing to do with race; “white” people who misbehave tend to be poor, too. These are NOT “lingering effects of slavery and Jim Crow” (and you have no evidence to suggest that they are); more likely, they’re the results of stupid governmental policy – which provides huge subsidies contingent upon destructive behavior – and bad culture. People obsessed with skin color – there’s a good English word to describe them – should be consigned to the margins of society, where they belong.
Gary Cohe (Great Neck NY)
Not surprisingly the most popular comments think affirmative action should go. The Times has an affluent readership and many talk about being for equal rights but when the playing field in education is far from equal the country needs affirmative action to promote a healthy country.
617to416 (Ontario via Massachusetts)
@Gary Cohe Yes. It's a form of NIMBYism. I'm all for racial justice, but not if it hurts my own child's chances of being accepted at Harvard.
Laurence (San Jose)
@Gary Cohe Survey and precinct data here in California found that Prop 16 — the ballot measure to restore affirmative action which I personally voted against (I am Chinese American) on the minutiae — had significantly stronger support from Asian than White Californians, even in a state where white voters are considerably more Democratic than they are nationwide. There was fairly little correlation with income. It might be a bit politically incorrect to say, but this almost certainly has more to do with the Times’s overwhelmingly white readership.
Saints Fan (Houston, TX)
@617to416 Reminds me of the northern blue sanctuary city hypocrisy recently exhibited.
ArthurinCali (Central California)
Affirmative Action (AA) has been a phenomenal success-especially for woman, and immigrants who come from countries that designated them as official minorities as soon as they arrived in America. For a policy written at a time to assist the descendants of American slaves, it was passed in the in the same decade that the 1965 Immigration Act. This legislation opened the way for increases in immigration from countries in Africa and Asia who automatically were eligible for AA. This timeline of events is expanded upon in Christopher Caldwell’s book “The Age of Entitlement: America Since the Sixties.”
John Roosevelt (NYC)
“The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race, is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” Chief Justice John Roberts, 2007
Dave (Westwood)
@John Roosevelt But the question not answered by Roberts was how to do that. Otherwise, his statement is a tautology.
Don Haslam (Dallas)
In 2020, there were 101 HBCUs located in 19 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Of the 101 HBCUs, 52 were public institutions and 49 were private nonprofit institutions (source). The number of HBCU students increased by 47 percent (from 223,000 to 327,000 students) between 1976 and 2010, then decreased by 15 percent (to 279,000 students) between 2010 and 2020 (source). In comparison, the number of students in all degree-granting institutions increased 91 percent (from 11 million to 21 million students) between 1976 and 2010, then decreased 10 percent (to 19 million students) between 2010 and 2020 (source). Although HBCUs were originally founded to educate Black students, they enroll students of other races as well. The composition of HBCUs has changed over time. In 2020, non-Black students1 made up 24 percent of enrollment at HBCUs, compared with 15 percent in 1976. The time has come. There is no race-based impediment to higher education in America. HBCU admissions standards are modest. Does the argument against rolling back affirmative action turn on the contention that highly selective universities will discriminate against equally qualified minority applicants? It must - to have merit - and only time will tell. Meantime, I suspect many a litigator will have an eye on this. And the players will modify behavior accordingly.
Caroline Pufalt (St Louis MO)
Affirmative action should start with full, quality education in pre school through 12th. Take away our property tax based education, which results in very un-equal education. Make Jr College affordable.
Social Justice Worrier (CT)
How can you, in 2022, write about affirmative action and only discuss it as a Black/White issue? The issues central to these cases involve the concerns of other people of color.
Susanonymous (North America)
Not to minimize discrimination of other POC, but Blacks discrimination and exclusion is rooted in the systemic legacy of slavery. Their inequities play out very differently. And our culture of White Supremacy pits Blacks and POC against one another.
Gondar (Africa)
A very cruel and I dare say racist society. They are trying as much as possible to hinder AA from voting through various laws and gerrymandering to lessen the power of that vote. Now in addition, the descendants of the race whose life wages were stolen for four hundred years to better the other race, and were segregated and discriminated against until the 1970s, now they are being told that their disadvantaged position does not matter when it comes to providing avenues for them to catch up. This is a land built on Injustice at the core.
HipOath (Berkeley, CA)
Most every endeavor in human life involves issues of "preferential treatment." Right from the beginning of life. One the most frequent and passionate disputes in families are siblings angry about alleged preferential treatment by their parents. And it goes on from there. College admissions is full of preferential treatment. Alumni get their children more easily admitted. Rich people, athletes do also. Our entire society is setup to prefer certain people, e.g., college educated parents invariably get their children admitted to college because they know how to do that. So give me a break. Not all children are equally good test takers or have college-educated parents. A person may flub the SAT and still be smart enough to be a very good student. If a University wants to ameliorate the effects of 400 years of slavery, they should be allowed to do so. Should the Gang of Six tell Universities they cannot prefer athletes in their admissions policies, or the children of their rich alumni? Or can't set up the athletes in a Phy ED curriculum taught by their coaches because that's unfair to real students? So all kinds of preferences are ok, but preferences designed to fix the wages of centuries of immorality and cruelty are not ok because they're based on "race"?
LongTimeFirstTime (New York City)
@HipOath On one point every single Justice who’s looked at the item says you’re wrong: the Constitution doesn’t permit a new wrong (discrimination in favor of Blacks) to correct a past wrong (400 years of slavery). No Justice ever has agreed with you. The issue is whether having a diverse student body is so compelling an interest, we skirt past the 14th amendment. Half our challenge today is we debate the wrong issues.
Jane (10023)
@HipOath Careful with the assumptions on college admissions. My white full-pay daughter, GPA 3.78 and ACT 34 was rejected by her top three choices, plus others (think Boston College, not Ivy). She's happy where she is now (SLAC). Being privileged and full pay doesn't get you into the top 50 colleges.
Hank (Idaho)
@HipOath Not every African American has ancestors who were slaves for 400 years. It has been 157 years since Slavery ended and 57 years since Jim Crow ended. Why should Asian students, many of whom are descended from Parents who came to America with almost no money and who help their parents after school and on weekends be told they cannot be fairly treated in the Admissions Process because, though they are a Minority in America they are not the "Right" type of Minority ? By all means get rid of Legacy Admissions, Athletic Scholarships and strive to admit a complete spectrum of students - especially those from lower income families.
Margo (Ohio)
The notion of race-blind decision-making, given our long history of racially-based decisions (and racially-based work-arounds) having an end result of uneven access to the fruits of government, is an illusion. Evaluating the outcomes by race of ANY governmental process, whether public education, guaranteed home loans, voter registration and participation, conviction and incarceration, or even zoning and development of residential areas, is a necessary step in evaluating and understanding our success in guaranteeing "equal access under the law." Data over and over again shows that we are not there--which is a critically important consideration in all gatekeeping processes of government.
als (Portland, OR)
I had always understood that the conceptual nub of Grutter was that the "separate but equal" doctrine was simply a long-standing failure, in that the "separate" part (with all its disreputable implications) was demonstrably more often honored, in practice, than the "equal" part.
Stephan (N.M.)
I do wonder? I wonder how many of the people arguing for affirmative action already have their college educations. So, the sacrifices they're calling for won't fall on them. It's always easy to call for someone else to sacrifice their hopes, their dreams, their futures on the altar of affirmative action. When the caller is sacrificing nothing isn't it?
Saints Fan (Houston, TX)
@Stephan Affirmative action has been here since the time of Nixon.
Lynn (New York)
Sandra Day O'Connor: "society’s interest in maintaining a diverse educational environment was “compelling”" And the interest in a diverse educational environment existed before "affirmative action". When I applied to college in 1967 I was told by a guidance counsellor that Radcliffe could fill its entire class with overachieving young women from New York City but that they would only take 2 from NYC so that if I wanted to go to Radcliffe I should move to South Dakota--- having classmates with very difference life experiences of course would enrich the experience of all students. (and, having met South Dakotans later, I certainly did learn from them, that definitely was true) Some are concerned that "Affirmative Action" is a code-word for quotas. But when I applied to the CUNY in 1967 there was what you could call (not called then) "affirmative action" in the form of a quota for men: in order to keep the class 50/50 men and women, men could be admitted with a lower HS average than women. So geographic diversity and gender quotas were widely accepted The pushback to a form of "affirmative action" that considered diversity apparently did not arise until it involved increasing diversity of racial backgrounds.
michaelscody (Niagara Falls NY)
Using race as a basis for affirmative action is a simplistic method that should be abolished. Who has a better chance of doing well on standardized testing such as the SAT, Sasha Obama, or the child of a white Appalachian coal miner? Yet the former gets the break due to race. If universities want to use a factor for diversity, the family's economic status seems a much better measure than race.
Steve Demuth (Iowa)
I have always viewed Affirmative Action in any government setting as being a valuable tool for addressing historical prejudices that we adopted despite its being in flagrant exception to the equal protection clause. It seemed inevitable that eventually we'd admit that we were violating our own Constitution to benefit certain classes in reparation for past violations of the same law that harmed those classes, and AA would have to go, at least wherever a government function or protected right - privilege, immunity, life, liberty and property was in question. In as much as as the Civil Rights Act extends those protections, at least where race is in question, to anything touched by Federal money, and to most employment, it seems to me that race-based Affirmative Action is indeed unconstitutional, and this ideologically warped, anti-democratic, and thoroughly retrogressive Court will be the one to settle that, almost entirely for the wrong reasons.
W.A. Spitzer (Faywood, NM)
It seems to me that Brown versus the board of education and the affirmative action case before the Supreme Court are completely unrelated. Brown dealt with a public school system where every child below a given age was required to attend. Whereas Harvard is a private institution where admission is merit based. Now there certainly are cases where admission, promotion, or hiring has been denied because of race, and in those cases it is fair that amendment should be required. And there are certainly other cases in public service such as police, fire protection and etc. where race conveys a real advantage because it promotes a more favorable community interaction necessary to the job. But there are also cases, like airline pilots, MDs, and cutting edge science, where blind meritocracy should prevail. In these latter cases where a racial group might be under represented, it seems to me the correct approach for affirmative action is to provide remedial training and enhanced opportunities so that more members of that racial group can meet the qualifications on merit.
Phil (Tennessee)
Blacks are not the only minority discriminated against, but Affirmative Action seems only to apply to them. Consider the multitude of attacks on Asians over the last few years. And consider that the largest number of religion-based hate crimes are directed at Jews. Meanwhile Hispanic immigrants are desperately trying to get their children educated, so they can climb the economic/social ladder. Singling out Blacks for special provision in educational placement is insulting to other minorities seeking equal opportunity. In addition to its inherent unfairness, Affirmative Action is demeaning to the very people it purports to help: Regardless of their talent and skill, where Affirmative Action is practiced, people assume a person of color is "An Affirmative Action hire." I've heard this spoken more than a few times. The truth we all should accept is that racial and religious discrimination is wrong regardless of which group a person belongs to.
RCP (Texas)
Among many other social activities which have been, in my view, twisted, the elimination of merit in favor of subjective measures is one. Color blind merit.
Night Falls (CA)
This article lost me when it said 'kind of legal double bank shot' ..and I have a law license. My take on affirmative action is not complex. Wrongs must be righted, but if righting the wrong becomes a wrong, it should cease. The US is way different now than it was in the 50's, in terms of genetic origin stories. How does one even define race with all the mixes and groups. Latino is not even a genetic thing, it is cultural. Hopefully the favors that colleges can do will be to try to help lower income and middle income people.
G (Edison, NJ)
Today’s environment and the Harvard case differ substantially from Brown and Plessey and their environments, in that the ones being denied a fair shot are now Asian-Americans, rather than Whites. It’s easier to discriminate in favor of Blacks when “powerful” Whites are the ones on the losing end, but when when one racial minority is favored over another, at what point to we say we’ve gone too far ? Indeed, how will we ever decide on a set of conditions, that when met, will allow us to get rid of affirmative action ? The answer is: never. So we are better off getting rid of it now.
Todd Stuart (Key West)
How is it unthinkable? Affirmative action was allowed to continue by a 5-4 vote where the deciding Justice O'Connor voted in favor but said she thought in 25 years it should be no more. That seems about a razor thin a margin that one can imagine.
Howard Eddy (Quebec)
It the absence of universal military service - the former great leveler of American society from the runup to WWII to Vietnam -- the use of AA to achieve diversity in elite colleges has been a good thing. The irony of trying to base getting rid of it on Brown v. Board of Education should be lost to no one. Those behind the lawsuit would be quite happy with both Plessy v. Ferguson and Dred Scott v. Sanford. The Asian-American plaintiffs are stalking horses for good old boy Aryans. The conservative majority of the Court knows this, and are headed where their masters at the Federalist Society want them to go. Once more, their legitimacy is going out the window. I fear that, as with Dobbs, those who push this suit will not know what to do with the bus after they have caught it. That is usually the case with reckless fanatics. Further entrechment of systemic racism -- the plaintiff's pragmatic result -- is not a prescription for social peace in America.
Margo (Ohio)
@Howard Eddy Tempting at times to accept the notion of "separate but equal" with a stringent requirement that "equal" be demonstrated. Now, this overlooks the point made by Thurgood Marshall that the very act of separation communicates an unequal status. However, the pre-Brown lie was that separate facilities provided the same resources and access to education. They did not--based on all kinds of simple metrics: age of buildings, age of textbooks, teacher to pupil ratios, numbers of library books per pupil, distance travelled to school, support for athletic programs and per-pupil spending. These are all inputs. A step up is evaluating outcomes: literacy levels, graduation rates, college success, post-graduation levels of employment. Very necessary to consider if one is going to fall back on the standard of "separate but equal."
Bob (San Francisco)
If you want to end racism the first step is to stop giving preferential treatment based on race. Period.
TonyP (New Jersey)
@Bob "The first step"??? I would think that voting rights, political disempowerment, segregation, lending practices, home ownership opportunities, environmental racism, criminal justice system, health care disparities, and, well, lynchings... might be better first steps...
617to416 (Ontario via Massachusetts)
@Bob This works only if you can change the way individuals think and act. Until you can eradicate racism from people's minds, you need affirmative action.
GBR (The Northeast)
I never support treating individuals differently based on an immutable characteristic they are born with (I.e. sex, skin color.) Thus, I believe that males and females must have equal control under the law of their own bodies and internal organs ( I’m adamantly in favor of abortion rights). And I believe that all individuals should be judged on their personal merits and achievements when it comes to school admissions ( I’m against affirmative action.)
Mike Livingston (Philadelphia)
It’s going to happen. Good thing too. It’s not the 1970s any more
Andrew Kennelly (Redmond, WA)
If I were a member of a demographic cohort that benefits from affirmative action, or anything similar to it, I think I would be one of the biggest opponents of it. I would not want to go through life wondering if I got that college admissions spot, that job, that promotion, that government contract, or was spared from being laid off, only because of my demographic cohort. And I would not want to go through life knowing that behind my back and in whispered conversations in the cafeteria, others were wondering the same thing.
Jim (Poughkeepsie)
@Andrew Kennelly Because white people don't have the self-awareness to go through life wondering if they got the job, the promotion, the slot at Harvard because they were white and the other candidate was not.
LMartin (UT/FL)
The author is conflating 2 very different issues. We can all agree with respect to public schools and services, segregation is improper. This is a very different issue than “affirmative action” in competitive schools. There, it is fair to question whether the role of merit, in arts, athletics, or scholarship, should be diminished with respect to the social issues du jour. And of course, what many are loathe to point out, one will often question whether the beneficiaries of affirmative action are as capable as those accepted with such benefit, or largesse.
Dave (Westwood)
@LMartin If the institution is private (as Harvard is) and not government owned, why should it not be allowed to set its own admission standards.? After all, SCOTUS ruled that a baker in Colorado could refuse to bake for people the baker disapproves of. If affirmative action is discrimination and not legal, how can the case of the baker be allowed to stand?
EFh (Louisville)
Affirmative action was not intended to last forever, that would be an admission of an inherent difference in racial abilities. It was meant to bring economic and political parity between racial groups. Has that parity been accomplished? The popularity of candidates such as Donald Trump would suggest that it has not. White privilege is still a powerful and destructive force in our country.
Hank (Idaho)
@EFh How, then, do you explain that the greatest number of Poor people in America are what you would label "White" and that their generational poverty extends back hundred of years ? Whence their White Privilege ?
Phil (Tennessee)
@EFh "White privilege is still a powerful and destructive force in our country." In a country that elected a Black man president twice.
KM (Pittsburgh)
@EFh Has it ever occurred to you that the presence of programs like affirmative action is one of the reasons Trump was elected?
J. Waddell (Columbus, OH)
The concept of affirmative action was to aggressively seek out and recruit individuals who had previously been overlooked because of racism, poverty, etc. That has largely been accomplished and I doubt that Harvard et al have problems with too few Blacks applying. If we are going to provide preferential treatment to anyone it should be to disadvantaged individuals, who may not have the academic preparation that their wealthier counterparts have. But it makes no sense to provide racial preferences for, say, the Obama kids.
ManhattanWilliam (East Village, NYC)
I despise the conservative makeup of the Supreme Court, but I have never supported Affirmative Action. Penalizing talented individuals (people!) as a way to combat inequality is not an acceptable solution in my opinion, it's as simple as that. Academic performance as gauged by colorblind standards is the only way to be as equitable as possible. Bring on questions of race or money and you're doomed to have more and not less FAIRNESS in decisions of whom to admit and whom to reject.
Alan Backman (New York)
The differing views in affirmative action go to the heart of how liberals vs the rest of the country see the world. "The article highlights the liberal basis for affirmative action due to the “failure to acknowledge the realities and consequences of persistent anti-Black racism in our society.” Note that this explanation dispenses with the facade in Grutter that affirmative action promotes diversity which benefits us all. Rather, the liberal rationale is at its core compensatory. There is no question that blacks have been harmed in the past. So in this view, affirmative action which provides discrimination in favor of blacks is permissible. The interesting point is that many of these same proponents also argue for majoritarian democracy. However, polls have consistently shown that the majority disagree with preference in higher education admission. It also seems strange that even liberals acknowledge that affirmative action should be legal - but only for 25 years after Grutter. This sounds more like an accommodation than a legal basis rooted in the Constitution. Instead, most hold the view that we are all Americans. We may have different skin color. And yes, we may have been mistreated in the past. But we can't relive past mistakes. Especially when no one alive today is either perpetrator or victim. We can only move forward.
KM (Pittsburgh)
Discrimination by race is unconstitutional. Affirmative action is just discrimination by race. Every prior supreme court judgement has acknowledged this, but then let it stand because the justices' political ideologies wanted it to continue. Those prior judgements are a farce. The law is clear, and I'm glad it's finally going to be enforced. No racism means no racism, whether it's the bad kind or the "good" kind.
Richard (Louisiana)
There can be--and should be--no purely objective way to determine college admissions. The quest for diversity is admirable, but when based on race, it is unconstitutional. And it is grossly unfair when a black applicant whose father is a lawyer, whose mother is a physician, and who attended the best private schools gets preferential treatment. For the elite schools, perhaps the model is what Oxford and Cambridge do--admission is based strictly on which students are judged to best take advantage of the type of tutorial-style education those universities offer. In their admissions process, they do not care about diversity for the sake of diversity, legacies, star athletes, class presidents, or extracurricular activities unless the activity bears on academic potential. The criteria are strictly the rigor of secondary education, test scores, and the all-important interview, though the family background and prior schools attended can be considered in determining the academic potential of applicants. And the truth is that an applicant from a working-class background whose scores are a bit lower may well have greater potential to excel at the university level than applicants who have had every advantage growing up.
William Smith (Landrum, SC)
Unless we wish to continue the "dumbing down" of our population, higher education institutions must use achievement to select students. The only thing diversity has achieved in higher education is fewer people capable of leading our society in the right direction.
Ari Platt (NYC)
even o'connor said that there ought to be no need for racial discrimination affirmative action 25 years after the last ruling. the Left is utterly obsessed with affirmative action and according to its logic, i can't imagine it ending ever, unless we reach nirvana where all racial groups are represented perfectly equally. all the trade-offs and evils of affirmative action are blithely ignored. it's the most dishonest debate i have ever seen. it doesn't even occur to the Left that racial discrimination in the schools is a bizarre exception- in any other endeavor in life, this kind of bias would be disgraceful and illegal.
Alan Backman (New York)
Unfortunately, even should Harvard lose in court, I doubt that it and its peer schools will accept a prohibition on racial preference in admission. These schools are very powerful and are equally confident in their own moral certitude. Instead, it's likely that they will seek proxies for race. The College Board has facilitated this subterfuge with its "Adversity Dashboard". Some of its elements focus on income; and there is certainly more popular support for giving the poor a boost in admissions. However, many of its elements including crime, single-parent status and even urban vs rural are arguably just racial preference cloaked in a powerpoint presentation. Heather Mac Donald, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute called the College Board's plan "a back door to racial quotas in college admissions." https://www.insidehighered.com/admissions/article/2019/05/20/college-board-will-add-adversity-score-everyone-taking-sat
Jordan (Melbourne FL)
@Alan Backman A back door that also will be sued into submission and out of our society.
Jinbo (NYC)
So long as education is a scarce and limited resource, “affirmative action” is a zero sum game. One person’s gain is another’s loss. No way around that. Seems to me the people being asked to step aside ought to have a voice in that bargain - as in being able to say “no thank you”. We would do better to focus on expanding educational opportunity for all and everyone, rather than artificially doling it out in accordance with fashion and as a salve for unaddressed historical and current inequities.
Doug McDonald (Champaign, Illinois)
@Jinbo "Higher" education is not a scarce and limited resource. It fact, it actually overabundant enough that quite respectable colleges are going bankrupt. What's scarce is top-level schools with top level faculty and students, and graduates that are well ranked by grade and professor evaluation. By "well-ranked" I mean that prospective employers known that while the bottom ranked ones are quite OK, the top ones are really really specially good (read: Nobel Prize level physicists and Supreme Court level lawyers) and middle ranked ones really middle. To have such a college, one really does have to discriminate in student admissions on the basis of merit, not anything else. Several formerly top schools have seriously sullied their reputations in the last 20 years.
George (NYC👍)
When diversity usurps merit, no one wins. The discrimination towards Asian Americans in admission to Ivy League Schools is appalling and indefensible. We’re rapidly approaching an outright quota system.
Alex Knisely (London)
If Ms Greenhouse' commitments elsewhere leave her time, might you invite her to write for you more often ? I miss her voice.
S. Mitchell (Mich.)
Someday this argument will seem as ridiculous as bustle skirts. We will have a world where “ races” are mixed and people cannot be categorized by a color. Fifty shades of whatever. Just a glorious dream?
Ami (California)
If racial equity is just, what about religious equity?
Mack (New England)
In the South, HBCUs are having to give preference to White students to create more diversity. Several top state-funded HBCUs in North Carolina can actually compete for students with academic programs on par with some of the best non-HBCUs.
Molora (California)
If the court overturns Bakke and says no to affirmative action, will it make a distinction between Harvard, a private school, and UNC, a public school? The Masterpiece Cakeshop and Hobby Lobby cases gave enormous weight to private organizations to discriminate based on religious principles. I would think that this SCOTUS would look similarly to the right of Harvard, a private entity, to discriminate if it so chooses. But if it does hold that Harvard cannot use race as an admissions tool even if Harvard says it is doing so for moral reasons, then it would also hold that Liberty University and Notre Dame would not be able to use religion as a basis for admissions. Or, is the Court going to attempt to distinguish between what is a moral belief and what is a religious belief? If so, it is going to find itself in a nice little intellectual pickle when it gets to rule on the two new cases being brought by Jewish entities claiming that states' abortion denial violates the Jewish belief that the life of a mother should be protected over that of the fetus.
Dave (Westwood)
@Molora "if it does hold that Harvard cannot use race as an admissions tool even if Harvard says it is doing so for moral reasons, then it would also hold that Liberty University and Notre Dame would not be able to use religion as a basis for admissions." But discrimination by Evangelical Protestants and Catholics is OK according the the court ... after all, 6 of the justices are Catholic and a plurality of Republicans are Evangelical Protestants. Both want to declare the US a "Christian nation," although they have quite different visions as to which version "Christianity" it would be.
Saints Fan (Houston, TX)
@Dave Catholic Universities don't discriminate on the basis of faith. The schools you mentioned, do they take federal money?
Talbot (New York)
I've been reading a lot on this--some very interesting stuff. Black students who enrolled as STEM majors in colleges where their qualifications matched those of other students, regardless of race, were as likely to stay STEM majors and graduate with a degree in that subject as anybody else. Black students admitted to colleges with scores and grades much lower than white or Asian students ie as affirmative action admissions were much more likely to switch from STEM majors to easier ones, less likely to graduate with a STEM degree, and more likely to drop out altogether. The greater the gap between Black admissions scores/grades and white/Asian ones, the more likely the school had separate Black dorms, support groups, clubs, etc. Affirmative action appears to increase rather than decrease many of the things it was supposed to help.
Sue (New Jersey)
@Alex We need to focus on encouraging strong, two-parent families raising their children to value education.
Alex (Durham, NC)
@Talbot Affirmative action has always been a band-aid solution that tries to fix issues on the back end. As you point out if a student who isn't as well prepared is let into a school they often fail to do well. The much harder, but more important work, is taking care of the structural issues in our educational system and society that lead to so many black children being behind to begin with. We really need to focus on early childhood education and early elementary school if we want to close achievement gaps for students entering college.
Meg (Illinois)
@Talbot First off, correlation does not imply causation. Not to be cynical, but affirmative action as it is carried out, and understanding how to maximally support students under its auspices are two entirely different things. A school may be committed to a diverse student body through its admissions process, but that does not mean it is actually capable of or actually committed to maximizing the success of those students once they arrive on campus.
Thomas Sullivan (Kentucky)
Affirmative action in higher education admissions is a zero sum game. If one person is admitted on a racial preference, another is discriminated against on the basis of their race. I would hope that civil rights law would not allow this.
lehomme (marin1950)
@Thomas Sullivan "... If one person is admitted on a racial preference..." No one is admitted to ANY American university due to "racial preference". AA simply allows race to be ONE of the factors considered during the admissions process. Given the fact that racial preference was used to Deny black Americans such admissions well into the 1960s (at least) - AA is simply acknowledging that race has ALWAYS been an admissions factor. The difference now is that it is sometimes used as ONE factor - whereas historically it has been used as the ONLY factor - to the exclusive benefit of white Americans.
joe (atl)
Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson is correct. The 14th Amendment was never written to be race neutral. The entire point of the amendment was to secure the rights of the freed slaves, all of whom were Black. A race neutral interpretation of the equal protecion clause allowed the Court to outlaw de jure school segregationi in 1954, but the amendment was never intended to block laws that favored the former slaves.
FATSO (Uterus)
I genuinely hope this current Court kills affirmative action. Universities have a finite number of seats in their freshman classes. If a certain percentage of seats are reserved for a particular favored group, that means that innocent students are being deprived of their fair chance at a seat. When the favored group is a particular race, religion or ethnic group, that is illegal discrimination. Period. Full stop. Our finest schools should attract the finest minds, the hardest working students, etc. Meritocracy works. Racism does not.
Blossom (The Buckeye State)
@FATSO Why exactly are you assuming the black students being admitted are unqualified?? Innocent students?? As opposed to what, exactly?? Are you implying that the black students are somehow immoral??
LTC RML (Phoenix)
@FATSO - Race neutral. You get in on merit or go elsewhere. The application should have a number associated with the applicant. No photo, no race, no color, no name. Scores, tests, essays, (no reference to race, color, or gender) activities, music, sports, no reference to money. See what happens. Let the best rise to the top so we can compete in the world. Years ago when I took tests in law school -we were assigned a number no name. Same for the Bar. No name on the test just a number. You passed or you did not. Ask yourself do you care what color your brain surgeon is or what gender or race. important if the surgeon is certified and did the surgeon pass the medical boards. Follow this through for engineers, doctors, bridge builders, pilots, and others who hold life in their hands. you only care about the Pilot's ability not the color. Focus on merit and let it play out. Survival of the best will prevail over time. Work hard, study, overcome and adapt. Just be color, race, and gender blind in admissions. Be civil and fair but allow the best to rise.
VH (Iowa)
Most arguments against affirmative action presented by readers are really claiming that College admissions need to work through a fictitious notion of meritocracy. As an educator, I can tell you that it is impossible to assess a student’s college application and determine whether they will become a great thinker because the traits that lead to excellence are not solely based on the quality of one’s high school preparation. However, there is no doubt that students from distinct identities and socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds challenge their classmates and bring value to classroom experiences. I would never go to a surgeon who was not exposed to humans who are different from themselves. Boatloads of studies of medical practices back up my concerns, as male-dominated medicine ignored the medical concerns of women for decades and white-dominated medicine continues to poorly serve patients with different racial identities. Why are black women (in studies that control for health and socioeconomic status) still more likely to die in childbirth? Because doctors have not been asked to confront their own racial bias. Education (including ethnic studies) and conversation with diverse colleagues lead to a better understanding of patients and better patient outcomes. I do not know if affirmative action programs are the best solution, but I do know that all students at schools (and people of all professions) will suffer if we lose the diversity of voices in our classrooms.
Chris (Boston)
As always, Linda Greenhouse offers comment that every law professor and every judge should read. Our society, almost every time something was done constructively to offer real economic opportunity to many, too many white folks pushed back. Do you think racist white folks welcomed, for example, Lincoln's push for land-grant universities, the rise of providing public school funding so all public schools in a given state had sufficient funds, etc.? Why did they push back? Because they never were, never wanted to be "color blind." The irony is rich that, now, racists still say, with straight faces, that they believe in being color blind, and quote, with equally straight faces, Dr. King's dream about everyone being judged only by content of their character. How about we try, at least start, by tapping the vast wealth of the United States, through our federal government to provide comparable funding for public elementary schools throughout all 50 states? Affirmative action includes providing affirmative, positive opportunities for all. We have the means, but what stops us is too many mean people in Congress and, alas, it looks like more will join them. I fear that the arc is bending less toward justice.
M (Atlanta)
The whole article is basically a series of tortured arguments as to how it is warranted to fight racism with racism. Ibrahim Kendi himself put it most succinctly that "the only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination". But how does discriminating against asians make up for whatever historic grievance which might exist between black and white people. This whole obsession with skin color, and essentializing race at the expense of everything else, demeans all people. The goal in any just society should be fairness and equality based on merit. I also favor equity practices based on such measures like economic circumstance. Then any group which is disproportionately poor will automatically derive the most benefit, without being stigmatized due to skin color.
AbsurdThoughts (OK)
Is it any surprise that a nation founded on race-based slavery, that fought many wars for slavery and spent hundreds of years building legal justifications for its race-based slavery, still, to this day, struggles with the concept of being fair and equitable to those it has so long abused? Oh, ye who reap the reward yet pay not the cost...
Nick (California)
The Parents Involved decision, applying to K-12, is under appreciated and widely ignored by school districts, which adopt policies in blatant disregard of that case.
Concerned About Democracy (Willis Texas)
Well, without affirmative action in the last few decades, do you really think blacks, other minorities, and women would be employed in many industries? NOT. The white male control of business would have never yielded to women anything above secretaries. Most women would still be resigned to be housewifes, nurses, waitresses, clerical workers and teachers.
mj (seattle)
"Justice Thomas quoted Justice Harlan’s “our Constitution is colorblind” language from his Plessy dissent in the last paragraph of his 31-page opinion, which was mainly a passionate expression of his view that affirmative action has hurt rather than helped African Americans." Funny that Thomas seems to believe that he was appointed to the court solely because of his qualifications and his skin color had nothing to do with it.
Ed (Texas)
The title is misleading. Getting rid of affirmative action was never unthinkable. It always made sense for most Americans, including for people of color. Most of us (I’m Latino) find it stigmatizing and fundamentally unfair.
Maria Rodriguez (Buda, texas)
Most of todays problems related to race arise from housing segregation. Most of the efforts by those who espouse a color-blind society do not complain when race is used to segregate people into specific neighborhoods. Those who live in minority ghettos cannot access good schools. Those who live in ghettos are more likely not to have representation. Those who live in ghettos are denied access to the cultural live of the general community. Those who live in ghettos don't have access to healthy food choices. Those who live in ghettos live under greater fearing stress, which effects how they do in school. Those who live in ghettos come from families who have never gone to college. So if you truly want a color blind society, start with outlawing segregated communities and schools. If you don't do that are not serious; you are just providing another hurdle to keep those you don't understand out of your neighborhoods. Access to higher education means access to integrated neighborhoods, and access to all those places they don't want minorities to access. We once tried to place a bus stop near a mall where affluent people shopped. The community did everything to keep that stop from being placed because then "those people from bad side of town can come into our communities." And one more point: those who think Affirmative Action equals lowered standards are blind to the fact that most of the politicians they vote for have the world in a mess!
Blue Dog (Hartford)
The sooner the Court ditches any consideration of race, and returns to the principle of a colorblind Constitution, the better.
Canceled Normalman (South Florida)
Affirmative action is explicit racial discrimination. It blatantly violates the Equal Protection Clause, and should never have been allowed.
Dave (Westwood)
@Canceled Normalman "It blatantly violates the Equal Protection Clause" Then how could SCOTUS decide that a baker in Colorado is allowed to refuse to bake for people whose life style the baker dislikes? Yes, the baker operated a private business, but then Harvard s a private, not public, university.
Valerie (California)
Based on the arguments here, it seems that equal protection doesn't apply to Asian students. Harvard discriminated (discriminates?) against Asian students because they score lower on metrics like "positive personality,” likability, courage, kindness and being “widely respected."* Harvard is aware of its bias against Asian students, but this time, it's different. This time, the quotas are there to favor non-Asian minority students. Ergo, THESE quotas are noble. I wish I could understand why some Americans believe that the answer to discrimination is more discrimination. I wish that Americans who claim that all Whites are priviliged could see that their view is racist (and shows stunning ignorance). I wish they could understand that this rhetoric helps elect people like Trump, Youngkin, and MTG. I wish we could end ALL admissions biases (no legacies, etc.), substituting transparent merit-based admissions (like Ireland, France, Brooklyn Tech). I wish we could end our national obsession with superficial traits like skin color. I wish our society was more cooperative and less willing to worship the pursuit of wealth. But I know I'm dreaming. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/15/us/harvard-asian-enrollment-applicants.html
Bill Brasky (USA)
"Originalists" never even conceived that people of color had rights as citizens, let alone affirmative action rights. Another one bites the dust cementing trump's legacy as the most consequential president since FDR.
Benjamin Greco (Belleville, NJ)
What an amazing sleight of hand by Ms. Greenhouse. Write an article condemning the plaintiffs in the case of Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President & Fellows of Harvard without mentioning the facts of the case. By comically making the argument that the whole thing is about Brown vs Board of Education, because of one part of the brief she skirts the issues of the current case very neatly. She can’t talk about the facts of the case because they lay bare the injustice that has always surrounded affirmative action. This case also lays bare the absurdity of identity politics and far left anti-racism. You can't correct one injustice by creating another. It is immoral. And it can lead to doing an injustice to the wrong people. It is time to end affirmative action. It sounds nuts but Harvard is discriminating against one historically harmed racial minority, Chinese Americans, to help another historically harmed racial minority, African Americans, while the rich white applicants are left alone. It is nuts that liberals are on board with this policy. Of course, rich white liberals, despite their virtue signaling, have always been mostly concerned with other peoples’ white privilege instead of their own. When affirmative action was first introduced in the seventies it was supposed to last 15 years that we are still using it to help African Americans 40 years later is not a sign of white supremacy it is a sign that affirmative action is a policy that has failed.
Matt blanc (AZ)
We have all experienced terrible applications of Affirmative Action at the hands of uninspired HR staff, biased ‘diversity consultants,’ and poor managers. All of these practical experiences have affected our understanding of the laws and what they were meant to do. I once worked for a very wealthy South American who had gotten a government job based on this ‘Hispanic’ surname. He despised the poor Mexican migrant workers who used the Head Start program he headed up. I sat through diversity training that began with a minority consultant telling all of the whites in the room that we were racist, and who left our organization in far worse condition than before the so-called training. I heard white managers complain that they couldn’t supervise minority staff because the HR department wouldn’t let them fire people (all hogwash, but that was eaten up by angry white employees.). I’m not opposed to taking multiple criteria into account when hiring or accepting students. But dropping the poorly designed rules of AA onto an inherently biased and prejudiced society didn’t work.
everydayispoetry (Syracuse NY)
Affirmative action discriminates against those whose parents are the "wrong" race. Legacy admissions discriminate against all those who parents went to a different school, or didn't go to college. Both are horribly unjust, and both should be eliminated.
Joe (NY)
Discrimination by another name is still discrimination.
Dr B (San Diego)
Isn't it telling that Ms. Greenhouse requires 18 paragraphs in her attempt to get around the obviousness of what equal protection under the law means?
Robert M (Durham, NC)
If affirmative action is ruled unconstitutional, and logically any system that ends up favoring one group over another is some form of affirmative action, then any school that does not admit a perfect cross section of the population demographic is therefor discriminating. Let the lawsuits begin!
HooBoy (Bay Area)
If an answer to affirmative action is equality in K-12 education, then as a country we are doing a bad job of it. Equal educational resources across all communities would go a long way toward making affirmative action unnecessary.
Sue (New Jersey)
@HooBoy Community efforts are great but nothing, I repeat nothing, can make up for an inadequate upbringing. And poverty is not the issue - present and committed-to-education parents are the deal breaker.
KM (Pittsburgh)
@HooBoy Many of the worst performing school districts are the ones with the greatest resources, see NYC, DC, Chicago, Baltimore. Almost every state has top-up mechanisms to equalize funding for poor areas. In NJ, school funding is redistributed at the state level, and schools with poor students get more funding. The same gaps remain. There's no point in throwing more money down a hole when there's no evidence that current money is being well spent.
ARL (New York)
@Sue Poverty is still the issue for those not in Title 1 districts -- those districts have enough cash to offer AP and DE for free to their students, as well as honors science and math. Those districts slightly 'richer' do not have the funding, and their capable students are told to move or buy their own internet based classes. That means college is a 2+3 plan, mostly full pay....not affordable especially when the parents waited to have children and are in their prime earning years.
Jennifer (VT)
If, by a miracle, all public K through 12 schools were to provide equally excellent content and instruction to every student, regardless of race and gender, outcomes would still be variable as students bring varying native abilities to the school on the first day of preK. Until we have equally excellent content and instruction, parents and their students will be claiming unfairness when their children don't get accepted to their dream college or fail to complete programs that have the highest career incomes. Students who find themselves over their heads in extremely difficult programs should stop blaming the programs, instructors, race, gender, etc., for their struggles and failures. At some point in life, each of us must reckon with his\her individual set of intellectual skills\talents. That reckoning is called growing up. Once the reckoning occurs, each of us can make become adult. Better guidance counseling might help students achieve that reckoning before students rack up failures and debt. The suspicion that the system is "rigged" infects not only our politics but also our education system. The only way to dispel the suspicion that higher education is rigged against any group or groups is through equally excellent content and instruction in every K through 12 school.
@Jennifer 99.9% agree with you -- but the suspicion that the system is "rigged" is because of human nature, IMO. Even if our K-12 schools were like what you describe, some parent would jostle to get their kid at the head of the line "first among equals". Hence, legacy admissions. Hence the industry that SAT exam-taking is today, the plethora of AP courses, every Tom Dick & Harry doing "community service" (done at my Catholic high school in the 1970s as a nod to the Catholic faith and Matthew 25), etc.
Jennifer (VT)
@CMD you’re likely right …. So would you say that humans are inherently elitist until they’re not elite?
Immigrant (Texas)
Affirmative action is racist. consider, one child is black, raised in stable two parent home, father is a successful doctor, mother is a successful professional, they are extremely rich, parents provide stable home environment and stress education, child succeeds at K-12 consider, another child is white, raised by a single immigrant mother, father is a drug addict in and out of jail, mother provides stable home environment and stresses education, they are barely middle class and definitely not rich, child succeeds at K-12 The black child has an exponentially better chance of getting into Harvard than does the white child based solely on skin color who is to say both children do not bring “diversity” to the learning environment. Yet, the white child will automatically be punished for being white and the black child rewarded meritocracy is how it should be done, with an emphasis on socio-economic and individual considerations that have nothing to do with skin color or immutably born characteristics of identity politics.
FATSO (Uterus)
@Immigrant Bravo. Well said.
Rob (Boston)
"Affirmative action" means different things in education and in employment. In education, "affirmative action" means making race-conscious admission decisions intended to promote diversity among students. In employment, "affirmative action" means a program instituted to ensure that employees and job candidates are treated without regard to their race, ethnicity, or other protected categories. Making race-conscious decisions about whom to hire is explicitly not allowed. Most federal contractors are required to have affirmative action programs. The kind of affirmative action that federal contractors are doing isn't controversial. (The details of implementation may be controversial, but the overall aim is not.) I expect this is what affirmative action will look like for education starting in late June of 2024.
Rob (Boston)
@Rob I meant to write "late June of 2023."
Nycbd (NY)
Ms. Greenhouse is a brilliant writer who I have enjoyed reading for years. But this is not her best work. The Times comment section skews heavily Democrat (I am an UWS moderate Democrat) and when most comments disagree with someone taking what is basically the Democrat party line, their argument is pretty far away from the mainstream. I think that is the case here. I oppose affirmative action as it is currently constructed. Someone should not get preferences because they can check a box. As Justice O'Connor noted, we are now more than a generation into affirmative action, so at some point the cascading benefits should stop. The children of wealthy minorities coming from the best schools with unlimited opportunities should not get special benefits. A huge portion of these minority students would have gotten in without checking the box, so it creates a sense of uncertainty whether they truly deserved to be there or not. I am supportive of prioritizing those who have had challenging backgrounds, and this is why many schools include essays in their applications. But there is no box to check for this. Similarly, gerrymandering electoral districts to create desired results, whether they are racial or political, should also be disallowed. Those who want racial gerrymanders but not political ones are being truly disingenuous.
Sequel (Boston)
The argument over whether affirmative action in admissions is either inimical or complementary to equal protection seems like a needless constitutional exploration. The standing reasoning holds that remedial action justifies time-dependent remediation supported by empirical testing and eventual termination. That still seems self-evident.
Jerry Langer (Highland Park, NJ)
Sadly, for many of us who focus on promoting diversity in academia, and particularly run programs that use race and ethnicity (among other criteria) to try to bring students from under-represented groups into science, an overturning of affirmative action has rarely been "unthinkable". There has always been an under-current of having our programs under attack.
KM (Pittsburgh)
@Jerry Langer Your programs are under attack because they are racist and unconstitutional.
Phil (Tennessee)
@Jerry Langer "try to bring students from under-represented groups into science" That's an admirable goal. But are you saying you can't find qualified Black students that are eager to pursue that career? Saying there are no Black students qualified for a career in science without reducing the requirements is profoundly racist and demeaning. I have met some extraordinarily bright and eager Black students that I'm sure will do well without requiring Affirmative Action.
B (Washington, DC)
The best thing about affirmative action going extinct is not having to read so much vitriol about it almost all every day. The number of colleges/universities that are selective enough to need affirmative action is so small as to almost be meaningless. And the number of seats that will “open up” for people’s little angels will be negligible. Once AA is gone, tens of thousands of your little angels will still get rejected from the colleges they want. Hopefully, these kids and their parents will then develop their characters instead of looking for minority scapegoats to blame when they do not get what they want. This whole debate is silly and distracts from the death of democracy.
Dave (Philadelphia, PA)
Affirmative Action policies might be flawed in many ways and even unfair at times but have been very effective in facilitating a huge and growing Black middle class since the 50's and 60's. Race relations are still in need of improvements but if something is working why change it.
Maverick (NY)
The parties are litigating how a holding on ending racial segregation in schools applies to the practice of discriminating on racial grounds in school admissions. How is that unthinkable?
Dave Kelsen (Montana)
I am, and have always been in favor of affirmatyive action with respect to schools; it seems clear that our society in general benefits from exposure to diverse aspects of itself. That said, it is difficult to fault the logic expressed by the Chief Justice when he opined that the way to end race-based discrimination is to end race-based discrimination. The fact is that our society is still laden (and in my opinion, will continue to be for at least a couple more generations) with the results of race-based discrimination. I think the time for tearing down the ladders of affirmative action is after we have achieved a more equitable domain.
Don (Keninitz)
@Dave Kelsen You state "it seems clear". It may be clear to you, but it's not to many of the rest of us. To us, it appears to be an attempt to create an illusion of something that isn't really true.
Joshua Schwartz (Ramat Gan)
Re universities, if affirmative action is a problem, then legacies are a bigger one. If one goes the other goes. (Personally I would get rid of athletic "scholarships", but just breathing the idea arouses antagonism in the US). The universities are guilty of causing some of the ill feeling towards affirmative action. When it suits them, white incorporates other groups that are not really white. "Asian", e.g., is composed of many different groups. Many though have traditions that encourage academic excellence and parents push children and children push themselves. But white they are not. And there was a great deal of discrimination against qualified Asians. There are or should be limits to the extent of affirmative action and the potential for academic success and potential should be the major guidelines.
Mike S. (Eugene, OR)
I read this after reading Bret Stephens. The last line applies to both and to the world today, " the gap between the unthinkable and the real is very short, and shrinking fast."
Phil (Tennessee)
@Mike S. Frankly, it's unthinkable to me that in 2022 after electing a Black man president twice and with many Black CEOs, we're still discriminating in favor of Blacks at the expense of other racial/ethnic groups.
PPersch (Cheshire CT)
If only there was a true way to determine fitness for college. No standardized test can claim that. I have personally seen highly "qualified" students fail in college even from prestigious high schools. I have also encountered supposedly qualified students who cheated or bought their way in. [I was rejected by MIT and Stanford as an undergraduate. After a great academic career, both offered me graduate positions. The admissions process is a crystal ball, not an SAT number.]
Sue (New Jersey)
@PPersch Standardized tests are a great tool, along with teacher/community member recommendations, job history, etc. Claiming they're of no use is nonsense.
Ben (Akron)
The problem starts with universities/colleges deemed 'elite,' practically guaranteeing a 6- figure income for the rest of one's life if successfully completed. That right there strikes me as discrimination against 'lower-rated' colleges. I have a law degree from the Erasmus University of Rotterdam, The Netherlands (more than 50 years ago, never practiced), but nobody in the whole of western Europe ever told me they were not worthy. I've since lived in the US more than 36 years, so I like to think I can judge this society pretty well. This entire undertaking to get rid of affirmative action is just a political scam, like so many other Scotus decisions lately.
Don (Keninitz)
@Ben They are deemed elite by those that wish to attend them, and hence those are the people that are "discriminating" by your logic (with discrimination a pejorative in your usage, when it's true meaning regards the ability to distinguish one thing from another). An institution can't simply anoint itself elite: the masses determine whether to apply that moniker.
Bobbo (Erie)
Their should be some kind of equalization but current forms, like SAT point shaving, have questionable outcomes. UC Berkeley recently had it's highest drop out and academic probation rates in the year(s) following it's reducing of SAT scores in the hierarchy of admission requirements. This seemed like the offloading of political ideals and imagery that politicians and administrators gained from onto young shoulders whose misery and disillusionment were never taken into consideration. Some who would otherwise place in the top 5% at other schools, perfectly good universities with good reputations, either transferred or left college altogether over the experience. Programs like the Harlem Education initiative, that addressed issues at the high school level quite successfully, and improved SAT scores ended up making teachers look very bad and it stayed off the front pages. (It required some teachers to give a few extra hours each week, which was paid work but still found most unwilling to take it on.) Its Black Harvard creator was suddenly re-accused of inappropriate fraternization with a post grad, something that happened many years previously for which he was already disciplined. It smacked of hardball coming from teachers organizations. It sullied pretty well every productive thing he achieved and his tenure was in jeopardy.
Julie (Illinois)
For true equality we need to fund public k-12 at the state level. Local property taxes should no longer be used. Ban private schools or cap their tuition so they’re affordable to the average family. AA didn’t fix inequality: it was a bandaid for not equalizing school funding.
DuckSoup (Anatidae)
@Julie Maintaining a stable population of 200 million was the only fix. That ship sailed and t'aint coming back to port. This was what the U.S. was in the 1960s before the country embarked on a mad open door increase of poor from the developing world. At now 350 million (335 + another 20-40 million of illegals, per Yale/MIT), we are now the world's 3rd most populated nation on the planet, behind only India and China. All of those increases over the last 50 years are at the bottom. This is why American wages have stagnated and the rest rolled downhill as well. This is why America was #1 educationally and now is closing in on #30. It's not for lack of throwing money at the bottom. Public schools receiving the most money per student via other people's income/taxes and getting the least results in return are in all the largest dysfunctional U.S. cities. Fair and equal is baseline holding accountable all economic levels of parents for their actions and choice to have children they cannot even begin to feed, clothe, shelter and educate without someone else doing all of that for them.
F1Driver (Chicago)
Maybe if the goal is equality and not equity. Agreed on state pooling of funds for public education. But banning private schools? What’s next in the name of equality? Outlaw private homes and everybody gets an apartment and drives a Lada?
Steve M (Doylestown, PA)
Affirmative action has been practiced for half a century. We must by now have enough data to quantify the results. How well has it worked? Linda Greenhouse writes as an expert in law and legal history. She writes extremely well. However, a primary intent of Affirmative action is sociological improvement. If it has done more good than harm (by spurring resentment), then that should be offered in support of the legal argument.
617to416 (Ontario via Massachusetts)
Canada has a more modern Charter of Rights. The US, unfortunately, has a Constitution written in pre-modern times. Here's the Canadian approach. Note subsection 2. This is what the law should do. In the US, though, it's up to the opinions of a handful of justices about the opinions of long dead people. Equality Rights 15 (1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability. (2) Subsection (1) does not preclude any law, program or activity that has as its object the amelioration of conditions of disadvantaged individuals or groups including those that are disadvantaged because of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.End note (85)
W.A. Spitzer (Faywood, NM)
@617to416 ...Define disadvantaged. Who gets to decide whether someone is disadvantaged and why? It seems to me as soon as you deviate from some fixed measure of meritocracy, it all because arbitrary and even whimsical. I suppose you might even argue that the chosen measure of meritocracy is arbitrary, but at least it would be a fixed standard which everyone, would have to meet.
2 words: Made in America! (New Orleans)
Interesting to note that it appears: 1) most commenters and respondents to this piece are against affirmative action for a host of reasons 2) they are by definition subscribers to the NYT 3) as such they skew left and/or Democrat 4) it is a conservative court that is rectifying that constitutional wrong of affirmative action 5) a court that Democrats tell us is illegitimate and needs to be packed or otherwise fundamentally changed.
Hank (Idaho)
If it is the case that the color of one's skin should not determine any form of discrimination, which it is according to the Constitution, then to discriminate in favor or against an applicant because of their skin color is Un-Constitutional. How is that neither Caltech or MIT discriminate, like Harvard and North Carolina do, against Asian applicants ? How is it that Asian Americans are not seen as worthy of "Minority Status" by Harvard ? Colleges could and should, if they want True Diversity, seek to admit a Full Spectrum of students via Family Income. The vast majority of students at Harvard come from the wealthier families. A student from a small farming town in Idaho, who is very capable, is a far better choice, in terms of Diversity, for Harvard to accept than "Minority" students whose parents are doctors and lawyers. I know, because I was one of them. Economic Stratification is the actual " Ism " in America. The Poor are treated as 4th class citizens and their voices are rarely heard. If the Supreme Court wishes to rule in favor of Affirmative Action, let it rule in favor of the Poor.
@Hank Exactly. And we can go on to widen the definition of "diversity". Too often it's narrowly defined as based on skin color only. We need more diversity among the classes (let's face it, we have social classes here in the US even if the official line is that we don't), need more diversity among ages, body sizes, abilities, etc. -- the list goes on.
W.A. Spitzer (Faywood, NM)
@Hank ..."Colleges could and should, if they want True Diversity, seek to admit a Full Spectrum of students via Family Income."....I see where you are going, but isn't that in its own way just as arbitrary. And just why is there some sort of diversity advantage to airline pilots, cutting edge scientists, or Olympic competitors in the 100 m finals. Meritocracy needs to prevail at some level.
The Owl (New England)
@Hank... You make a fine point. But in the lexicon of many. including those hanging dangerously off the left end of the political spectrum, "black" is the exclusively descriptive term that applies to the concept of "poor". Debate on the point is not allowed.
Crusader Rabbit (Jacksonville, FL)
The argument against affirmative action is that it offers admission to schools based on race or ethnicity rather than scholarship. But, athletic recruiting deprives scholars of seats awarded to somebody who can make a 3-point shot or toss a football and even provides scholarships, taking away from a school's financial resources. Legacy admissions also often deprive the better scholar of a seat in favor of children of wealthy alumni in hopes of garnering alumnus contributions & perpetuating the upper classes. Nobody seems to have problems with these cases of lesser scholars displacing better ones. But, add race and ethnicity measures of affirmative action and half the country is suddenly outraged at the "injustice." Yet, affirmative action is a weak attempt to make up for the fact that many poor black students had been condemned to an inferior pre-college education and could well have shown themselves equal scholars if they had had the opportunities to get a quality K-12 education. Hmmmm.... Makes you wonder.
Donald Green (Pennington, NJ)
So the solution to discrimination was and is imperfect. What is lost is doing something to remove the unevenness of higher education access. No one knows when any particular student-aged person is going to blossom into a significant contributor to society. It would be foolish to sweep away the opportunities not to find out. Affirmative action was meant to do that but has only had partial success. There are better ideas. They are broader in their approach. Some here have expressed rags-to-riches stories, but that is a rare commodity for those who are down and out for whatever reason. To be a successful human in society, good housing, nourishment, health care, and jobs come before a child steps into a school. The GI Bill and state support of higher education whether vocational or academic have shown the way to a better country. Yes, it takes investment but it has repeatedly been shown to have the best return. Instead of railing against each other, it's time to roll up our political sleeves and fix this problem. Growing up I always heard about American "can-do". Nowadays it seems missing in action. Let's stop punishing each other.
David (Florida)
If "society’s interest in maintaining a diverse educational environment was “compelling” , we then need to ask what a "diverse" environment means. Does this mean by skin color? and how do we judge that? By ethnicity? by economic group? What about cases of adoption? A wealthy white couple could adopt a black child and the child then grow up with all the benefits of a wealthy family, so then would that child not be black enough? What of a child of mixed race? Do we judge by one or other of the parent or by looks etc? And what makes it diverse? Is one in a group enough or equal numbers of every group?
Joshua Simon, MD (Tucson, AZ)
Diversity of thought is far more important to "diversity" than physical appearance. Do our colleges ask each applicant to write an essay on what they think are mainstream ideas and what ideas they have that differ? If they did and took the time to read these essays, then the admissions departments could really create diversity by choosing applicants from a wide variety ideas.
EF (Virginia)
Galileo (NJ)
Affirmative action is a band-aid for deeper societal ills. The real problem is that there are not enough Black and hispanic kids who meet the normal admissions criteria, so universities must lower their standards in the name of "diversity" and "equity," and discriminate against blameless Asian and white students to achieve their desired racial balance. This policy satisfies some upper class families in the "marginalized" groups whose children can gain admission to elite colleges, and the elite can fool themselves that they're doing something to correct past injustices. But instead of affirmative action, we should be looking at the reasons why too few Black and hispanic students qualify for admission under the normal standards. I'm no expert, but I think those issues have to do with lack of economic opportunity, single-parent households, bad schools, relatively high crime rates in some low-income areas, and cultural values that don't prioritize learning. These issues affect the lower and middle classes more than the educated upper classes who benefit from affirmative action. While liberal progressives tend to satisfy themselves with this superficial feel-good policy, it's the more conservative thinkers who have solutions to the underlying problem: fostering intact families, school choice, high expectations and standards, avoiding teen pregnancy, obeying the law, and jobs and respect for young men. Ian Rowe, Thomas Sowell, and Bob Woodson are examples.
Keeping it real (Cohasset, MA)
Unfortunately, a lot of what once seemed unthinkable now becoming real is the new reality of America. As usual, thanks again, Ms. Greenhouse, for your insightful reporting.
Michael (In Real America)
@Keeping it real "Unthinkable"? Give me a break. Makes for a dramatic headline but as Greenhouse admits, Grutter was always envisioned as a temporary fix. Which to me implies O'Connor knew this was unfair, but thought the unfairness was overridden by a more compelling need at the time. As a 19 year experiment it did not work and fairness to students needs to return. Time for it to go.
ASPruyn (California - Somewhere left of Center)
So a law school deciding that what sport a student played could decide their admission to that school? That would be “race neutral”, but if the law school decided to exclude basketball or football players, but allow hockey or equestrian competitors, would be OK? It’s easy to see that the percentage of hockey players who are White (78.0%) is far above the national average, while that for Blacks (6.8%) is far below their representation in our population. In college, Blacks make up 57% of all varsity football teams, far above their percentage in the general public.
Randy (Houston)
@ASPruyn Playing a particular sport or no sport does not implicate the 14th Amendment in any way, shape, or form. You could debate the morality or wisdom of your hypothetical policy, but it does not raise a constitutional question.
ASPruyn (California - Somewhere left of Center)
@Randy - As a retired Social Sciences high school teacher, with a degree in philosophy, I understand all of that. I was just pointing out that people who want to exclude Blacks from their school (and there still are a bunch of them), will be able to find enough excuses to do so. However, if Affirmative Action stays as law, it will be much harder for them to do so.
Marcy (DMV)
Long before affirmative action admissions caused a white kid to lose a spot to a similarly qualified black kid, what sort of “affirmative action” did the white parents provide for their kid at home? E. g., I’ll see requests for tutors for AP math. If that kid needs a tutor, their true ability is more regular math. The tutor is a purchase to give the kid the appearance of AP caliber. Before questioning the credentials of a black freshman, it behoves white parents to examine all the resources and extra help that gave their own kid a leg up.
Michael (In Real America)
@Marcy So white parents should be made to feel guilty if they help and support their kids education? And your underlying premise is flawed. My son needed a tutor in middle school. After getting help, he finished the highest level math classes his high-school offered, and had to take his last two years of math at a community college. He now has an engineering degree for one of the best engineering schools in the country. That happened not because of the color of his skin, but from a family culture which values education. Like Asian culture.
W.A. Spitzer (Faywood, NM)
@Marcy ....I understand your argument to a point, but why should affirmative action be applied at the level of University admission? Why not provide remedial courses, math tutors, and etc as a part of affirmative action so that under represented racial minorities, or anyone else for that matter, can qualify for University admission on merit? Personally I am a fan of free or nearly free state Junior Colleges which are directly connected to the main line state Universities.
Marcy (DMV)
Both of you raise good points. Yes, I'd like to see better earlier education funded through progressive taxation and not scramble to compensate for lack thereof at higher grade levels. And yes, if you have the resources, usually in the form of some money and the ability to live in a good school district, please provide for your kids. What I don't want to hear is insecurity or whining around the idea that your cream puff kid didn't make it into the school(s) of their choice, because some less deserving Other - oops, affirmative action kid - moved to the head of the line. Exposure to those Others, i .e., diversity, is truly a good in and of itself. By the way, as a parent of course I think my own kids are cream puffs and can relate if you do too. Unfortunately my high opinion of them will not necessarily translate to their eventual status.
joe (St Louis)
Discrimination won't end until we stop discriminating. Affirmative action is discrimination and it is wrong. Without getting into a debate on how to fix society's problems, it is clear that doing wrong is not the way.
damon walton (clarksville, tn)
@joe Affirmative action is a tool trying right an insidious wrong. If folks didn't discriminate in the first place, then there would be no need for such a tool. Discrimination happens both on an overt and subtle level, in all aspects of our daily lives. Yes, we came a long way, but the journey is far from over. It's an attempt to level the playing field and provide equal access to that level playing field. It's sad, we had to pass federal and state laws enforce a basic civil right. Yes, if folks could roll back civil rights in this country prior to the Civil War [13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments], they would. For discrimination and racism is alive and well in 2022. For if we truly wanted to live in a 'color-blind' society, we would have to pluck all our eyes out. For the oppressor, equality feels like oppression.
Tim (Silver Spring)
@damon walton Punishing the innocent does not right a wrong. Drop the virtual signaling.
Hugh Jones (Usa)
More false alarms from the left. Blacks are doing fine. Life is never completely equivalent for everyone.
JerseyGirl (Princeton NJ)
Prohibiting race-conscious admissions never seemed "unthinkable" if you have knowledge of the actual history of these cases. Bakke (1978) won his case against the University of California. Grutter (2003) lost her case against the University of Michigan Law School (but in a companion case, Gratz won against the University of Michigan undergraduate school). At the time of Bakke, although California lost, the court already gave future discriminators the correct "weasel words" to win. ("One factor out of many in a holistic review" "compelling interest in diversity" etc.). The UM Law school had taken note, whereas the undergraduate school was just awarding a flat 20 points out of 100 for being a minority. Even in Grutter, the court made it clear that it wanted a "narrowly tailored" solution using "race neutral" means wherever possible. This was reinforced in Fisher v University of Texas I and II (2016). (Note that Texas admits anyone who graduates in the top 10% of a Texas high school -- whether elite private school or struggling inner city school). In the case of Harvard we have 1) a school that cherry picks its minority students from wealthy parents and top schools 2) a school that uses virtually no race neutral means to achieving diversity whatsoever (because it would reduce their elite standing) and 3) a school that has flat-out discriminated against Asian students by downgrading them on their "personality" score. Time for Grutter to go.
bert (Hartford, CT)
Affirmative action was and is a policy, not an abstract principle; it was a tool meant to fix a specific historical, social and political problem. So the question in NOT whether Grutter was inimical to Brown -- only a willful ignoring of context can get you to that -- but rather whether the tool is still needed. Affirmative action was never meant to be forever, and it is acceptable to inquire along these lines. But "Are we there yet?" is NOT the same question as "doesn't Brown invalidate it as discrimination?" Greenhouse is right to be dismayed that the second question predominates in these briefs.
The Owl (New England)
@bert The issue that I have with Ms. Greenhouse on this is her disdain for any questioning whether the temporary fix is still appropriate.
M (Atlanta)
The emphasis should be on equal opportunity, not equal outcome, and we must have faith that the former will lead to the latter. I support equity practices, but do not believe that they should be based blindly on skin color. Base them instead on economic circumstances. Then every group which is disproportionately poor will receive greater benefit.
Don (Keninitz)
@M Equal outcomes aren't possible. Not everyone is gifted to have Albert Einstein's intellect or LeBron James' physical ability. The so-called "equity" movement realizes this: accordingly, it looks to handicap those with talents that aren't - and can't be - enjoyed by everyone.
Blossom (The Buckeye State)
@M It's hard being poor in America. But it's much harder to be both poor and black in America vs poor and white. I am white and grew up poor. My husband is black and grew up poor. He had the added burden of racism on top of poverty. That's not just a feeling, it's a fact. Poor white Americans have longer life expectancies than poor black people. They live in safer neighborhoods. Have access to better schools. Have more job opportunities. They more likely to graduate from high school, more likely to attend college, more likely to graduate from college. They are far more likely to escape poverty. And so on. It's not due to individual effort, but rather due to even poor white Americans benefitting from having white skin.
BrotherlyLove (Philly)
SCOTUS, Schmotus. Any anti-racist college or university should have affirmative action and should advertise as such if they truly are. Leaders in higher education, take the reigns and continue to advance diversity. Maybe the time has come for key groups in the United States to sue the Supreme Court, for they are dismantling lives left and right.
Don (Keninitz)
@BrotherlyLove Precisely how does one sue the Supreme Court?
Lefthalfbach (Philadelphia)
Larry Summer has said that ,when President of Harvard, he could have filled the entire Freshman class every year with Asian-America women who had perfect SAT scores. So, are we so commited to a colorblind society that no white man will ever again go to Harvard? I do not think so. On the other hand, we now have grandchildren of people helped by Affirmative Action getting Affirmative Action admissions to college and post grad schools. Does that seem right? Maybe not.
arvay (new york)
Affirmative action 's major impact has been to create window-dressing minority people who -- even if highly motivated -- are powerless to effect real change. Real change will require mandated elimination of all racist practices and the implementation of accurate historical education and rigorously enforced housing, banking, employment and political measures. These are not achievable via the current political system, which misleadingly calls itself "democracy."
Phil (Tennessee)
@arvay "elimination of all racist practices" Eliminating Affirmative Action is a good place to start, since it is explicitly racist.
William (Westchester)
@arvay To take it a step further, who can parse out the effects of a sense of obligation to the government for the position attained through 'handicap'? Does all the printed money buy enough voters who think they can't make it on their own? Will such groups manage to sustain apparent legitimacy for prosecuting international rules of the jungle? Is it really enlightened to announce with happy face that we have now made it possible to simulate professional success? Policy choices domestically cannot be absolved from causation of the perilous status quo. Ukraine sucks up the energy. Don't expect perpetrators to fall on their swords. They've got havens.
ed (LA)
I remember when justice meant justice, you know, some sense of collective fairness. Justice now is just the power to impose the current Supreme Court majority's self-serving will on the citizens of the United States.
John Lee Pettimore (Cleveland)
@ed Republican response: You say "self-serving will" like it's a bad thing.
Jim (Neither Mob)
Kind of odd to assert that the Supreme Court would be unreasonable in holding that no discrimination means no discrimination gubernatorial that ultra liberal California had outlawed it via referendum.
Jack (New York)
With the best of intentions, we have conflated equal opportunity with equal results. Institutions of higher learning have no self interest in discriminating for any reasons other than aptitude and to suggest that they conspire against minority students is ridiculous. We are either a meritocracy or we are not. As painful as it might be, the most important discussion we should be having is why the average math SAT score for a person of color is 427. We need to get rid of affirmative action tomorrow.
Bill (FL)
Though I am not a lawyer I always read Ms. Greenhouse’s columns and greatly appreciate her command of legal detail and nuance. It is therefore puzzling that in this article she neglects to mention the words written by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts in a 2007 ruling in which the Court struck down a Seattle program aimed at desegregating schools: “The only way to avoid racial discrimination is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” If Chief Justice Roberts still feels this way in 2022 I don’t hold out much hope that affirmative action will be preserved.
DaveD (Wisconsin)
@Bill And I don't hold out much hope that it should be.
IndAm (NC)
@Bill Gotta give it to the right, savants at projection & branding, branding, branding: Students for Fair Admissions, True the Vote, Election Integrity Project, Veritas Project, Honest Elections Project (by Northeast Harbor, ME resident Leonard Leo) - rightwing organizations who are anything but fair & honest. SFA using Asian kids & their families to further long standing rw causes. John Roberts seems moderate next to the rw hacks on the Court. Make no mistake, he is not. Never has been. We can think him for Citizens United among other gems.
Northwoods Cynic (Wisconsin)
@Bill Nor should it be.
B. (New York City)
“Affirmative action” is a euphemism that can to stand for racial preferences and racial quotas in education and employment. Regardless of the motivation behind them, these practices are blatantly discriminatory and blatantly unconstitutional. The sooner the courts overturn these practices the better.
John (Cactose)
Affirmative action is the pursuit of fairness based on unfairness. It's trying to amend a practice of prioritizing people based on race by practicing the prioritization of other people based on race. When this Supreme Court strikes down this archaic practice, Universities and other institutions will have to focus on the only metric that should matter - merit.
John (Cactose)
@DMV Heights Investing in schools and establishing a more even playing field in grade school and high school is precisely what needs to happen. Education reform, dedicating more $$ to teachers, AND holding teachers Unions accountable for underperformance within their ranks are all necessary to actually fix the problem. The wealthy will always have an advantage. You can't magic wand that away. You can invest more in education, which over time can and should improve outcomes for all.
Jasr (NH)
@John I agree with most of this, and I would add that we eliminate the undermining of public school systems with taxpayer-funded vouchers. But in what profession is it normal to hold a trade union accountable for the performance of its members? That is not the role of a union.
Matt (Madison, WI)
@John Your analysis rests on a commonly held flawed (implicit) belief: that black people by definition have less "merit" and to prioritize them "takes away" the justly deserved slot of white people who show superior "merit". Trust me, in a country of 300+ million people, there are PLENTY of black young people who have the excellence and merit required to be admitted to ANY merit-based exclusivity. Affirmative action is merely the right for institutions to prioritize those people over the ones more likely to have help like coaches, legacy, wealth, extracurriculars etc. Rich white kids have all kinds of advantages exclusive of "merit". Affirmative action is the right to look around those advantages looking for merit elsewhere. To believe (again, implicitly) that to do this active looking elsewhere is "taking away" the turn of a white kid is a little bit white supremacist; it presumes that white people by their very nature are better (have more merit) than a black person. There is PLENTY of excellence to go around in a country of 300 million people.
eric c (new york)
And by the way, even if you're in favor of affirmative action, when does it end? How do you know? Who says? Laws need to have clear limits. Especially given that they're a government action. AA is something where the goal posts will keep on shifting, or it will be so nebulous and unquantifiable that it goes on forever. The proponents will never say that we've achieved the goal. So this goes on forever? if discriminating based on race is illegal, it should end. No more more years and we'll shelve it. If you felt that something was an injustice, would you accept "just wait 10 more years and we'll stop doing it"? To use a phrase, justice delayed is justice denied.
OldWoodMay (Arlington VA)
@eric c Yes. One of the reasons the talk has shifted over the years from "Affirmative Action" to "Diversity " is that "Affirmative Action" is a remedial effort that assumes there will be an end, but "Diversity" is forever.
Cindy (VT, USA)
Ms. Greenhouse, I've supremely enjoyed your knowledgeable insights into our courts - pun intended. Your closing sentence says it all and scares me. "But if the last term taught us anything, it’s that the gap between the unthinkable and the real is very short, and shrinking fast." What happened to the separation of church and state? Sadly, I agree with those who believe that the Supreme Court has lost its way.
Lem (Nyc)
Had affirmative action never existed, nor the myriad programs supporting those goals, would those who were the subject of these programs have been in better or worse circumstances? Is a black middle class due to affirmative action or to general rising prosperity that has benefitted our entire society? Seventy years of failure. Hope the court ends it, the beneficiaries of affirmative action are politicians and those administering it, not those it was supposed to help.
Jasr (NH)
@Lem " Is a black middle class due to affirmative action or to general rising prosperity that has benefitted our entire society?" Both, actually.
Chris Miller (Cape Cod)
Stepping back from Constitutional niceties (which I am not competent to evaluate), applicants are not "equally protected" if their worth is even partly judged on the basis of their genomic makeup. Why can't the same outcome, social diversity, be accomplished by an affirmative action based solely on socioeconomic experience?
Video Non Taceo (New York, NY)
"Affirmative action," as it was originally intended, meant proactive, immediate steps taken to remedy the wrongs of slavery. The NAACP ia correct when it says that Brown was meant to end a system of racial apartheid. The central problem is that this legal calculus does NOT work well as a means of apportioning racial entitlements. This is particularly true when new racial groups diversify the population. Brown was decided in an era when the need was to provide justice to the black descendants of slaves, and when there was no clamor to apportion school admissions and employment among white, black, Hispanic, South Asian, East Asian, and other populations. There is still work to be done in remedying the injustices of Jim Crow. More broadly, it seems very difficult to expect fair treatment of all citizens if privileges are required to be handed out to certain specified classes. College administrators are not a class to be trusted to handle diversity wisely. The Ivy League was formerly a finishing school, private club, and hiring hall for people who summered in Maine (not Hoosiers, Jews or Southerners). Elite colleges are still slavishly serving the elite. They've turned themselves into Potemkin villages of diversity. Their tenure-track faculty and their student bodies don't look like the rest of America, rural or urban. And the rest of America knows this. Is this the unthinkable becoming real? Or a case in which an unsustainable trend is ultimately not sustained?
james (vancouver)
is the Supreme Court equipped to decide whether affirmative action is no longer needed? How would they arrive at a conclusion either way? Is it an issue of law for the Court or a topic for legislation by Congress? Surely the latter .
Dr. Juvenal Urbino (Fictional, Columbia)
If we want equity in education, apply equitable standards, not the liberal paternalism that is so dominant in public education in "urban" schools. We have gotten to the point in public education where showing one's work in math--how they arrived at a solution to a problem--is somehow considered "racially discriminatory;" homework is being dismissed as an unnecessary burden, and the expectation for a rigorous work ethic is "culturally insensitive" because it's associated with "Protestantism." What's called "equitable" is too often "the soft bigotry of low expectations;" probably one of the only honest things GW Bush ever said.
Mark Thomason (Clawson, MI)
Affirmative action was created by the Court. Only that Court could make serious changes in it. Only the Court can end it. Which has it done, made changes, or ended it? So far, these are changes. The concern is that the next steps will end it altogether, that this is a stepping stone to more.
Huh 👻 (Upstate)
To those suggesting we decide solely on “merit,” let’s first acknowledge that grades are affected by teachers’ preconceptions (and yes, often prejudices, among other factors). We moved often. I attended two different middle schools and two different high schools. Each time my excellent grades dropped for a semester. Or two. Why? I was an outsider, possibly a threat to the high-ranking current students of “merit.” Some other teachers’ assessments of my work in another/larger/better district couldn’t be accurate, could they? How dare I unseat Local Prominent Citizens’ Offsprings’ secure knowledge that they were #1 or #4—not as “meritorious” as me, the newcomer. The ringer. The better educated? My nine-years-younger sister attended a single, small rural school district, graduating at 16. As valedictorian, she was awarded a full scholarship. Funny enough I’m the one with three post-grad degrees—and I scored more than two standard deviations higher than she on IQ and other assessments. (Don’t get me started on standardized testing and its limitations.) Which of us was more deserving of that full college scholarship? Who possessed more merit? Her college grades were higher, too—because she didn’t have to work three jobs. I had “grit” but she had grades. As the oldest my socioeconomic conditions were less favorable as well. Assuming all assessments are unbiased—or that socioeconomic conditions are static—is a ludicrous underpinning for the merit argument.
Rafael Gómez (Santa Monica, CA)
The right is still debating (and perhaps trying to undo) the Brown vs. Board of Education decision. Everything else appears to be semantics. What's the endgame here?
William Case (United States)
The 2020 Census was the first census that permitted all Americans to designate their ethnicity. It revealed that America has 998 ethnic groups. None of these ethnic group come close to being a majority, but Hispanics, who make up18.9% of the population, are now America’s largest ethnic group. These 998 ethnic groups reflect America’s true diversity. If Harvard and North Carolina were truly interested in diversity, they would scrap affirmative action programs and simply ask students to indicate their ancestral group or groups on registration forms. They would discover their campuses are wondrously diverse and that there is no need for racial and ethnic preferences. But Harvard and North Carolina are not interested in diversity; they are interested in racial and ethnic quotas.They offer racial and ethnic prefers to only to members of demographic groups designated as protected minorities in civl rights legislation. Their goal to ensue protected minorities make up about the same percent of students as they do of the population, even if this sometime decreases campus diversity. For example, 12.5% of Harvard students are Hispanic. Hispanics are undoubtedly among the very largest ethnic groups on the Harvard campus. Each time a new Hispanic student enrolls, Harvard grows a little less diverse. But Harvard continues to offer ethnic preferences to Hispanic applicants because they make up a smaller percent of Harvard students than they do of the U.S. population.
John (Montoya)
What ever your thoughts about affirmative action, let's go after legacy admission first!
Margo (Ohio)
@John Good point. While state universities may have greater transparency requirements, the overall process by which the seats of higher education are doled out can only be guessed at, for the most part.
DuckSoup (Anatidae)
FYI: Obama was not the first U.S. black president; he is half white and the first biracial president.
Blossom (The Buckeye State)
@DuckSoup Go read up the "one drop rule". My kids are biracial. I assure you that society sees them as black, not half white, and treats them accordingly.
Dan (NYC)
The flip side of affirmative action is discrimination against Asian Americans. Notably, white liberals are silent when it comes to preferences for legacies, athletes, and wealthy donors.
Dale Irwin (KC Mo)
Students for Fair Admissions has a familiar ring, reminiscent of Citizens United. Neither is what it’s name implies. Both bring to mind Mark Twain’s Royal Nonesuch. As for calling the Constitution colorblind, what is really at play is the willful blindness of those who would pretend not to see the legacy of slavery. The good justices need to take a tour of Roxbury, The South Side of Chicago, East St. Louis, East Kansas City or any other city with a color divide to see for themselves. Then they need to survey rural America and the South to witness the proliferation of confederate flags and bumper stickers. Affirmative inaction is a policy of a status looking for a quo.
Jonathan (Connecticut)
@Dale Irwin - The strongest opponents of AA are recent working-class Asian immigrants. I don't see any Confederate flags there.
Tom J (Berwyn, IL)
My understanding is that black children were getting an inferior public education to white children, that was unfair, based in Jim Crow and racism, and so we needed to integrate. We did. It always bothered me that we never seemed to be including Asian, Hispanic, Indian, poor white children, or other marginalized groups. As time passed, we learned more. We learned that the school infrastructure and supplies needed to be better, but we also learned that the parents were not working with their children enough. That was uncomfortable to talk about and it became taboo, racist to discuss. We learned that some minorities in the same or worse economic situation, notably Asian students, were thriving and surpassing white students. We learned that integrating underperforming children with high-performing children was actually stifling the growth of the high-performers, and this wasn't fair either. Their parents moved them to private schools. We learned that college scholarships became quota systems. In fact a quota system became the norm, rather than the original idea of fairness and equality. To this day, I don't know the best solution. But the one we came up with is leaving a lot of people very resentful. And the progress within the black community seems pretty minimal,  after all these years, one would expect more. My general feeling of the Roberts Court is one of foreboding, but if an issue needs evaluation and adjustment, I think that's legitimate. I think even the suggestion of t
Rashawn (Atlanta, GA)
Affirmative action in the modern age of an increasing number of biracial young adults is condescending, racist, demeaning to Black students and their mixed families. When other students look upon Black students and think, or in the case of Harvard - know, that they have been admitted based on different standards it reinforces the most pernicious, pervasive, and utterly nasty racial stereotypes. If Harvard ends up being 2 percent Black as a result of the removal of race based admissions - that will be an exceptionally happy 2 percent knowing full well that they deserve their spot just as much as the next student and much more than the legacies.
Jose Pieste (OH)
Affirmative action is one of the most socially destructive policies ever conceived. It permanently stigmatizes minorities (Asians excepted) by openly declaring them under-qualified and occupying a separate category from other students. This damages minority students' self-image and marginalizes them in the eyes of others. "Diversity," whatever its value in education, is thin justification for this marginalization. It is also thin justification for the violation of individual rights (to be treated equally under the law) that is required to achieve color-coded diversity. Abolish affirmative action so minority students and minority professionals can stop being regarded as “lesser” in the eyes of society. Maybe the Ivy Leagues will be embarrassed at their high proportion of White and Asian students, but let them be embarrassed.
publius (new hampshire)
@Jose Pieste Welll stated!
Drspock (New York)
In the 1950's, conservative legal scholars supported Brown's conclusion, but not its reasoning. They argued that segregation imposed by state law violated the right of free association, which affected both Black and white students. This line of reasoning meant that while legal segregation was unlawful, there was no constitutional basis for state imposed integration. This has been the theoretical direction of the Federalist Society for the last thirty years. And the assault on affirmative action is now the last chapter of that decade's long campaign. Most urban schools are more segregated today than they were in 1954. There's a legal wall between Black and brown urban schools, and mostly white suburban schools. Even when voters chose to use race as a tool to integrate their schools (the Jefferson County case) SCOTUS struck down that effort as violating, rather than reflecting, the constitutional principle of equality. Justice brown recently reminded her "origionalist" colleagues of the historical purpose of the 14th Amendment. But it fell on deaf ears. Three justices have previously written their end of affirmative action opinions. It's hard to imagine that they don't have at least two more votes. I've fought this issue for fifty years and knew this day was coming. Now that it's here, the real question is what do the elite colleges plan to do about it?
DuckSoup (Anatidae)
@Drspock Define "urban schools". In our long time black run city that has more black middle class and millionaires than anywhere else in the world, the last 30 years have seen a steady - gleeful - segregation by black parents of their offspring to go to black-only schools and associate only with other blacks, avoiding everything caucasian, latino, asian. That is straight up racism. So, we are back to segregated water fountains, schools, jobs, neighborhoods - just not by whites, browns, and all in between.
Revoltingallday (Durham NC)
According to George Will, they will stop using test scores altogether, and discriminate in more insidious and opaque ways that obscure racial discrimination. In other words, if you thought affirmative action was bad, wait till you see what replaces it !
Richard Lee (Boston, MA)
We are allowing important issues in our lives to be decided on the basis of whether "the votes are there" in the Supreme Court. There is nothing conservative about that, and it smacks of royalty rather than democracy. Alito doesn't like the idea of expanding the Court because it will dilute his new-found power. We need to phase in an expanded court with term limits so that the Court regains legitimacy. Let a Supreme Court appointment become public service and not an emperor's throne.
eric c (new york)
Expanded court? That smacks of the same motivation as gerrymandering or redistricting. Just keep on changing the rules, packing the court, until you get your way, huh? And btw, I bet you were just fine with the votes being there when some issue went to your favor. When the Court was asserting its power on social issues. But it's not legitimate unless I win, right? Hm, what does that remind me of? What kind of principle is this to run a country or legal system? Sometimes you're wrong. Democracy is about learning to live with that and change opinion to be right.
R.P. (Bridgewater, NJ)
@Richard Lee "Let's pack the Supreme Court because we don't like its recent decisions" say the same people who for four years complained about the violation of norms. I guess after the Court is packed, we can move onto eliminating the Senate and the Electoral College, correct?
jk (NYC)
You are completely wrong. This court was packed by a president who lost the popular election by millions of votes after Obama was denied a Supreme Court selection by Mitch Mcconnell. This court was forced on the American people by the Federalist Society backed by Leo Leonard and his band of wealthy men.
MFT (Rhode Island)
All the people who believe affirmative action should be overturned should read "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking" by Malcolm Gladwell. He makes a powerful case for how unconscious biases affect our decisions. He mentions how a symphony orchestra had mostly male musicians. The orchestra believed it was NOT prejudiced in any way against women. But they decided to try judging auditions behind a partition where they couldn't see the candidates. And to their surprise, at the reveal, the best candidates were female musicians. Implicit bias has been proven over and over again. Affirmative action was designed to counrteract that implicit bias. In addition, because of wealth inequality that comes from generations of societal inequality, wealthy students have the advantages of better schools, private tutoring, etc. Wealthy students also tend to be white. Legacy admissions to elite schools also tend to favor whites. Affirmative action was a way to address this unconscious & systematic inequality. Most important though, until we figure out how to overcome our implicit biases, doing away with affirmative action will have a detrimental effect on equality of opportunity in our nation.
BChad (Brooklyn)
@Zeke All things being equal, you are correct. But things are rarely this simple. MFT's post brought to mind Jung's idea of the "collective unconscious," which, as I understand it, lingers in the brain for generations and which may affect one's decisions, unconsciously. For decades before the Brown decision, African-Americans were treated very unfairly in their desire to be educated. Richard Wright's memoir, Black Boy attests to the injustice against young African-Americans who wanted to go to school. This was the legacy of slavery which influenced racist views of African Americans that lingered for years. It still does. Black folks need hope, to believe in America. Affirmative Action gives them hope and addresses centuries of injustice.
Zeke (NYC)
@MFT - Admissions to colleges, employment, etc., should be based on merit, test scores and experience. If all things being equal, one person is admitted to Stanford over another because that person is Black, how can this possible be fair? And please, don't try to say that the student didn't have all the advantages of the other student? No one, no one, knows what one particular student or job applicant has or does not have over another.
cw anderson (USA)
So, to avoid implicit bias colleges should use explicit race considerations? How about race-blind admissions just like your orchestra analogy?
Matthew Walker (Pittsburgh)
I have never understood O'Connor's argument that the educational benefits of a diverse student body (as engineered via AA) are sufficient to justify the practice, but that the practice will no longer be needed after 25 years. What is it about the passage of time that reduces the value of diversity? And if diversity is paramount, should we be worried that affirmative action might, over time, reduce the systematic inequalities that are its source?
DuckSoup (Anatidae)
@Matthew Walker Because all boats lift with the rising tide, which has happened. The U.S. made great gains since the 1960s and would've stabilized nicely in that lane of continuous priorities and progress but for the massive population increase - a near doubling - just since the 1970s, nearly all at the bottom and 90% due to immigration. What frustrates is that the U.S. arrogantly can't seem to stop shooting another hole in the boat whenever a success is attained. This ushers in a new layer of govt. fixes that lead to more boats and more problems, then more holes, more govt. fixes...and on and on. The pyramid scheme is obvious and not only is the boat full but so are the lifeboats.
Mor (California)
In 2020, California voters were asked to reinstate affirmative action in Californian universities. The voters responded with a resounding “no”. Affirmative action is an abomination. It is racial quotas in disguise. It translates into racial discrimination against Asians and whites. There is no justification for it morally or pragmatically. Diversity in academic institutions is necessary but it has to be the diversity of opinions, not skin color. Stop groupthink on campuses - this will do more for diversity than racial quotas. If the SC puts an end to it, I’ll be inclined to forgive them even the stupid Dobbs decision.
D. Renner (Oregon)
Affirmative action is the easy fix for problems that stem from a far deeper source in society. Those supporting AA find it easier then allocating money/time/resources to communities and school districts where real help and change would uplift the same communities AA is trying to help. Affirmative action like many social problem makes people feel like they are helping without really changing anything and without affecting themselves in any sacrificial way. Similar to advocating for homeless services, shelters and housing, but strongly opposing higher density housing in your own neighborhood. Another issue with AA is it's hypocritical nature. It tries to fix past discrimination with a different form of discrimination.
kirk (kentucky)
The problem with diversity is not who it excludes but who it includes.We really do not like each other.
Paul (San Francisco)
The effort should be on economic backgrounds and social factors at the applicant level. Everyone knows that race is now a rich pageant of backgrounds and at some point meaningless. The tracking of one’s race by the government, while well intended has lead to unintended consequences and frankly is ultimately dangerous enabling some really bad people to come to power. I think it’s time to embrace color blindness.
LongTimeFirstTime (New York City)
Affirmative action is allowed - not mandated - by the constitution because a diverse student body is so important to a good education. Yet, you can’t swing a dead cat around. Y selective college without hitting an “only” group. Only for Blacks. Only for gays. Only for Asians. And more. At a certain point, common sense kicks in. No one applying to college wants affirmative action. (Black students don’t like it because it means everyone assumes they don’t deserve to be there.) And students hardly are any more interested in integrating Thelma they ever were, probably less so. Let’s kill this and be done. And with it, let’s kill legacy and athlete preferences, too. We have a 14th Amendment. People died for it. Let’s live by it. And let’s abandon the silly pretext of the value of diversity for violating it. B
WilliamF (SouthCoast,CA)
Affirmative Action (aka anti-white discrimination) is terrible and must be smashed. Next on the list: the whole Diversity Inclusion Equity (DIE) scam. Die, DIE.
JP (Brea)
The best way to ensure that race is equivalently replicated in higher education is to eliminate all academic standards and base admissions on lottery ( as many charter schools in NY have started to do). No need for test scores or any vigor at for Hugh school students. Eliminate any program that allows kids to advance their knowledge K-12 in the name of equity (such a the removal of classes in calculus in California and forbid any honors classes) teach history as deemed appropriate by our far left, and let our pre- adolescent sports industrial complex be the sole focus of what is valued for raising leaders for tomorrow. Our educational systems are appalling and dismal. Soon, our brightest will look to admission in foreign countries
People of the Global Majority (Planet Earth)
All of you anti-AA crusaders/fairness Pharisees should really put your energy towards funding schools appropriately not by property taxes (and be big mad about cases like Kelley Williams-Bolar who served nine days in jail in 2011 after she was found guilty of using her father’s address instead of her own in an attempt to have her daughters enroll in a better school district than the Akron, Ohio, one they were slated for, according to HuffPost), fight for better teacher pay, longer school days and years in places where there is entrenched poverty to provide disadvantaged kids with the services and support that they need if they are interested in true fairness. None of us asked to be born to the parents and community that we are born to. We also see that countries that have more generous early-life benefits have on average healthier and economically vibrant societies. True equality means that you don't have to rely on the parental lottery.
Discern World (California)
@People of the Global Majority So Bronny James shouldn't be allowed to play basketball, right? Every parent confers advantages on their offspring to the best of their ability - be they genes, knowledge, or wealth. That is our job. However, access and accelerators have to be available for those that want to do the hard work of changing their birth circumstances. That includes basic health and educational opportunity in early childhood. It should not include affirmative action.
Donald Driver (Green Bay)
Affirmative action is wrong on so many levels. It's a slap in the face for hard-working Asian kids, white kids, and the forgotten white male. Meritocracy should rule supreme. Even kindergartners on the school playground have a better sense of what's fair. But it's also soft racism. It tells blacks that they cannot do it on their own. They need help. That victim mentality prevents true growth. Hopefully this SCOTUS gets it right.
Separate but Equal was deemed constitutional for almost 6 decades. That doesn’t change the fact that is was wrong and racist. Affirmative Action is wrong and racist. Good riddance!
Craigsummers (Boise, Idaho)
Ms. Greenhouse The identity politics of the democratic party is simply a ruse - and should be rejected as a fear mongering campaign to hold the democratic coalition together. The Supreme Court should scrap any race-based admissions policies. Interestingly enough, Asians students appear to be the people most impacted (negatively) by affirmative action and "equity". That (in itself) is a complete failure of race-based policies.
Mm (Boston)
If it was based on genuine societal disadvantage and not some nebulous race formula it would be more acceptable. It was started because of past injustices. Now it's going to people who have just immigrated here. President Obama went to the most exclusive private school in Hawaii and was raised by a mother who was a college professor and a grandmother who was a bank vice president, nothing disadvantaged there. As for the diversity" argument everyone is different. It is incredibly racist to say all black or white people are the same. These universities cry to the heavens that the students benefit from knowing people of other races and then have all these separate facilities for "students of color". Time to end this racist nonsense.
Liberty hound (Washington)
Affirmative action can't die soon enough.
GK (California)
Affirmative action is on its way out. The majority of Americans are against it & vote to ban it when given a chance. In 1996 California voters amended the state constitution, to prohibit state governmental institutions from considering race, sex, or ethnicity, in the areas of public employment, public contracting, & public education. Existing affirmative action programs led public employers & universities to reject applicants based on their race. Prop 209 restored & reconfirmed the historic intention of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The basic premise of Prop 209 is that every individual has a right, & that right is not to be granted a preference, based on their race. Since the number of available positions are limited, giving unearned preference to a person based solely, or even partially on race deprives qualified applicants of all races an equal opportunity to succeed. It also pits one group against another & perpetuates social tension. Prop 209 has been the subject of many lawsuits but has withstood legal scrutiny. This policy is no longer defensible. We all know this. There're better ways to improve disadvantaged students’ education. There're better ways to improve diversity. Improving the K-12 education in disadvantaged communities would be a good place to start. Giving preference to students from a poor economic background would help too. But truthfully most Democrats don't have the guts, will or incentive to change this flawed policy. Inexcusable. AA will be overturned.
Hiker (Seattle)
@PDR Most people are against legacy, and for equal opportunities (not equal results). Affirmative action is a wrong, and two wrong doesn't make a right.
IndAm (NC)
@GK Well said. Why no outrage or lawsuits about affirmative active for the wealthy &/or the well connected? I’m talking about yes, quotas or set asides for legacy/donor/faculty/staff kids. Oh & of course, the “athletes” including for eg. in sports like water polo and fencing - both at this point, overwhelmingly white, (no offense to those who participate in these sports and it is good to participate in any sport). AA will be overturned bc the rw Federalist Society majority hacktivist “judges” on the Court who where placed there precisely to do the bidding of rw billionaires & barons. Throw in Mitch McConnell’s breaking down of long standing traditions based on cockamamie rules that he created, the lack of integrity of both Gorsuch (see Merrick Garland) & Coney (stuffed into the Court even as citizens had started voting in 2020) and here we are. I agree that economic diversity is v important. Sitting in Maine (1 of the whitest states) and rounding up Asian kids & their families to serve as plaintiffs (see Edward Blum) is as cynical as it gets. Term limits for ALL judges. Now.
Tom Marks (USA)
@GK Thank you. It is so refreshing to see this comment at the top of the feed. The obsession with skin color and identity categories needs to stop. It’s a large reason why democrats are in the position they are in going into next week.
john (maryland)
its way overdue to remove this penalty on the population that doesn't fit some bizarre skin color test.
Dr. Juvenal Urbino (Fictional, Columbia)
It's inarguable that racism and discrimination are potent forces in every walk of American life. But as a public school teacher for the last 17 years, teaching in the second largest district in the nation, I have seen a range of focuses mandated from above: entertain the students; feed them breakfast; bring them social justice; stop the "school to jail" pipeline; provide social-emotional support. Most recently, the obsession is, get them enrolled in college. This latest obsession includes pulling them out of class, days at a time, to fill out applications. This isn't for the student however, it's for the District, to enhance its data. It doesn't matter that the student has a 6th grade reading level, as long as the District's data shows we're sending kids to college. What I've seen very little of from bureaucrats, administrators and politicians regarding public education, is support for actual education--rigor, discipline, enforcement of standards, promotion of reading, logic, math, science. Only platitudes, usually about "equity." If we want equitable access to higher education, we need to reform public elementary and secondary education. We need to get honest about where our priorities have been, and get back to holding students, parents, and bureaucratic decision makers accountable, not just those evil unionized teachers.
Dev (Columbus Ohio)
@Dr. Juvenal Urbino 95% of student success is parenting NOT schools/teachers. We need to stop blaming schools and teachers. The most critical learning is age 0-3 and should be done by the parents (even if that is after they come home from work). Society should emphasize 2 person families and engagement of grandparents/extended family to help educate children.
AJ (Milwaukee, WI)
Okay, let’s get “honest.” Schools in poor areas get less money. It’s how our education system works. Our universal system of unaffirmative action is the single biggest force promoting inequities. It’s blatantly unfair and is the reason the policies you name haven’t worked.
One More Time (Georgia, USA)
Seems both sides can argue their side and both sides are right. Is it the school's right to decide admissions, or does an applicant have the right not to be excluded based on race. Our courts are more dysfunctional in their rulings than ever before, and it is because our two party system places more emphasis on politics and less on the rights of people. So it seems to me the answer is selfishness, but it would be a person should not be denied admittance based on race, and that applies to an Asian American should not be denied entrance because an African American receives preferential treatment. So, going forward to a "feet on the ground" decision: affirmative action is unconstitutional.
LongTimeFirstTime (New York City)
@One More Time the Private sector cannot discriminate if they take govt money. That’s why we’re having a lawsuit. If Harvard wants to turn down govt benefits? They can do as they wish. Never happen.
Letmeout (Hong Kong)
When the NYT's comments section comes down 9 to 1 against affirmative action, as is the case here, then it seems doomed.
Robert (Seattle)
@Letmeout The dog-whistle nature of this tends to get the Republicans worked up and involved, who think this means more Jared Kushners at these schools and fewer underserving Black students. That flies in the face of the facts, obviously. The enthusiasm of the anti-affirmative action crowd here doesn't mean there aren't a whole lot of us who still support affirmative action.
Saints Fan (Houston, TX)
@Robert When conservative comments get through the NYT filter it says a lot on an issue.
Robert (Seattle)
@Saints Fan I believe virtually all of the conservative comments get through which are not in any of the prohibited categories. To see what those are, click on "Flag." That said, I wouldn't be surprised if comments here from MAGA Republicans were roughly in line with MAGA Republican communications elsewhere, and included disproportionately frequent instances of threats, violence, Covid misrepresentations, election lies, you get the idea.
Pete (California)
The ultra conservative justices of today’s Supreme Court - all beneficiaries of Mitch McConnell’s affirmative action program for right wing Catholic jurists - are ready to unshackle bigotry in America. Freeing them, at last, to be “racist as you wanna be!” Next: free speech. Swastikas, nooses, and calls to assassinate Democrats will be protected as free speech. Elect more Democrats so we can restore sanity to the courts.
Andrew L (New York)
Affirmative action is not the will of the people and like most left wing social policy relies on judicial, undemocratic fiat. Good riddance
Margo (Ohio)
@Andrew L The Constitution and the Judiciary are charged with protecting citizens against the tyranny of the majority.
Don (Keninitz)
@Margo Cite the Constitutional text.
John Lee Pettimore (Cleveland)
@Andrew L Jim Crow used to be "the will of the people" in the South. Justice should never be on the ballot.
Jmardiv (Rockford, IL)
We all know politicians choose their voters based on slicing and dicing maps and demographic data into gerrymandered districts. Is there really not a way to achieve the ideal of affirmative action by using zip codes and socioeconomic data instead of granting or denying admission based on racial categories?
Abc123 (Massachusetts)
@Jmardiv the California university system has done just this. Turns out, If you focus on socioeconomic status instead of race, you still get a diverse student body. Except, in this case, it’s the Black students who actually ARE disadvantaged, whereas Harvard is giving benefits to the very privileged. A recent article in The Atlantic by Richard Kallenberg explains this nicely. Instead, Harvard claims to help disadvantaged students by selecting wealthy, privileged POC, ignoring the actually disadvantaged POC, who simply won’t contribute to Harvard’s bottom line. In doing so, measures like “median wealth, incarceration rates, poor health” are not impacted amongst the Black population because Affirmative Action is only helping the advantaged upper quintiles of Black people, and not moving any of the lower half up.
Jp (Ml)
@Abc123 :"Instead, Harvard claims to help disadvantaged students by selecting wealthy," This may sound like heresy, but forget about Harvard or Yale or MIT or Berkeley when measuring overall higher educations performance of various segments under the "POC" umbrella. Get student performance up to acceptable standards coming out of high school and get the students into state colleges (yes, I know, UCB is "public") by being properly prepared for the course work they will encounter. See my post about the Detroit Public School system. Standards, homework and student accountability. Otherwise we'll stay in this loop of perennially asking how can we change the teaching environment and course work. It's been going on too long - regardless of whether or not Betsy DeVos was around.
Dwight McFee (Toronto)
It’s your legacy to deal with: racism. The US was born in religious myth about how superior they and their god was compared to the ‘savages.’ Strike one. Then you decided that using the ‘inferior’ for ‘entrepreneurial’ ends was Moral. Thus modern day capitalism. Everything else gets in the way, causes ‘red tape’ that must be removed. The ‘world’ came to the US with the civil war, the war of shared resources and moral sentience. The 14th amendment was left to be abused until a black President. Oh No, no. Can’t have that. And the Gingrich’s, Dick Army’s, Dick Cheney’s, the Bushes (Thomas, Alito, Roberts) and now the Cruz, Trump and the pantheon of greed merchants that abuse and distort for unearned income and stupidity. Hate on the Other? So foolish
HipOath (Berkeley, CA)
I like how many of the commenters speaking most loudly against affirmative action likewise complain loudly about other commenters who suggested enlarging the Supreme Court or "doing away with Electoral College." Apparently, these fierce opponents of AA are just fine with the minority rule that our Constitution preferences, allowing a rural, conservative, religious oligarchy of white men to frequently take control of the government of this country. Yet, when any of us propose that that anti-democratic preferential system should be changed, they're against that too. Is it written in stone we should have a 9 member Court that gets to decide the rules that 330 million people should live under? Or, that in 4 years, one person should be able to change 1/3 of the Court personnel? Is that any way to operate a legal system in the 21st century? Of course not. No one in their right mind could possibly believe that governmental structures setup over 235 years would be adequate now to run this country. And they're not as anyone can see. But these fierce opponents of AA want to keep the preferences that rich white men granted themselves under the Constitution they wrote 235 years ago. The point being that if a preference benefits them or their friends, that's ok. But if a preference benefits somebody else, even to redress 4 centuries of rape, murder, brutality and oppression, then it's not right.
John (Cactose)
@HipOath Ironic then, isn't it, that it is California voters (largely Blue) who repeatedly have said "no thanks" to affirmative action? The point that Californians have made time and time again stands valid - preference based on race is in itself discriminatory. You cannot fix one form of discrimination with another. Well worn Progressive talking points won't ever change that.
Dr B (San Diego)
Affirmative action would not be concerning were it not for the dramatic differences in scholastic achievement between Asian and black students. While it is true that the differences reflect the disadvantageous culture that many blacks are raised in, one cannot correct those shortcomings at the college level. Thus, as practiced, affirmative action places less qualified students amongst more capable students and leads to their much greater rate of failure to graduate. This does a disservice to those students who would me much more successful in a less challenging student body.
Robert (Seattle)
@Dr B By excluding a big piece of the data (according to, for instance, the numbers of students and college seats involved), you are perpetuating a myth. There is also a big difference between the Asian-American applicants (not Asian, different pool) and the white ones. All other things the same, the mostly working-and middle-class Asian-American applicants are also significantly more qualified than the white applicants. And, over the past four decades or so, it's the rich white applicants that have gobbled up a majority of the seats at these schools.
NgHai (Vermont)
A recent essay in the NYT indicated that most students accepted to Ivy League schools came from private schools. Few students from public schools are accepted by the Ivy League
David Weinberg (NYC)
Who gets to decide what racial, ethnic, sex or economic group is going to get affirmed? Maybe we could just rotate it each year to a different minority. For example, it appears that young men are underperforming young women. Let’s help out young men, no? WASPs aren’t doing so well either. Maybe they should get a preference over Blacks. How about this for fairness; if you went to college, your children should not be allowed to. Generation skipping equality. Now that’s what I call “fairness.”
John Marshall (New York)
It should be quite telling that the proponents of affirmative action are so rabidly against replacing it with socio-economic considerations. Why? Considering the socio-economic status of an applicant would produce a far more diverse student body (diversity here means actual diversity, not just a synonym for minority students) than affirmative action ever could. It recognizes that kids from low socio-economic backgrounds, including things like parental education level, need a leg up in admissions processes, which often favor the wealthy, who had more opportunity (regardless of skin color). When an Asian student has to have higher scores than a white student, who has to have higher scores than a Hispanic student, who has to have higher scores than a black student, all other things being equal, that is not equality, that is literal discrimination based on race. However, socio-economic considerations would end up picking up the kids who should benefit from affirmative action (e.g., the minority kid who is wealthy and had every advantage in life is not really the target for affirmative action) as well as kids who were overlooked by affirmative action, such as poor rural white kids, who often have less money per student than inner city school districts. It's honestly a no brainer that affirmative action is a terrible policy that should have never been allowed. Instead, socio-economic considerations fulfill the same goals, without actual discrimination based on skin color.
Stranger in a strange land (Sonoma County CA)
@John Marshall a thousand times "yes"! It is socioeconomics that most strongly predicts an individual's chances of getting into higher education: tutoring, extracurriculars, school supplies, transportation to job/field trip/etc opportunities, food security, safe shelter, ... There are Asians and Whites living in poverty, and Blacks and Hispanics who are wealthy. Affirmative action is blind to socioeconomics and thus inequitable.
jrd (ny)
By all means, get rid of legacy admissions and put a discount on the grades, extra-curricular credits and test scores of students from rich private schools and rich districts. But the rest of it, known as "affirmative action", has no support outside the racial justice industry -- and among rich socially liberal white people who aren't prepared to give up their own wealth or opportunity in the name of racial justice, but don't hesitate to demand that 18 year-old white and unfavored minorities make that sacrifice for them. And maybe there are better ways to achieve justice and educational excellence than lowering standards or salting the competition? How about improving the school system, for one?
Jonathan (Connecticut)
So, who benefits? Can a clever and cynical top 10% assuage their feelings of guilt by putting a few wealthy Black students at Harvard and Yale, while millions never even graduate from high school? Or maybe they can isolate all the Black voters in a few Congressional districts, and then continue to run the country for their own benefit? Republican candidates are starting to ask Black voters how the average person benefits from these arrangements. You're not going to Harvard, and you're not going to be elected to Congress - so how does this help you?
Martian_Perspective (Somewhere, USA)
Affirmative action does not boost enrollments of black and Hispanic students, except it keeps Asian (Indian, Chinese, Korean, et al.) enrollments lower than they should be. As a society, we are so polarized that it is difficult to have civil conversations. Parents' involvement in their kids' education is the most significant factor for student achievement. Irrespective of color, if a household uses TV as a crutch to occupy a child instead of reading to them and encouraging them to read, that child's future will not be as bright. (Of course, there are exceptions.) Kids of all colors are born with the same innate ability. Whether we harness them or not is a different story. Today, we expect the government, schools, and other public institutions to shoulder much of that responsibility.
LongTimeFirstTime (New York City)
@Martian_Perspective How is it possible with a fixed number of spots and a preference for one group that another group without preference doesn’t suffer? Of course, every legacy, athlete or diversity student taken over another who isn’t and FOR that status, causes another to suffer. It’s inevitable.
@Martian_Perspective We are all born with potential. But no, we're NOT all born with the same innate ability. We don't even the same inclinations/interests from person to person. Not everyone will grow up to be a Michael Jordan, a Mozart, a Michelle Kwan, a lawyer, a doctor or a teacher. That being said, yes, regular parental involvement with their kids is imperative.
Hiker (Seattle)
Affirmative action should have ended twenty years ago, where is the justice for people who were discriminated by affirmative action.
Pm (World)
We need to move away from these quotas for this or that ethnic group and focus on poverty and class issues. They made sense 50 years ago but no longer do so.
Joseph (Boston)
"Society's interest." Well herein lies the perversion of the courts until recently- it's the legislature's, not the court's mandate to make such decisions. The court is there to interpret the law, not to make conjectures on whether said law is good for society. Good on the courts for finally adhering to the Constitution as opposed to morally preening and handing out social dictates. Roe was another excellent case- it's not their decision to make as to who has abortion access. We're finally seeing the courts cede their power in making sweeping social proclamations and instead doing their job- reading black letter law and passing judgement based on it.
TDD (Florida)
@Joseph The USSC really short changes 'society' when it tries to twist or tilt logic. Taken on its literal face Brown V Bd of Ed requires all students to go to one school, because 'separate is inherently unequal.' So, any separation is unequal and therefore unconstitutional. Also, instead of supporting the strict and clear condemnation of the truly invidious 'disparate treatment,' which is based on racist thoughts and decisions, they decided to recognize 'disparate impact' and allow condemnation based on statistics alone (and you know what they say about statistics), which has brought many bad outcomes and engendered resentment from people being punished for innocent race neutral actions. But, of course, the attorneys and activists get rich, so it is all good.
Wanda Pena (San Antonio TX)
I fear SCOTUS is reading black letter law and looking first now at what was written in 1791 and deciding whether or not what is before them existed then or not. If it did - constitutional. If not - unconstitutional. Abortion is not black letter law in the Constitution, so it is not something to be considered by the Court - it goes back to the states. In 1791 they were still using leeches and bloodletting. There is a recent federal court ruling based on SCOTUS that, since serial numbers on guns did not exist in 1791, possession of guns subject to that law (manufactured after 1968) that have their serial numbers erased is not illegal. Public safety and good law enforcement be damned - the community good is specifically called out for exclusion in the recent SCOTUS decision striking down NY gun safety laws. I am not happy nor impressed with that juvenile, bullying, stick-it-in-your-ear direction of SCOTUS.
John Roosevelt (NYC)
Giving people an advantage for university admissions based on skin color is un-popular (see polls), un-American and un-constitutional UK universities do not consider skin color at all. They do, however, give a moderate advantage to applicants from poor backgrounds, regardless of skin color. I think that's a far better system
R. Anderson (South Carolina)
Many would like to think we are a pure meritocracy but we are not and social conventions and legacy and money influence what we think of others.
Mack (New England)
@R. Anderson And we have gotten to the point where economic inequality and advantage is no longer clearly defined by race or sex.
E (los angeles)
I see the value of diversity in all institutions, particularly publically funded institutions. However, as this country takes a decidedly cruel and rightward turn - see previous negative comments on this article - I take comfort in the fact that once affirmative action (that was meant to benefit members of historically disadvantaged community) is gone, white people can stop complaining about how their child's slot was stolen by someone undeserving and black. Perhaps, we should questions why in the greatest country in the world, there are limited slots for education.
Emile (Ex New Yorker)
Affirmative Action is doomed; neither this Court nor the American Public have the stomach for it. Supporting Affirmative Action always requires focusing first on society as a whole and hoping good individual citizens will come out of this, whereas opposing it means focusing first on individuals and hoping a good society will come out of that. It won't. Focusing solely on individuals inevitably leads to an atomistic society where each man and woman is out for himself. America has always been an individualistic society. Now we're just getting brutal about it. P.S. Endless talk about "what's really needed is to improve K-12 education for all" is risible. This is never going to happen in a country that values education as little as this one does. Even Affirmative Action isn't about education; it's about "success"--who gets to experience it and how much money it brings in.
Phil (Tennessee)
@Emile "This is never going to happen in a country that values education as little as this one does." One of the main concerns this year is parents upset by the woke propaganda being fed to their kids in schools. School board meetings are full, and parents are engaged and angry. That hardly supports an argument that education is not valued.
Sue (New Jersey)
@Emile "in a country that values education as little as this one does" - we spend more per student than the rest of the world. That tellS me "society" does indeed value education. If individual parents don't, that's on them.
Sue (New Jersey)
@Emile "in a country that values education as little as this one does" - we spend more per student than the rest of the world. That tell me "society" does indeed value education. If individual parents don't, that's on them.
n1789 (savannah)
Merit alone, not race nor ethnicity, should be first place in college admissions, at least to good colleges and universities. It is deplorable that people like Greenhouse are still pushing racist policies to appease their guilt ridden white friends and the blacks to whom they have become like slaves.
Enlightened (People's Republic of Brooklyn)
The end of all race-based and other preference-based (legacy, sports, financial contributions) cannot come quickly enough. College admissions should be based on objective criteria only. Diversity has nothing to do with education but is misplaced social engineering, and as understood today, it means those who are superficially different but think essentially alike.
Jack Hartman (Appalachian Trail)
I would start from the point that all (people) are created equal (barring significant issues that affect thought processes) when it comes to acquiring knowledge and the judgement to make use of that knowledge. Having equal opportunity in schools to pick up knowledge and judgement is just one of many ingredients that make up a thinking, caring human. It really starts at birth. Maternal and infant health care is probably more important than AA but obtaining that is hugely dependent upon where one lives and how much time and money they have to spend on it. Having a close knit family that has the ability to provide guidance and love throughout childhood is another major contributor to "success" but I've witnessed how tough it is for a single person to raise kids when the income they can produce doesn't meet certain levels. Even if a kid is lucky enough to overcome miserly health care, absentee parents and levels of income that might not even provide for a reasonable diet, they're still likely to meet social barriers when it comes to breaking into the mid or upper levels of the workforce and that is particularly true for minorities and women. Older White men still have a stranglehold on decision making positions that are so richly rewarding financially. The current problem I see is that the progress AA enabled in the face of so many other obstacles is now about to be washed away by a tsunami of the privileged that leans on individualism without a thought to how we got here.
Keith (Detroit)
Affirmative Action programs by their very nature, invoke a sense of unfairness. If your end goal is specified racial mix, and the class admitted to your university pass and fail at different rates, are you going to change the relative grading? We have seen the crime of social promotion in public schools where someone doesn't meet the standards to advance, but gets moved up anyway. Who would want to drive across a bridge or get a medical checkup by a affirmative action engineer or doctor who was passed up the graduation chain to meet some arbitrary statistic of pass rates. It doesn't inspire confidence in the system at large. The better option and the solution is to give the kids the same ability to compete academically as any other. Fix what is wrong with our grade schools and high schools that turn out students who fail the basics. And that means challenging the students to do the work, teachers to continue to learn and innovate, parents to support and enforce that, and funding that levels the playing field across the economic regions.
Abc123 (Massachusetts)
The author uses a typical AA shell game. Affirmative Action claims to level the playing field for races that are underserved. However, the statistics that support the idea that Black Americans are underserved are driven by the disproportionately poor Black Americans, who ARE in fact underserved. Herein lies the shell game. Affirmative Action in American colleges does nothing to help these people. It instead conveys benefits on people who LOOK like these people. It provides advantages to the privileged POC, people in the highest quintiles of income, and people who are not suffering the actual maladies (incarceration, addiction, poor schools, etc) being used statistically to support Affirmative Action. The data showing Black Americans are disproportionately underserved is not affected by giving the child of a Black CEO, surgeon, or celebrity “points” on their application. Until Affirmative Action addresses poverty, not skin color, it will continue to be a shell game, giving advantages to the already advantaged while leaving the truly disadvantaged, who are disproportionately POC, behind.
SteveRR (CA)
A reasonable soul might look at the knots one has to tie oneself into - to justify why the color on a person's skin should trump modest accomplishments like GPA's, SAT's and other "race-neural" measures and decide that the argument for the maintenance of racial set-asides - is bankrupt and probably evil. I was delighted a few months back when the Gray Lady interviewed students and so many young people of color indicated they were embarrassed by the assumption that they owed their successes to set-asides. Perhaps young people genuinely are the future.
Jane (10023)
@SteveRR Excellent response. AA really is a stigma. Getting rid of it will make significant changes in workplace diversity - and allow competent minorities to really shine, without any whispers of "AA." I'm sure they are out there now, we just don't know which is the benefit of AA, and which is genuinely competent
TS (New York)
A Action is a bad idea. I've watched it up close, and I concur with Thomas Sowell: it hurts those it thinks it helps. Put people in academic environments where they belong, based on their academic performance, and they will have the best chance at thriving and being seen as equals who are worthy of being there. Put people in over their head, they leave the tougher majors, fail out, drop out, and feel like frauds. A majority of Black Americans are against A action. It's white liberals and progressives and some Black activists who think it's a good idea to destroy the lives of others.
M (Boston)
Discriminating against one group to undo the effects of discrimination on another group cannot be our answer. It goes against everything we were taught about the wrongs of racism. Sorry, race-based AA has to go - but maybe we can measure the extent of poverty instead? It seems fair to give students who went to the worst schools/lived in the poorest circumstances a bump up in admissions, provided they are supported when they get to college. And many of those students will be students of color.
Retired Fed (Northern Westchester)
@M I like your first statement. Two wrongs don't make a right.
LongTimeFirstTime (New York City)
The column is an excellent example of the mental gymnastics one has to pull off to rationalize discriminating in favor based on race while still adhering to the law that requires we cannot discriminate against based on race. Boy o Boy, Linda. It seems to me no double-bank shot, but rather a kiss at the cup to drain this one: our ideals include embracing one another for who not what we are, even if we've failed to do so before. That ideal was nicely sorted in Brown, decided 9-0 mind you. Since 1978 and Bakke, the Court has bent over backwards to fine 5-4 end-runs around Brown. It's enough already. We live by our ideals, or we don't.
LongTimeFirstTime (New York City)
@deb Not sure I follow. That there is a "need" for an item doesn't mean it's consistent with our purported ideals. No?
Chris (10013)
As a bi-racial, first-generation American, I have found the argument pro-affirmative action debasing at its core and wrong from an equity perspective. When Harvard requires Asians or Whites to have dramatically higher test scores for entry as opposed it is not only reductive (giving preference to President Obama's children over that of an Appalachian white person simply because of race) and is unfair to those who have achieved as much or more. It also forever taints the accomplishments of the receiver of affirmative action. The lawsuit against Harvard made clear that all Black graduates from Harvard were simply less qualified than other groups. This problem is further exacerbated by the fact that higher ed counts its racial wins by acceptances, not by graduation. In places like Stanford, where preferences are given to Native Americans, the graduation rate is abysmal. The very supposedly enlightened policy is nothing more than a sham that puts up admissions headlines and neglects student success. It is high time that affirmative action is retired by the justices for schools and workplaces.
Marcy (DMV)
I’ll cocede there could be a perception problem from affirmative action, but the reality is all accepted to Harvard are already ridiculously overqualified to begin with, so a black person who is merely overqualified still merits admission especially given the diverse perspective they offer. Foreign born POC adds diversity as well. I’m not concerned about the qualifications of black surgeons. They had to do well in undergrad, gain admission to med school, ace their classes, pass their boards. There are many ways to weed out underperforming doctors of any color. As Chris said it’s graduation not just admissions.
Humulus Lupulus (Hazy, IPA)
@Chris Sounds like the problem is the schools, not the policy. As far as I can recall, Asians were not brought to America as slaves and then let go to make their way just over 150 years ago. And whites in Appalachia did not lose all of their land and way of life to make way for white European immigrants to build their worlds in America. So acting as if everyone gets an equal shot or is just not qualified is a bit naive. Bully for you and your immigrant parents, who came because they wanted to, but we would not need it if the American people wanted to do the right thing and prepare everyone for a productive life through education or training.
Chris (10013)
@Humulus Lupulus - The implication is that Black Americans are a special case. Of course, that would exclude any Black person who immigrated to the United States (current generation about 10%, yet represent 40% of Harvard admits. It also ignores the plight of so many. Chinese were the only group (including Blacks) that had property and job restrictions until the mid-60's sourcing from the Chinese Exclusion Act. Between 1-2M Hispanics were rounded up during the Great Depression, loaded on trains and deported including citizens. Armenians - genocide. Jews - Genocide. Mormons .. Gays .. Women .. Muslims ... Atheists ... and so on and so on
RJ (Mount Vernon Ohio)
Was hoping I'd seen the last of the oft-wrong, but never silent Ms. Greenhouse, sadly that's not the case. Well past time to end affirmative action. If you can't compete using objective testing criteria, well, there's always barber college. The way to stop discriminating about race, is to stop discriminating about race.
Michael D (Washington, NJ)
The defense of affirmative action is an indictment on our public education system. Allowing students to graduate to the next grade even if they can't read or perform basic math equations (20/5=x) only leads to a lifetime of failure and unrealistic expectations.
db (nyc)
The author just focuses on the legal convolutions and contortions of the case, which are beyond me and probably many others. The fundamental question of whether affirmative action should go is much simpler to answer. It should. In today's world it is not only racist, it promotes racism.
Blossom (The Buckeye State)
@db Nope. It's just leveling an unequal playing ground.
Newton Guy (Newton, MA)
This subject is tearing America apart. It is also bringing us down. There are actual reductions in academic content at elite institutions, as well as open-book exams where before there were none, to give unqualified candidates a chance. This is wrong, and will cut our society down in global competition. If the events of the last year have shown us anything, it is that competition between global regions is real, and more intense than ever. This issue is existential, not just about making ourselves feel good.
Michelle (California)
This is, and will remain a very fraught topic. "Equal protection" is a very hard position to argue against. Essentially the "affirmative action" camp are always in danger of sounding somewhat like "Trust us; we'll do racism the right way." Because using race at all is, by definition racist. Perhaps it's time both sides agree on an alternative: not the very divisive "race" metric, but through the more quantifiable "class" or "economic background" of applicants? This alternative will give those wanting to help people disadvantaged because of race at least some of what they want. And it will be more durable and defendable: I think most thinking Americans will agree that we wish to promote social mobility. And one will not have the glaring anomaly that racial preferences apply equally to well-to-do black families as those who come from challenged circumstances.
eric c (new york)
I find it fascinating how intelligent legal people can contort arguments to come up with analyses like what Ms. Greenhouse has written here. Or maybe she like others have lost objective sight of what it means to restore equality of treatment vs. go further and actively tinker with preferences. Brown was about ending the invidious practice of separating people by race. Treat people without regard to the color of their skin. Don't allow governments or public institutions to engage in evaluating people based on those prejudicial characteristics. That's a very clear requirement to apply. Yet with affirmative action, we let every random school administrator, city contract officer, state government politician decide which flavor of discrimination they wish to apply, in the name of righting some past wrong. Which group do they favor? And with what limit and what expiration? Just up to their judgement? With what evidence that it works? When will my minority group get its turn to be favored? I don't have much faith in that coming around. I have more faith in the principle, "don't discriminate". Finally, if this is about righting wrongs done to black people historically in this country, why has it morphed into a pick-and-choose by university administrators to now decide that hispanic people need more representation? But not certain other groups? I just don't have faith that those who say that they're righting past wrongs, see exactly who's being wronged now.
Bill (FL)
@eric c Though I am not a lawyer I always read Ms. Greenhouse’s columns and greatly appreciate her command of legal detail and nuance. It is therefore puzzling that in this article she neglects to mention the words written by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts in a 2007 ruling in which the Court struck down a Seattle program aimed at desegregating schools: “The only way to avoid racial discrimination is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” If Chief Justice Roberts still feels this way in 2022 I don’t hold out much hope that affirmative action will be preserved.
Bill (FL)
@eric c Though I am not a lawyer I always read Ms. Greenhouse’s columns and greatly appreciate her command of legal detail and nuance. It is therefore puzzling that in this article she neglects to mention the words written by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts in a 2007 ruling in which the Court struck down a Seattle program aimed at desegregating schools: “The only way to avoid racial discrimination is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” If Chief Justice Roberts still feels this way in 2022 I don’t hold out much hope that affirmative action will be preserved.
Tom Marks (USA)
@eric c This. Basically what I got from Ms. Greenhouse’s piece (and explicitly stated in the Naacp brief) was: Discrimination on the basis of race and skin color is ok as long as the intentions are “correct” and it’s helping the “right” people. What a dangerous and misguided argument.
Addison Clark (Florida)
Asian-American students are not excludable.
I don't find this piece particularly compelling from a legal perspective. The concept of equality under the law really matters. Right now, affirmative action is an industry run by consultants and administrators - it has nothing to do with equality; it has to do with preferential treatment. People are naturally "diverse" - we don't need to single out certain groups as the elixir for diversity - whether racial minorities, ethnic minorities, women, gay people, etc. To suggest that only women understand and represent me is absurd. The original goal of affirmative action was to give a boost for Black people . It is a good goal. Perhaps rather than worrying about universities, we should invest more heavily in K-12 schools with a high proportion of poor kids especially Black kids. Our educational system so far has failed dismally on this task, Hopefully we will learn from successful charter schools how best to invest in kids' futures.
Meg (Illinois)
@JEH The problem is that while, as you put it, "People are naturally 'diverse' ", society's treatment of them is not. Whatever XYZ do they must do twice as well as white men to be thought half as good. No, I don't like being represented by white men, who most definitely do not understand or support my priorities. Nor do I approve of charter schools siphoning away resources from public school systems. Equitable would be a national public school system through college rather than relying on local and state control. Our current patchwork is essentially built on "separate but equal" based on the wealth of school districts and their residents' ability to contribute more (not just financially) to their childrens' educations.
ws (köln)
@JEH I don´t think there is much legal work at all in this complex. For example saying something was "compelling" is no argument but a claim - a legal consequence at best. In contrast to Ms. Greenhouse article the burden of justification does not require sufficient reasons why the period of 25 years is so short but it is demanding sufficient legal reasons why AA should be compelling. Saying "It´s compelling because it´s compelling" is a perfect circular reasoning that has no place in a true legal argument because this has nothing to do with statutory interpretation. So I´m afraid that Justices have to undertake a complete reconstrution of constitutional lines of reasoning from the scratch now. Despite it has been a long term issue all this seems to be still at the beginning. Also from a legal point of view I am really curious to see what will come out of it. I´m absolutely not able to foresee what the reasoning will be. The only thing to predict is that traditional approaches to justification can no longer endure because let alone they are openly insufficient they were not able to produce any persuasive solution. In addiion they are not able to grasp the problem as a whole, which is an intransparent admission system in the AA cases to put it very mildly and a unsuitable electoral system in the Vocting Act case.
K D P (Sewickley, PA)
The word "Asian" appears nowhere in the article. Yet, the experience of Asians illustrates the problems of affirmative action. Although Asians have faced (and still face) race-based discrimination, they are often held to the highest standards in college admissions. How is that fair?
Some Guy (USA)
You simply cannot discriminate against individuals on the basis of race. You cannot dilute an Asian person’s chances of admission solely he is Asian and you feel like there are too many of them. That is racist and discriminatory and you wouldn’t tolerate it if he were black. Therefore it cannot be tolerated when the individuals in question are of another race, if we are to take seriously the “equal protection of the laws.” I am sorry that the effects of segregation are still felt but American society has grown more diverse and complex in the last 70 years and we are not just white and black anymore. There are other people who are now here and deserve the same legal protections as anyone else. We will be on a dangerous road if we now think Equal Protection does not matter as much for some individuals.
Diogenes (Naples Florida)
The 13th, 14th, and 15th Constitutional Amendments make slavery illegal in this country. Affirmative Action, based on "Someone who looked sort of like you was mean to someone who looked sort of like me 5 generations ago, so now I can be mean to you," makes it legal again. The fact that your grandfather was more successful than my grandfather allows you to drive a nicer car than I do can be perfectly fair. When it is, it's the motivation that made America the best, and richest, country in the world. Affirmative Action is the legalization of envy. End it.
Marcy (DMV)
@Diogenes The fact that your grandfather drove a better car than mine means you can, too? It sounds like you support entrenched, intergenerational wealth, lack of class mobility, and the death of the American dream. The type of society built to perpetuate white privilege.
Nycbd (NY)
Why were all of the prior comments deleted? I will repost mine... Ms. Greenhouse is a brilliant writer who I have enjoyed reading for years. But this is not her best work. The Times comment section skews heavily Democrat (I am an UWS moderate Democrat) and when most comments disagree with someone taking what is basically the Democrat party line, their argument is pretty far away from the mainstream. I think that is the case here. I oppose affirmative action as it is currently constructed. Someone should not get preferences because they can check a box. As Justice O'Connor noted, we are now more than a generation into affirmative action, so at some point the cascading benefits should stop. The children of wealthy minorities coming from the best schools with unlimited opportunities should not get special benefits. A huge portion of these minority students would have gotten in without checking the box, so it creates a sense of uncertainty whether they truly deserved to be there or not. I am supportive of prioritizing those who have had challenging backgrounds, and this is why many schools include essays in their applications. But there is no box to check for this. Similarly, gerrymandering electoral districts to create desired results, whether they are racial or political, should also be disallowed. Those who want racial gerrymanders but not political ones are being truly disingenuous.
E K (Washington, USA)
What about the long held, perpetual, "affirmative action" of univerities taking chikdren of wealthy alumni and chikdren of celebrities and politicians, whether or not they have any intellectual abilities, or giving football scholarships to kids who would neverbe accepted by their intellectual capabilities? Something tells me SCOTUS will never care about that, especially since Kavanaugh et al come from non-merit based crony connection privilege.
Fully Recovered Liberal (New York)
@E K This is a different issue best left to the respective academic institutions themselves. The topic is actions based on skin color not another vindictive left wing Kavanaugh attack. He is on the SCOTUS. Deal with it !
J Lance (Chesterfield, VA)
What isn’t mentioned enough in articles like this is how strong the response is to perceived unfairness. California, bastion of progressive policies, twice voted to prohibit formalized racial application. Prejudice, bias, and illogical categorization are real and recognized by anyone paying attention. Yet majorities consistently refute the idea that race conscious enforcement is a reasonable solution since the essential unfairness of such policies seems equivalent to what came before. Our society is unequal in many ways, human nature predicts it will remain so, but unless rulings seem “fair” they will be abrogated eventually.
Northwoods Cynic (Wisconsin)
@J Lance We need competence, not quotas. When I fly across the Atlantic, I want and need the people in the cockpit to be competent. How many melanocytes they have is totally irrelevant.
Carmel fruit farmer (ny)
Quotas and affirmative action shouldn't be ended but they are attempts to create racial economic equality on the cheap and are grossly inadequate to turn the tables and create a nation of true equality of opportunity whatever the "race", neighborhood, or home a child is born into. This is an extremely tall order, of course, but it is the most important political and moral issue this country has ever faced and we've been facing it since our nation was founded. The real step required for meaningful progress requires strong federal action to change our education system from pre-school up, where the quality of education is not affected by the relative wealth of neighborhoods. Children born in poor neighborhoods and homes with inadequate academic resources and stimulation need more resources to reach their potential, not just just equal. Those of priviledge need to pay in by ratio of their priviledge to create a system of equal opportunity for all of our children. A country's greatness should be primarily measured by its ability to help lift its children to their highest potential. The U.S. is failing at this systemically. Our economy and relative contentment will rise the closer we come to this ideal.
BChad (Brooklyn)
@Carmel fruit farmer Not being a lawyer, I struggled to understand Ms. Greenhouse's nuanced distinctions among the Grutter, Brown, Plessy decisions and the conflicting views between a "color-blind" admissions policy and Affirmative Action. I DO understand that race has to be considered in integrating schools because of the obscene historical record of keeping African-Americans out of schools. For decades. Until Brown in 1954, and even then, there was no time limit placed on de-segregation, which delayed school integration. However, your post, Carmel, speaks to my own views about what needs to be done. Learning from and about U.S. history should be a sine qua non in secondary education on up through college, and I mean real history, with all of the racial discrimination detailed so we can make future laws that try to deal with that history and act accordingly.
BChad (Brooklyn)
@Bill I taught many of these students from the 'hood as a professor of English in a NYC community college. They all managed to find some way to further their education, though they often worked two jobs, sometimes helping to pay the family expenses. Inner city schools do not have "boatloads" of money pouring in, nor are teachers supported. Covid has further undermined primary and secondary education. Also, I would imagine that dysfunctional families exist in rural areas, as well where there is the problem of addiction to pills and other such maladies.
Carmel fruit farmer (ny)
@Bill yours are the usual arguments for doing nothing about racial economic disparity and don't pan out statistically or logically. The one about money rationalizes sustaining the status quo- that is that money isn't the issue and pouring it into inner city schools is just a waste of resources. The other standard talking point is to blame Black and Brown culture, as if racial history of government enforced White priviledge is disconnected to the nature of of cultural development and the usual upspoken racist explanation is that the real differential is genetic. What is your explanation for the difference in Black compared to White culture in support for children? Go to the National Center for education statistics to find out the truth about the amount of money spent educating the poor compared to wealthier children instead of posting tired Republican excuses for not using government intervention to create equal opportunity in this country. Their right wing donor base hates using government for this purpose of anything not related to protecting their wealth and power.
Reasonable Person (Boston)
Use of race in school admissions is widely unpopular across nearly all segments of society. A recent PEW Research poll showed that a majority of Black people, the main beneficiaries of such policies, don’t believe race should be a factor in admissions. The inherent flip side of racial preference is racial bias. You cannot have one without the other. Anyone who is advantaged because their skin is the right color necessarily crowds out someone else whose skin is the wrong color.
Sue (New Jersey)
We need to focus on encouraging strong, two-parent families raising their children to value education. No "societal remedy" can replace that or, in fact, is necessary.
Robert (Seattle)
The unthinkable is now smack dab in front of us. For example, a Republican senator has suggested that the states should be allowed to decide whether or not interracial marriage should be legal. No need to bore with the same old, accurate criticisms made by many, including Linda Greenhouse, of the reactionary majority and its doing what it wants to because it can, Constitution be damned. A misrepresentation of the present state of things is at the heart of this. The folks who have gobbled up most of the affirmative action seats at all but a few of our more selective schools are the children of rich white families. The applicants that have suffered under the present regime are the mostly middle- and working-class Asian-American applicants who are, all other things the same, significantly better qualified than those rich white applicants. To get some idea of what merit-based student bodies at Harvard or Yale would look like, please take a gander at the schools that don't have affirmative action for rich white children--Caltech, or the UC system including Berkeley. Poor and working-class applicants never had a fair proportion of the seats at such schools, and still don't. Including Black and Latino American students. For their base which is now enraged and motivated by matters of race and gender resentment and little else, the Republicans are untruthfully painting this as unqualified Black applicants taking seats from innocent white children.
Jason (Los Angeles)
The "Badge of Servitude" Ms. Greenberg refers to regarding segregation no longer exists. Segregation, if it exists at all, is not legal and overt, but illegal and covert. The "Taint of Affirmative Action", whereby people assume prestige university credentials may be the product of racial handicapping, however, still exists.
eric c (new york)
And by the way, when will AA end? That was the key question of Justice O'Connor 20 years ago. l How much has to be achieved for AA to end? Who says when enough has been achieved? How does the Court get that information and decide? The proponents of AA will constantly move the goalposts and say "we haven't gotten there yet". Or some new group needs to have the policy applied to them. It will never end for them. Laws need to have concrete conditions. This is government imposing rules on people after all. The justices should be rightly wary of having such an "open-ended policy" as O'Connor put it even back then. No more of this "xyz more years and we'll sunset it" argument. It it's wrong, it's wrong. To borrow a phrase, "justice delayed is justice denied". If you believe that someone is being wronged, you don't say, wait another 10 years and we'll stop doing it then.
LAO (New York)
I think I'd find the comments welcoming the eventual overturning of affirmative action based on race, a lot more persuasive if there was at least some acknowledgement of the brutal history of black people in this country. The first black slave in America came in 1619, but the official start of the slave trade didn't begin until 1660. From that period on, through the Civil War, Reconstruction and the Civil Rights movement, some 450 plus years passed. If we start with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibited discrimination in public places and schools, and provided the impetus for affirmative action, and end with the present day, we're talking 57 years. 57 years since the end of what was essentially America's version of apartheid. And now, suddenly, despite scalding evidence to the contrary, we've advanced to such a degree that programs do nothing but further racism. Affirmative action may well be problematic, but such simplistic bromides do nothing but help to ignore our past.
Patrick (Pennsylvania)
Can't come soon enough, my son with a 4.0 his freshmen year, works multiple jobs to contribute to his tuition, and is out of state at UNC was denied admission to the business school just last week. UNC's explanation, we take a holistic approach to admissions. In other words, we will take a less qualified kid to round out our holistic approach! The end of affirmative action is near and for one I can't wait.
Casual Observer (Los Angeles)
@Patrick The holistic approach does not ignore merit but it does include considerations to determine merit beyond overall academic achievements alone. Highly sought after institutions must choose among a great number of highly qualified candidates beyond who they can accept, any of who would excel if admitted.
@Patrick Leaving AA aside for a moment, no school can admit everyone. They just don't have the resources. Somebody is always going to draw the short stick, unfortunately. The solution for your kid is the one my father insisted on for me -- apply to more schools! (Yeah, the application process IS a lot more expensive and hassle-worthy today than it was in my day, but still..) If he's a wunderkind, he'll get in somewhere.
No Favor (US)
This is 2022, not 1955, not 1968. Enforcement of equal opportunity laws is essential. For everyone. Not favoring one group over another.
Phil (Tennessee)
@No Favor "Enforcement of equal opportunity laws is essential." Yes, equal opportunity, not equal outcome.
Casual Observer (Los Angeles)
The merit system argument is fair on the face of it but in practice our K-12 educational system as well as the circumstances of home and community life across our country produces the true unjust ability of people to achieve their potentials in the educational system. The wealthy districts with minimal social disadvantages suffered offer students far more opportunities to learn and excel, and they do send far more high school graduates to college, prepared to thrive. The low income districts with communities dealing with deprivations and crime cannot prepare students for college, nor assure those who do apply are prepared. So merit based selection processes select the privileged over the people with undeveloped potentials.
Kurfco (California)
Meanwhile, in the real world, affirmative action is alive and well. Once colleges discovered they could stop requiring SAT and ACT scores for admission, they could admit anyone they want, for any reason, and no one could tell how they made the decision. For the last couple of years, there have been a lot of stories about how many more minority students have been accepted into colleges. Do say. Affirmative action? No, just much more relaxed admissions. "Progressives" had wanted to end the ACT/SAT tests for a long time because they are "unfair", "culturally biased", etc. Covid provided the perfect excuse to terminate them. From here on, the only qualification for admission to a college someplace is having the Federal loan and grant money available to pay for it.
You Can Call Me Al (NYC)
Be a legacy, have a family member make a significant donation, attend prep school, hire an admissions counselor, play a musical instrument with years of private lessons, have a SAT tutor, play lacrosse, attend an academic summer camp, and have parents who expect high achievement. Is this not the pathway to elite college admissions? Meritocracy is a myth contrary to all the comments.
ajn (Md.)
Too often “affirmative action” means lowering standards, which is not good for the country. In every case, it is both a violation of the equal protection clause and causes friction between the races. And unless one believes in collective responsibility- as opposed to individual responsibility- it is morally wrong.
Casual Observer (Los Angeles)
Affirmative Action is like the old quota systems, only it's to purpose is to advance some faster than others to rectify inequities resulting from institutionalized and legal segregation and racial discrimination. It is one of those cases where a clearly biased and unfair practice is needed to rectify previously clearly biased and unfair practices. Holding it up to principles of fairness based upon a system without institutionalized and legal biases and discrimination is quite honestly irrational because it selects some facts and disregards other facts upon which the policies are founded. The discriminated against marginalized majorities could not participate in the great accumulation of wealth, property, and social advancement for a century, yet if they were to be free and equal lacking sufficient means to participate equally would keep them unequal and unable to prosper. Thus the need to help them advance.
William (Westchester)
On this topic, and others, those reading wherever they are in the world, might be impressed with the relative agreement and mutual encouragement among commenters. One influence on that state of affairs is the wide open opportunity for any reader to object to the content and have it taken down. I've been taken down numerous times, and this post might provide another example. Although 'doesn't agree with my opinion' is not officially a basis for removal, even one dedicated partisan can hugely affect perceptions.
Robert (Seattle)
@William The implication here is that William's views have been taken down because other commenters have disagreed with him. I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that is rare here. Anything else would be unacceptable, for the obvious reasons. That said, there are other, perfectly good reasons for flagging a comment (e.g., spreading untruths about Covid vaccinations). It does seem to be the case that the present topic tends to be particularly inspirational for a large number of relatively reactionary commenters who are strongly opposed to affirmative action. It goes without saying that such views here are, in many if not most cases, based on the usual, rightwing, race-resentment lies and misrepresentations.
Gazeeb (San Francisco)
College admissions in the context of affirmative action. It seems one factor is never discussed. Scholastic merit. For that should be the determinative factor for any prospective student. Not color of skin or ethnicity.
eric c (new york)
I find it fascinating how intelligent legal people can contort arguments to come up with analyses like what Ms. Greenhouse has written here. Or maybe she like others have lost objective sight of what it means to restore equality of treatment vs. go further and actively tinker with preferences. Brown was about ending the invidious practice of separating people by race. Treat people without regard to the color of their skin. Don't allow governments or public institutions to engage in evaluating people based on those prejudicial characteristics. That's a very clear requirement to apply. Yet with affirmative action, we let every random school administrator, city contract officer, state government politician decide which flavor of discrimination they wish to apply, in the name of righting some past wrong. Which group do they favor? And with what limit and what expiration? Just up to their judgement? With what evidence that it works? When will my minority group get its turn to be favored? I don't have much faith in that coming around. I have more faith in the principle, "don't discriminate". Finally, if this is about righting wrongs done to black people historically in this country, why has it morphed into a pick-and-choose by university administrators to now decide that hispanic people need more representation? But not certain other groups? I just don't have faith that those who say that they're righting past wrongs, see exactly who's being wronged now.
Michelle (California)
@eric c Ibram Kendi: "The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination. The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.” A great way to sew division, but not a durable solution to give people a hand up, IMO.
Kenneth Schlossberg (Pembroke Pines Fla 33025)
When President Kennedy was assassinated, Pat Moynihan said, "Life is unfair." In my experience, that about sums it up for college admissions. Why the government, including the Court, is sticking in its noses is beyond me. If we are trying to create perfect fairness, why not prohibit legacy admissions along with affirmative action? Why not eliminate extra admission credits for the prized basketball player or the extraordinary tuba player? Why not eliminate credits to create a geographically balanced class? I am an old-fashioned merit elitist. Academic achievement and potential achievement should be the only criteria for admission. Period, End of story. But that is a dream world and the Court is not doing anybody a favor by mixing in now.
Casual Observer (Los Angeles)
The diversity argument is important to advocates of affirmative action to counter the way in competitive selections race or gender tips the choice towards one subset of equally qualified candidates and so denies some equally qualified candidates from being selected. Equally qualified often means within statistical margins of error, and that means some with actually higher measures of qualifications lose to some with lower measures, but given the accuracy of the measures, not significantly. Diversity should be the natural result of a truly fair system, one in which all have equal means and opportunities to succeed in a competition. With the deliberate exclusions of non-white peoples to participate in the great century of growth that ended in 1970, those people never accumulated the wealth from generations of surplus incomes enjoyed by the people included. The only sure way to improve one's material prosperity and accumulate wealth is by sharing in the productivity and the ability to buy or invest large amounts of money to take advantage of opportunities. Affirmative action was seen as means to rectify an injustice in terms of education and promotion in public institutions which would only disadvantage a few at a time. If the country continued to grow as it had, that effect should not be more than a short inconvenience for those affected, but would advance those who had been held back to move ahead more quickly. The end of the century of growth was not considered.
The Grump (Philadelphia)
What does any of these mean for legacy admissions? Because legacy admissions is the REAL enemy.
HelloDollie (Murica)
If one takes 10 steps back and look at the big picture, affirmative action is fundamentally unconstitutional. Singling out particular races or groups to help or discriminate against are both wrong. Equality is right, "equity" makes no sense.
Dodger Fan (Los Angeles)
There is something to the class / race issue, but it is conflated with politics. In the UK, class divides on health have been well studied and have shown overall improvements in health BUT increasing differences between classes. Their policy papers focused on reducing structural factors (housing, nutrition, healthcare infrastructure, transportation infrastructure, childcare, etc.) that impact UK population health. Focusing on class to get around race will be more equitable and has been used as a workaround. However, here in the US, when a group strongly identifies with a particular political party, it is disingenuous to say that depriving them of equal representation because of party affiliation does not also impact their circumstances and opportunities.
Kathy (SF)
A commenter who identified himself as a white man posted that he had struggled in life and didn't believe he had privilege. People misunderstand what privilege means in this context. Have you been followed in stores while you shop? Pulled over for no reason while driving? Those are examples. It's not that anything has been easy or he's had all he needed. Privilege is about what he and I have not needed to worry about because we have white skin. If you're not gay and you live in one of the 30+ states where you can be fired simply for being gay. you don't have to worry about that unless you choose to. You have that privilege.
TDD (Florida)
@Kathy No, but I have been followed or harassed when walking or driving through a particular neighborhood. I have also been advised to avoid some neighborhoods altogether, or risk being victimized-with the strong implication that the latter would be deservedly so. Many people deal with stereotyping.
Hi (Chicago)
Exactly. No one has pulled me over for no reason and shot me when I am unarmed. So I feel pretty privileged.
TDD (Florida)
@Hi Of course any unnecessary and illegal police shooting is a travesty that should be prosecuted, the overall occurrence of police shootings is quite low. Further, while the ratio of Black people shot is slightly but statistically higher, the actual number of White people shot by police is higher than the number of Black people shot. If you take into account SES of those White people I bet, but do not know, that the ratio gets very close.
Jeff (Mississauga ON)
If Greenhouse thinks affirmative action should be permanent, not just for 25 years as O'Connor said, then actually she's endorsing the claim of black inferiority. After all, Asians have never needed affirmative action (though they actually qualify in my country!!).
Cowboy Marine (Colorado Trails)
If this Court majority does end affirmative action and college admissions become primarily merit based, I wonder if they realize that their own private school/country club kids and grandkids, and those of their friends, will likely not be admitted to Harvard, Yale or Princeton in lieu of the 90% of each of their alma maters' future Freshman classes that will be of Asian heritage. Their best hope going forward for admission will be as a golf, crew, squash, sailing team or pickle ball athlete.
logical (NYC)
Saying we can use race as a factor in college admission, but only if certain races are advantaged and others disadvantaged is clearly racist. Clearly. We all want to empower and enrich the black community, but racism and discrimination is not the way to do it.
Stephen Merritt (Gainesville, Florida)
Thank you, Ms. Greenhouse. To be blunt, the point of these lawsuits is to try to use the Constitution to discriminate against people of color, and above all Black people.
Tom S (Tampa, FL)
An entire article on this case and never once used the word "Asian". Absolutely perfect explanation of why this case is before the court and why the author's side will likely lose.
William Colgan (Rensselaer NY)
If “diversity” is what elite institutions want, there is an easy way to do it, and shrug off an arcane admissions process in the bargain. Base admission on income and on lottery. For example, set a basic academic standard, say 1100 in combined SAT scores (out of a possible 1600). Next run an admissions lottery based on income, say something along the lines of: Family income under $50K, 20% Income $50K - $150K. 60% Above $150K. 20% Want to make this even more “fair.” Ask the most competitive institutions to join into a single lottery. If an applicant drew say Yale instead of her first choice, would she decline? Not likely. An admissions change like above would do many things: end the bias towards private school applicants, end the bias towards athletes, end students applying to every elite college in hope of landing one, and level the playing field for every aspirant in the country. The number of applicants will always exceed the number of seats available. The current admissions processes have many built in biases, and affirmative action is only one aspect of this often times arbitrary and outright silly “system.” And I would bet that in 30 years data will show students admitted under lottery will have led lives just as successful as those now coming. out of elite institutions.
Casual Observer (Los Angeles)
@William Colgan A lottery would produce a randomly selected population but with any constraints would reflect the biases that those constraints reflect. In this case, the inequities of our K-12 educational systems with wealth districts providing good educations and low income districts less so.
Jason (Los Angeles)
@William Colgan "And I would bet that in 30 years data will show students admitted under lottery will have led lives just as successful as those now coming out of elite institutions." This is the same bet as "in 30 years, data will show that diversity made us stronger." I would take both those bets, on the No side, if offered.
RLW (Chicago)
One of the ironies that may be lost on most readers of Linda Greenhouse's excellent review of this current Court conundrum is that one of the beneficiaries of "affirmative action" is currently sitting on the court in the personage of Justice Clarence Thomas. He certainly was not nominated by a Republican president because of his previous sterling reputation as a jurist. He was chosen because he was a Black jurist who would support the party line. Even after the less than sterling Senate hearings Clarence Thomas was appointed to the Court and the Republicans surely got their money's worth. What America got was not what most Americans then and now would have wanted.
Sam (Seattle)
@RLW The way I see it, Biden wanted a black man on the Supreme Court so he threw the black woman under the bus. He won't be getting my vote based on this and many, many other bad choices.
Mats (Maryland)
My own experience with affirmative action has been negative. When I was young and trying to follow a career path, I was not hired simply because I was white and they "needed" people with dark skin. All preparations that I made in the preceding years were suddenly meaningless. The second occurrence took place in a worldwide business that I was working at. The position was a management position (I was not applying) where well qualified individuals who already worked there and knew the job well were passed over for a person from outside the company who, as it became obvious, was not qualified and had ulterior motives in mind once power was procured. They were hired based on affirmative action. That arm of the company nearly died because of this. In my opinion, this policy is, itself, a highly discriminatory action and makes no allowance for real qualifications. I don't see ANYONE being helped by this.
Blossom (The Buckeye State)
@Mats Curious how every mediocre. unqualified white man automatically assumes he didn't get a job or admission to a top.college because "those people" (black, brown or female) "stole" it from him.
Sam (Seattle)
@Blossom Did you pay attention to the outcome of this? "That arm of the company nearly died because of this." If this is the result you are looking for then carry on with affirmative action.
Rob (Boston)
Maybe affirmative action for education should look more like affirmative action for federal contractors. It's not about considering race at the time of a hiring decision. It's about taking steps to prevent discrimination. From the Office of Federal Contractor Compliance Programs website: "Affirmative action is defined by OFCCP regulations as the obligation on the part of the contractor to take action to ensure that applicants are employed, and employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability, or status as a protected veteran…. "In contrast to the affirmative action implemented by many post-secondary institutions, OFCCP does not permit the use of race to be weighed as one factor among many in an individual’s application when rendering hiring, employment or personnel decisions."
[email protected] 🌍 (Zurich, SWITZERLAND)
Reading Ms Greenhouse as a law student in Cambridge, Mass., and all these years since, I'm detecting alarm in her analyses of SCOTUS now that she's retired. All the recent opinions aren't about jurisprudence or legal public policymaking. They've been about the expansion of corporate statism, power and crawling back rights of citizens.♟️
S Lawrence (Nirvana)
While I agree that there is much discrimination in the US, resulting in poor outcomes for many minorities, affirmative action at the college level, is nearly always too late for this remedy to have a salutary effect. The real problem is that for most poor and many middle class Americans, the school system has become a holding pen for students who don't have better options. The system seems designed to keep every child in there and let the better students fend for themselves. This applies to all races, ethnic, cultural and economic underclasses to varying degrees. At higher grades, it appears that it becomes more important to merely keep them in the building to prevent a backlash from an epidemic of shoplifting. What needs to be realized is that: We cannot save them all. Decades of trying has proved that. However, by allowing all the junior bullies, criminals and lazy reprobates to have complete charge of the schools, those who want to learn and could make something of their lives will have this opportunity taken from them. I am white and went to these sort of schools. I barely survived it but did end up getting 2 degrees and a professional designation. I had to fight with my fists and get lucky to do this. I doubt that very many others from my schools were so lucky. We need 2 school systems. One for those who are willing and want to learn and a second to warehouse the criminals until they can be effectively dealt with by the criminal justice system.
serenity (california)
@S Lawrence In my high school, physical survival was also top of mind… I was lucky enough to be in the orbit of teachers who took personal interest in mentoring curious students … I take exception to separating students into systems of "willing" and "criminals" because schools are already stratified in this way; the kids who have a stable home, a place to sleep, a table to do homework and a supportive adult to encourage them, are able to succeed even in a marginalized school… the kids who are living on the street, or in a subsidized motel w/mom on drugs, or have been sexually abused and variously traumatized, don't have the wherewithal to concentrate in school; they often drop out or assigned to "alternative" schools w/limited resources and often end up in jail… I worked in a prison and I can attest these poor souls are NOT "effectively dealt" by the criminal justice system because budget constraints require that inmates are housed, fed and medically provided for as long as the sentence lasts and then are kicked out into the community …lacking skills to get a job… jeopardizes survival…the innate drive of every animal to obtain food and shelter in order to live often leads to crime and the incarceration cycle begins again…… the social issue of inequality from my perspective does not rest in affirmative action based on the color of one's skin but on a child's access to a supportive environment, regardless of skin color
S Lawrence (Nirvana)
@serenity "because schools are already stratified in this way" They aren't and that is the point of my comment. A lot of what happens in schools, happens in the hallways, the school yard and on the way home. I ran out of space but integral to my point is that there are actually three groups. The "criminals" (your term for a wide spectrum of the disruptive), the enablers - those who largely forego and education to avoid the consequences of angering the first group and the tiny slice who stick it out and get a compromised education. Without the bad actors, most of the enablers would step into line. The rest could join their controllers - in another separate "school". Where the educational system is losing the most now days is where it allows the enablers to waste those precious years, when they should be getting a decent education, doing the bidding of the bullies.
FTMC (Rockaway, NJ)
This question really comes down to whether the law should view individuals as individuals, or as members of groups. Proponents of AA say it is not discriminatory because it aids GROUPS that remain underrepresented on campus, and merely helps provide those groups with more equal representation. Detractors point out the mechanism by which it does that is discriminatory against INDIVIDUAS who otherwise would be admitted to a university but for their group membership. Justice Jackson was, of course, correct that the advancement of African Americans was a central purpose in passing the 14th Amendment. But the mechanism it uses to do this is outlawing discrimination against individuals on the basis of race, which was extremely pervasive at the time. One can imagine an alternative 14th Amendment (maybe similar to the Amendment proposed by Kendi) using a group mechanism. Such an Amendment may have outlawed group disparities as opposed to discrimination against individuals. Thus, while Justice Jackson is right the 14th Amendment was passed with justice for African Americans in mind, it does not follow that the Amendment allows individual discrimination for the benefit of African Americans as a group. The Amendment, which addresses equal protection of laws for "any person," on its face extends equal protection to individuals, not groups.
TW (Oakland)
@FTMC So make race based quotas legal or even required? Progressives need to stop thinking that they can change outcomes by making up new words.
Susan (Boston)
This is really all about power. For example, despite women’s educational gains the C-suite is still overwhelmingly male and I argue, will continue to be so until there is concerted (yes, bias) action to have fully diversified boards, much like Europe. Similarly, one can argue that access to selective educational institutions gives access to higher incomes. Racial minorities in this country are not in control of the monied class, far from it. Thus, giving preference to racial minorities until there is equal access to wealth in this country makes sense. We are not there yet. All will be better when there is more equality to the wealth and power of this country.
Reb (Collegeville, PA)
@Susan Asian is also the minority in this country with fewer populations. Don't forget about that!
Reading through the framers debate is interesting and points to a more expansive intrepretation of the 14th Amendment than the author admits. For example, in the House debates over the Amendment, Rep. Thaddeus Stevens quoted Section 1 and declared that the Amendments contains freedoms that “are all asserted, in some form or other, in our DECLARATION or organic law.” In the Senate debates, Senator Luke Poland stated that “the very spirit and inspiration of our system of government” and were “essentially declared in the Declaration of Independence.” Many framers thought the Fourteenth Amendment would be “the gem of the Constitution” because “it is the Declaration of Independence placed immutably and forever in our Constitution.” I recognize this is an originalist reading which the article's author rejects but I believe it to be at the heart of the Amendment.
Trey (Richmond)
How can you honestly support a system which discriminates based on race, gender, and ethnicity as a solution to discrimination based on race gender or ethnicity ? Class based affirmative action is the only moral, consensus building solution there is.
Michelle (California)
@Trey But pitching discrimination against those of European decent allows me to claim that I've sacrificed more!
Jim (Phoenix)
Could clear much of this up if the so-called elite schools gave preference to public schools instead of privileged private schools. Especially, Title 1 public schools. In any event, giving preference to students who study hard for the SAT and ACT isn't such a great idea, either.
TW (Oakland)
@Jim “ giving preference to students who study hard for the SAT and ACT isn't such a great idea, either.” Yes, let’s outlaw studying in college. Just case the job you get on a lottery.
Jim (Phoenix)
Pretty hard to have a "racial reckoning" when the calculus includes large numbers of immigrants "of color" whose ancestors were never oppressed by America's "institutional" racism.
John Smith (NY)
Yep, admission by true merit, unthinkable. No longer will Asian and White candidates with impeccable credentials be rejected over candidates with mediocre credentials. And if it means that certain minority groups are shut out of Harvard there are plenty of other colleges that will accept them. America needs its best and brightest going to the best schools in order to compete globally.
Robert (Seattle)
@John Smith Well, first of all, that isn't what's happening, in the majority of cases. The beneficiaries of affirmative action at such schools are mainly the rich white applicants (who now have most of the seats at such places). And they have taken those seats from middle-class Asian-American applicants (not Asian ones) who are, all other things the same, significantly better qualified. Black and Latino applicants, and poor and working-class ones, have never had a fair or significant number of seats.
Jason (Los Angeles)
@Robert That is not what the lawsuits brought by the Asian students claim. Your claim is the White kids are taking admission seats from Asians, but Asians have not taken seats from anybody. This is clearly an untrue statement, given the vast increase in Asian enrollment in US universities in the last 30 years.
Robert (Seattle)
@John Smith In short, America needs its best and brightest in its better schools--but they ain't Jared Kushner.
John Brews (Santa Fe)
Given the recent past harebrained reasoning of the Alito 5, it is time to defy rulings of the court unless they are unanimous. Rule by the whim of the Alito 5 is not equal to “rule by the law, not by men”.
Dan (NYC)
@John Brews Then we might as well not have the Supreme Court and go through the farce. Something tells me you would be quite fine with the "rule by the whim of the Sotomayors"
NgHai (Vermont)
Sotomayer is not trying to cram her religion on our bodies.
Michelle (California)
@John Brews Cool. Does that mean I can also negate the results of elections where I don't like the outcome?
NowCHare (Charlotte)
My generation has bore the brunt and suffered as a result of this unfair and discriminatory policy our entire lives. How many white kids failed to live up to expectations as a result of this bias against them? How much has this led to deaths of despair among white men of my generation? And what crime did we commit to suffer this racial punishment? None. We did not enslave or trade in the enslavement of anyone. The rise of extremism in America can be laid squarely at the foot of the supporters of this policy and the world will never be the same again as a result. And now, ending this policy will still not be enough to settle the disenfranchisement and some people still want to cling to it despite the obvious institutional racism it imposes. What will it take to settle this score with the generations of white kids that this policy discriminated against? I fear that we will soon find out.
Blossom (The Buckeye State)
@NowCHare There's not even a speck of truth in any of this.
Arthur Fishman (Ronkonkoma,NY)
@NowCHare Affirmative Action means that colleges have a representation of all groups, Not just the minority white group of alumni! Affirmative Action allows the full body of the school to recognize the actions on the minority people. It is a part of the full education experience. Affirmatize Action allows the Supreme Court to have a group of Political Minority Extremists a board to make segregation by wealth more reasonable. Should harvard or N Carolina allow more students into their programs? Should the schools allow for economic ways for more students to get this education? Should more prestigious white shoe law firms, spend more time interviewing and educating more diverse students and hire them at large starting salaries that other law firms cannot afford? While fairness is a good goal, Affirmative Action is a better educational experience. The Better students will still thrive in Universities without names like Stanford, Chicago or Harvard!
Victoria (Domestic Goddess)
Naturally, all this strum und drang mean nicht to us. You either can make the grade or your cannot - the facts of your adolescence and upbringing is immaterial. No one wants a physician with poor credentials, but the correct pigmentation. Too bad his father is unknown and his mother smokes crack. As to other matters this paper routinely pours sour-mash onto - well, we are comfortable, debt-free, contented and enjoying regular cash flow. Inflation? We know how to substitute and besides, dividends are being raised across the board. We also have fun upsetting the liberals, through our votes, our avoidance of taxes and our bulk-buying in tax-free locales. Why, thanks to all of this, we decided NOT to renew tenant leases and have sold the building to a hedge fund. Ta-ta to the last of our activities on behalf of the ungrateful.
John Terrell (Claremont, CA)
@Victoria Spot on. This is the explanation for the low number of women running Fortune 500 companies- they “just can’t make the grade.” Women are just intellectually inferior, Victoria?
charlie rock (Winter Park, Florida)
@John Terrell Nice. Nothing like ironic satire of faulty arguments to put egg on the right faces.
DPaul (Coryell’s Ferry)
@Victoria Excellent. To use a baseball analogy: so many commenters here born on third base thinking they hit a triple.
lehomme (marin1950)
"...the gap between the unthinkable and the real is very short, and shrinking fast." We have a radical activist Court - drunk with the power of the reactionary Super Majority the right has long sought - and they are definitely not going to let their window of opportunity close before they try to destroy as many progressive advances as possible. We are at the dawn of a very dark period in American history.
Phil (Tennessee)
@lehomme You mean a period where people are judged on their intellect, motivation, and character rather then the color of their skin? A period where a poor white boy from rural South has the same chances of getting into Harvard as a Black boy from Boston with two professional parents?
Brian (Chicago)
@Phil Sorry I don't see this in absolutes like you do. Race is one factor among many that need to be considered. Just like being an athlete, child of an alum or donor, rural versus urban, etc. etc. As far as I can tell they (Harvard)looks at the totality of the applicant. They don't just "spread sheet" the applicant and look at the highest SAT scores or GPA. And this is what contributes to the diversity.
James ANON (Seattle WA)
@Phil who in turn will both be outworked, outhustled, and outstudied by the children of Asian immigrants. America is amazing.
manfred marcus (Bolivia)
Too bad that Congress' dereliction of duty in legislating these things that do affect America, its 'racism and the remaining segregation in jobs and housing, education and health care', gives rise to a sort of license to a partisan (read, republican) Supreme Court, that lost all credibility, to decide on Affirmative Action. This, especially when we have Clarence Thomas, a deeply biased individual, full of conflicts of interest (partly due to his criminally-oriented wife in pushing Trump's Big Lie, and trying to succeed in Trump re-assaulting the White House), that won't stop intervening in things he lost the right to interact. Poor American democracy, with a SCOTUS out of control, and no way to find a balance so the truth gets a chance to be heard. A SCOTUS where Justice is AWOL! How corrupt can it get?!
Michelle (California)
@manfred marcus For most of my life the SCOTUS was left-leaning, and you were fine, and it was a "legitimate" institution. Well, now the shoe is on the other foot. Low and behold the SCOTUS is "illegitimate" and "out of control". So something is only legitimate when it agrees with your viewpoint, I get it. When you lose a board game, to you flip the playing pieces into the air in a huff?
manfred marcus (Bolivia)
@Michelle Hi Michelle, does it feel good being on the attack mode? How could one possibly defend corrupt Clarence Thomas, so conflicted by his wife's corrosive influence in sowing doubts about such a clean and clear election...won by Biden? Much to atone to, don't you think? Incidentally, I do not belong to any political party, just paying attention... and trying to have people wake up as well...and participate in this experiment called democracy. Justice demands it!
Bort (Dublin, GA)
Per Christopher Caldwell and his book “Age of Entitlement,” it’s about time we started to examine the true costs and distortions of America’s Civil Rights revolution. The costs of assuming disparate impact needs to be rectified, of our massive welfare state, and of our double standards in hiring and academics are literally destroying this country. Not only have we had to spend more money than we have, but many of these so called reforms have actually damaged the people they were designed to help. Black marriage rates, health, interracial trust, and school performance have all cratered, while crime and incarceration rates go up. Just look at the state of Higher Ed today, where white and Asian students are coming in with 400-600 point advantages in the SAT over their Black counterparts. The resulting mismatch in ability and admission criteria leads to absurd accusations of racism against faculty, the need to add ridiculously easy “ethnic studies” curricula that these mismatched students can take, and at the end of the day the complete devaluation of the degree and the very value of college. Bail outs follow, which is just more money out of everyone’s pocket. This case can’t be decided soon enough. The Warren court overstepped it’s bounds, and it’s time to reign the race and equity revolutionaries in.
Crusader Rabbit (Jacksonville, FL)
@Bort - Actually, haveing worked as a consultant for Educational Testing Service for over 3 years, I can tell you that Asian-American students are scoring higher than white students, but are facing quotas at many colleges that favor whites with lower SATs. SATs are NOT a measure, taken alone, of whether a student deserves to be in college - even ETS admits that openly. The education you had before you take your PSATs and SATs plays an important part in your performance. SAT is a STANDARDIZED test and in a country where K-12 education is not itself STANDARDIZED, is going to be skewed toward the mainstream educated whether it wants to be or not (it does not). The real interest in SATs by colleges is as an indicator of whether a student will adapt to the mainstream college life and still have a (paying) seat in the sophomore class. No more and no less. Any student who is educated in inferior schools - and works hard - is going to have lower SATs than a student from a mainstream school system, who will, in turn have lower SATs than students educated in top prep schools.
Michelle (California)
@Crusader Rabbit With many schools having dropped the ACT and SAT is your comment even relevant any longer? I mean we all know the "wrong" people were getting good scores, so the tests had to be tossed.
Ainda (In The Belly of the Beast)
@Bort Reality check: You refer to "our massive welfare state". With all due respect, Sir or Madam, What Welfare State in the U.S. The U.S. has almost no safety net compared to Europe, beginning with a private health care system. In America it's lose your job, lose your healthcare, lose your life. And don't even get me started on housing--we allow people to die on the streets. It's more like Game of Thrones with Greedy Billionaires and Deluded Stiffs.
earnest (NY)
I have a doctoral degree in applied mathematics, yet this column only confirms how bizarre legal reasoning is. It seems like there is no standard of reasoning, other than that we must change our conclusions at most slowly.
MaxStar212 (Manhattan)
It is very important to Corporations to have the US keep Affirmative Actions. Stock prices are often partially set by ESG scores. I recruit for executives and my clients really don't want to hire white men in executive positions. It is easier to find women or minorities for Marketing and Human Resources, but some other fields are filled by white men. It is fortunate that companies will sometimes consider South Asians for CIO and CTO positions. There should be more work to educate and develop women and disadvantaged minorities so companies can hire qualified people that would maximize the stock price..
Blossom (The Buckeye State)
@MaxStar212 If this were true, then why do females and minorities only comprise a very tiny percentage of all CEOs in the U.S.??
Oracle at Delphi (Seattle)
Fighting discrimination with more discrimination challenges common sense thinking, Racial quotas have also led to resentment and undermines Americans' views on fairness.
Michelle (California)
@Oracle at Delphi Progressives: "We do racism the right way!"
Bob Carroll (new york city)
As noted in the earlier cases and probably decisive was that all of the military branches used racial affirmative action in filling the ranks and academies. It was needed for a cohesive defense. Until the playing field at the university level is even race should be employed as one factor in many for admission. We are not color blind yet. But this court gang will disagree. Marriage equality, contraception, mixed racial marriages and finally Brown are in the crosshairs of these Republican judicial activists who lied their way onto the high court to implement their agenda. Better elect democrats on the 8th, people.
NYC Moderate (NYC)
What this op-ed does is pointedly ignore the core questions: Are Asian Americans being discriminated against solely because of their race? Would we allow this if it was another minority group? The answers are obvious even if Ms. Greenhouse choose to ignore the elephant in the room
Jennifer (Minneapolis)
@NYC Moderate I think the point is that we HAVE allowed it for other races. There are studies still being done TODAY that show identical applicants have vastly different likelihoods of being interviewed, let alone hired, based on whether an "ethnic" or "white" name is on the application. SAME qualifications, BIAS against non-White applicant not based on qualifications. We allow this.
Mike (Republic Of Texas)
I give liberals a lot of credit for for approaching problems with creative solutions, but I'm not a fan of Affirmative Action. I know how I would feel if I were selected, based on race or some other immutable characteristic. "You're not the best of all, you're the best person with your immutable characteristic." Progressives may have painted themselves into corner. Progressives now have to decide what is most important, the race of the individual or the "identify as" gender. We see this in female sports, there is not wide spread acceptance of gender altered athletes. So what happens when you need a race and gender specific qualified applicant, but there's a bit of false advertising in the mix? He has the hair, wears Ulta makeup and is professionally attired. Does he qualify? How do you select a new hire, using a binary paradigm? What if he is mixed race? Go ahead, call me a crazy racist and go away in a huff. But, somewhere and not to far into future, a lawyer will be prepared to take the legal challenge to court. Julian, now Jules, is a mixed race, genetic male, applying for a coveted position, that the company wants to give to a highly qualified African American woman. Either party will sue, for being wronged. If we are going to let anybody be anything, someone had best codify the rules in advance. When is a mixed race person at the correct level of a race? How far into the "transition" before the requirement is met?
IgorStravinsky (California)
I'm a lifelong liberal and have been a strong supporter of affirmative action. But I'm beginning to wonder if it does more harm than good. Also, we should probably put our thumb on the scale in favor of men, since they now comprise less than 40% of the undergraduate population.
Michelle (California)
@IgorStravinsky What, no more "Girl Power"? I can't see that ship turning around anytime fast. Thank goodness I only had to raise girls. I feel for any parent trying to bring up boys in today's society. By the way, Igor, really love your Firebird, and your cool, but strange, Mass for chorus and double-wind octet! Le Sacre du printemps, not so much, though if I were going to throw a riot, that *would* be a excellent soundtrack!
Sam (Seattle)
@IgorStravinsky But the thumb has always been on the scale in favor of men. It's only recently that attempts to remove it have made any headway. Stop all artificial assistance towards any group and the cream will rise to the top.
E K (Washington, USA)
What about the long held, perpetual, "affirmative action" of univerities taking chikdren of wealthy alumni and chikdren of celebrities and politicians, whether or not they have any intellectual abilities, or giving football scholarships to kids who would neverbe accepted by their intellectual capabilities? Something tells me SCOTUS will never care about that, especially since Kavanaugh et al come from non-merit based crony connection privilege.
Tom (Show Low, AZ)
I may be old fashioned, but I still think merit should dictate college acceptance. The real problem is that minorities do not receive a preliminary education that would allow them to compete with Whites. To allow a desire for color balance to prevent acceptance of our best and brightest is nonsense.
NgHai (Vermont)
Our “best and brightest” are also affirmative action students who have been given a chance.
CSD (Palo Alto)
Race-based affirmative action needs to go. It has no Constitutional basis, despite Ms. Greenhouse's linguistic contortions, and has long outlived its due date. The fact that a once highly-discriminated-against group (Asian Americans) are now the victims of affirmative action because they have achieved success by merit, gives the lie to the continued need for racial preferences for historically-oppressed racial minorities. Affirmative action is not only egregiously unfair to impacted individuals it is harmful to preferred minorities -- a permanent stigma on all members of the preferred racial group regardless of their individual merit. As other commentators have noted, invidious discrimination does exist, but it is principally class-based. Wealth is the real divider in our society. I would be much more supportive of preferences that were based solely on wealth. I bet that is something most of us could agree upon.
Michelle (California)
@CSD And what if I am a devote of Mssr. Kendi? Then I couldn't possibly support what you propose. Clearly, Ms. Greenhouse owns the complete leatherbound set of all of his works.
LongTimeFirstTime (New York City)
This column is the double bank-shot, not the argument in the briefs. The mental contortions we suffer to rationalize discrimination . . . Brown said No more. Bakke said Except for in college . . . Grutter said Just for another 25 years. And the Court Monday will say, Enough. Finally.
CSadler (London)
To disagree with affirmative action is to believe fundamentally that we all start from the same place, that we are all equal in reality rather than some idealised theory. To disagree with affirmative action means persuading yourself that there is no benefit to being white, or male, or wealthy since wealth disporportionately is both male and white. It involves stepping out of reality so thorougly that you can argue a black girl from the poorest district should not be given benefit, not be acknowledged for the extra work she has had to do, just to come close to the achievements of a wealthy white boy. You can argue the extent of affirmative action, but until you live in a demonstrably equal society where young black women are allowed to be as average as rich white boys and yet still succeed, you cannot argue that affirmative action does not have a place.
George (Michigan)
First, I am quite sure that in general we should not order our society based on the beliefs of men long dead; the original intent, or original understanding, of most of the Constitution is inherently based on inequality in ways that are unacceptable today. Second, if we do care, then as far as the 14th Amendment is concerned, surely Justice Brown Jackson is correct. The authors and ratifiers (including the Southern ratifiers forced to agree in order to be readmitted to the union) all understood that its entire point was to destroy a regime based on white supremacy.
Sam (Seattle)
@George But how did whites come to be considered "supreme"? Did God start the world on a field tilted in their direction? Life on earth was a free-for-all competition. Somebody had to come out on top eventually. If it wasn't whites it would have been some other group and then everyone would be screaming about unfairness towards the dominant group, whoever they may be. Somehow a certain group rose to the top with better ideas, better weapons, etc. The goal today is to make as sure as we can that it is not assumed that whites are better in each and every instance just because the competition of the past made this apparent.
Lpb (Ny)
As a Latina who probably benefitted from affirmative action to get into Ivy League — I vehemently oppose affirmative action. Similarly situated friends and relatives feel the same way. It is unfair to sentence us “bright” “minorities” to a lifetime of imposter syndrome. If we Americans could vote on this issue I am sure it would go down in flames.
on-line reader (Canada)
I wonder what would happen if schools and universities dropped all references to "race" and instead used a family's income level to help decide admission? From what I've read, I understand that blacks tend, in general, to be poorer than whites. So wouldn't this tend to favour black admissions more than white admissions?
JeVaisPlusHaut (Ly'b'g. Virginia)
I can read no further comments here, as I am too saddened by the incredible negativity of what my "compatriots" are really saying behind their masks of "written speak;" speech they do not use openly among fellow citizens, as one must be present, and accountable to do such, especially when it is about affirming the whole of us. Rather, venting their own darkness of self from behind this hidden microphone of the Comment Section of the NYTimes for yet another exhibition of self-aggrandized, pure, white-smart whiteness seems the route taken, especially when speaking about the "toxin of the century (-ries), "HUE," or the lack of -- ALL the rest, including that concerning the subject of affirmation -- follows. Who's afraid of "Equality?"
Dylan (Boston, MA)
There are at least two related problems with the position, reflected in many of the comments, that higher ed admissions should be based entirely on academic accomplishments and some neutral idea of “merit:” First, we have yet to find “neutral” ways of measuring academic accomplishments and merit. Second, for those advocating for “neutral” admissions criteria, how do we control for the fact that academic merit and accomplishments, no matter how they are measured, are dramatically impacted by such unequally distributed resources as wealth, income, housing, primary education, and health care? And many of these resources have been unequally distributed as a result of racially motivated policies. Is it more discriminatory to recognize such facts and adopt policy solutions that attempt to take account of them, or to ignore such facts?
Global Charm (British Columbia)
Affirmative action is mostly an issue for brand name institutions with a limited number of places, Harvard being a good example. Yet from 1995 to 2004, Harvard allowed Elizabeth Warren to present herself as a Native American, essentially on the basis of family stories involving a Cherokee ancestor. When Ms. Warren finally accepted the challenge to take a DNA test, it was found that such an ancestor could only have existed 6 to 10 generations back, assuming they existed at all. It’s time to bring this charade to an end.
Michelle (California)
@Global Charm Of course Warren was allowed to present herself as Cherokee to Harvard. Do you think anyone dared to challenge her and have the r-word thrown at them? I agree with you AA is a counter-productive charade. Let's do economic need-based preferences instead.
Jsailor (California)
Well, if the majority of comments in this liberal newspaper overwhelmingly favor dispensing with affirmative action, there can be little doubt that SCOTUS will attend to it. And why not? Universities take in to account all sorts of factors when admitting students, including their lack of income and otherwise harsh life circumstances, and if this gets the applicants a few extra points on the admissions scale to compensate for their lower test scores, I am fine with it. But admitting middle class and upper middle class people of color solely because of their race simply goes against the grain of equal protection. Roberts was right and he will be vindicated.
Philip (Scottsdale)
Isn't the more rational approach class-based consciousness rather than race or gender-based consciousness when it comes to admissions and promotions?
Don (Keninitz)
@Philip Yes, but Harvard and UNC along with other institutions argue that isn't sufficient to achieve the level of social engineering they're seeking.
Richard (Nevada)
Affirmative action is sanctioned discrimination, no more or less. When initially adopted it had some rational and moral basis in trying to fix a long-standing problem that was endemic. Now, two generations and ~60 years later its time should pass. Giving racial and ethnic preferences to the offspring of professional and upper -middle class couples is plainly wrong, but is unfortunately all too common in higher education. There is more to equity than the color of one's skin and until progressives acknowledge that and abandon the constant attempt to categorize by race, any true progress made will breed nothing more than resentments and pushback that we now seeing. Institutions, and particularly governments, need to stop classifying people by what they are, rather than who they are.
B. (New York City)
Trying to cure past racial discrimination by replacing it with new racial discrimination doesn't solve anything, it only makes things worse in the long run. Racial quotas in education and employment are blatantly discriminatory and unconstitutional. The sooner the courts overturn these practices, the better.
laurence (bklyn)
Affirmative action has been a very effective policy; much needed, both in terms of increasing diversity in decision making situations and as a way to let off some of the steam from the (rightful) anger over decades of discrimination. I'm old enough to have seen the positive results. But I'm also old enough to remember that it was meant to be a temporary program. That was fifty years ago. It's just one more instance of the Democratic party (my party) relieing on the courts to do their work for them. And now we're out of luck.
Beartooth (Cherry Hill, NJ)
Affirmative action is designed to make up for the tremendous disparity in the K-12 education throughout the economic classes in the country. It means well & is often successful (Justice Clarence Thomas, ironically, once said that the only way he got into Yale Law School was through affirmative action!). But, AA is trying to put a band-aid on a wound that should never have occurred in the first place. The best answer is to standardize our education systems so that, from the first day of school, every student gets a quality education. Then there will be no need to find kludges like AA to try to make up the difference after the damage has been done. While AA often benefits some deprived students, it has flaws. 1. It does deprive some students with better education & preparation of seats in the colleges of their choice through no fault of their own. 2. It puts ill-prepared students into colleges competing against far better prepared students. A student admitted to Yale on AA might fare much better at a state uni, where she is not competing with the top 2% of the country's students. Instead of success That can lead to dropping out and losing the chance to get a full education at a school they would be more competitive at. 3. It does NOT punish the people responsible for the inequities in our school systems, so it perpetuates the real problem, which is dramatically unequal education at the earlier levels.
Jules Clay (Ashland, OR)
Time to end Affirmative Action except in specific instances in which there is institutional discrimination: For example, a fire department in a multi-racial city that somehow never hires persons of color, no matter how qualified. Apart from these situations, racial quotas should be abolished in the interests of persons of all colors.
Mack (New England)
@Jules Clay What about a fire department in a minority-minority city where the minority is the majority?
quentin c. (Alexandria, Va.)
Justice Jackson was right to push back against the revisionist view of the 14th Amendment. It was one of the Reconstruction Amendments, along with the 13th (abolishing slavery), and the 15th (barring denial or abridgment of voting rights "on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude"). That Congress expressly added "previous condition of servitude" to the "race" and "color" discrimination bans in the 15th Amendment suggests that it did not intend to tolerate maintenance of a permanent underclass, in sharp conflict with the century-plus of Jim Crow enabled by the Corrupt Bargain of 1877. That apparent legislative intent supports the moral force of LBJ's famous declaration at Howard University in 1966: “You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, ‘You are free to compete with all the others,’ and still justly believe that you have been completely fair. Thus it is not enough just to open the gates of opportunity. All our citizens must have the ability to walk through those gates." To pretend we're there seems delusory.
Michelle (California)
@Jp Wham, JP! Dare speak the truth to Power! You're not put of by greeting-card, feel good logic not grounded in reality? Great post!
magicisnotreal (earth)
The need for proactive racial protections and assistance will not end until the people who keep asking when we can end them stop asking and get on with living their own lives without trying to control the lives of others. Seems like we have moved backward into an age where the people who are against progress use what authority they have to make it seem their backward ideas are really just the fairness of allowing different ideas to be given a "fair" chance in spite of being disliked. Reason and common sense is gone and the merest technical argument is given weight it does not have.
ArthurinCali (Central California)
@magicisnotreal Spot on analysis. The belief that a Black American student with stellar grades and a personal drive for the highest levels of success have less chances now than 1950, or even 1990 is preposterous. Of course, there are those that can find modern examples of discrimination in the US, and there should be a watchful eye on these incidents to ensure we have as high a level of fairness in our country. But, it is still disingenuous to act as if progress has not been made, or somehow we are traveling backward.
magicisnotreal (earth)
@ArthurinCali How am I spot on if you post as if in agreement, the reverse of what I am saying?
Mmm (Nyc)
How can this be "unthinkable" considering by current law affirmative action is already set to become illegal in 4 years? Anyone who is intellectually honest knows that affirmative action is racial discrimination -- treating individuals differently based on their race. The author reads the 14th amendment as intended to secure the rights of the former slaves. That's true, but it did so by codifying a right to equal treatment, not different treatment. Maybe this obvious truth will sink in if you read the same ethical concept of equal human rights in another context, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: "All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination."
Cheryl Bourassa (Concord, NH)
@Mmm would agree that affirmative action based on gender is also prohibited? Without a bias in favor young men, elite schools would quickly become 70% or more young women.
ArthurinCali (Central California)
@Cheryl Bourassa Do you have any research studies that correlate that finding of 70% admissions for women? No snark in my question, I would just like to read those reports if they are available.
NgHai (Vermont)
There are quite a few studies indicating that there are more women attending college and more women graduating from college.
Kodali (VA)
There shall be no discrimination based on color, religion, sex and national origin in college admissions. It should be strictly based on academic merits that excludes excellence in athletics. Anyone who wants to go to college can go, since there are plenty of opportunities in this country. No need to go to Harvard to get good education. Success depends on individual efforts, not on government baby sitting for them. Government should monitor that the schools are not favoring one color over the other to ensure no discriminatory practices.
magicisnotreal (earth)
@Kodali I wonder how long after that those lucky folks start talking like William F Buckley again?
GK (Seattle)
Suggest that elite colleges choose by merit, not race. End racial sorting and legacy advantages and offer more scholarships to low income students with challenging backgrounds. Sharpen K-12 curricula for better math and reading outcomes. Increase tutoring programs. Expand community college opportunities and vocational schools so more students have access. There are ways to get more fairness to students of all academic levels and races without our current obsession with color coding.
Ross Simons (USA)
Many years ago I was at a death penalty seminar where Millard Farmer spoke. He pointed out that in telling a story (in a legal case or anywhere else) the power of your argument is determined by where you start the story. Praise to Ketanji Brown Jackson for letting other members of the court and the attorneys in the Alabama case know that the origins of the XIV Amendment were not race neutral. Sadly, though justice is theoretically blind, certain members of the Court will be deaf to this information.
Hollis Hanover (Kansas City)
The Supreme Court is a politically oriented entity. Perhaps it always was, but nothing is more certain now than that settled rights afforded Americans decades ago are no longer settled. They are all up for grabs based on issues of theology and party and prejudice, guidelines which are transitory and inconsistent with a comfortable confidence in legal certainty. The con is very long, unfortunately, so we must be prepared for Supreme Court Justices to take a victory lap at the Vatican from time to time (Alito) or to take inconsistent stands against same sex marriage but not interracial marriage (Thomas) until age or unlikely shame creates openings for legitimate legal scholars. The answer, of course, is at the ballot box. Seventy percent of eligible voters should do the trick, recognizing that the stagnant backwaters of the South will always be a refuge for those who long for a time when [here insert whatever group you wish] knew their place. In a country with democratic elections we always get the governing we deserve. If more of us vote, we may well get the government we want.
AnneW (Seattle)
@Hollis Hanover If our representatives were elected democratically, I would agree that we get the government we deserve. The gerrymandered House and un-representative Senate and the electoral college assure we never have democratically representative government and seldom have the government we deserve.
MFW (Tampa)
@Hollis Hanover Hey Hollis, you manage to discriminate on the basis of religion, region and age in one post. The hat-trick! Don't fret though. We will get the government we want (check back on Nov 8) but you won't.
Gabel (NY)
Even if the courts go against all the precedents, colleges will be able to find methods (other than race) to ensure diversity. The first thing on my list to eliminate are Legacy admissions. Then if your family paid for private tutoring, private schooling, etc would be another flag. I’m sure I could come up with many more methods to balance admissions to be more inclusive. Of course not all schools would do this, but I’m sure a large majority would.
Scott (New York)
@Gabel Legacy admissions are more tainted than any admission by affirmative action.
Rashawn (Atlanta, GA)
@Gabel I'll agree with you on ditching legacies but good luck flagging private tutoring.
Name withheld (America)
Traditionally it was thought to be good for parents to invest in their children's education. Many not rich parents scrimped to pay for the private school when the local public school was not adequate. Other families paid to buy into a district where the public school was better. Paying for a tutor or test prep should not be seen as a bad thing.
DaveH (Texas)
Equal rights under the law - a very simple notion, basic to American values, and in no way compatible with racial preferences. It's long overdue for this to be recognized by the Supreme Court. Further, let's retire the euphemism "affirmative action". It started as a plan to communicate opportunities to minorities, but has long since come to mean racial preferences and quotas to benefit those groups (and inevitably to harm others).
sherrillrose (Spokane)
@DaveH Curious if you personally have been harmed. Who else is being harmed by affirmative action?
sherrillrose (Spokane)
@DaveH Curious if you personally have been harmed. Who else is being harmed by affirmative action?
John (ME)
@DaveH Let's call affirmative action what it is: affirmative discrimination.
ArthurinCali (Central California)
Affirmative Action (AA) has been a phenomenal success-especially for woman, and immigrants who come from countries that designated them as official minorities as soon as they arrived in America. For a policy written at a time to assist the descendants of American slaves, it was passed in the in the same decade that the 1965 Immigration Act. This legislation opened the way for increases in immigration from countries in Africa and Asia who automatically were eligible for AA. This timeline of events is expanded upon in Christopher Caldwell’s book “The Age of Entitlement: America Since the Sixties.”
Stranger in a strange land (Sonoma County CA)
It is socioeconomics that most strongly predicts an individual's chances of getting into higher education: tutoring, extracurriculars, school supplies, transportation to job/field trip/etc opportunities, food security, safe shelter, ... There are Asians and Whites living in poverty, and Blacks and Hispanics who are wealthy. Affirmative action is blind to socioeconomics and thus inequitable.
CSadler (London)
@Stranger in a strange land & yet isn't wealth still overwhelmingly white in the US? Isn't poverty overwhelmingly non-white in the US?
Stranger in a strange land (Sonoma County CA)
@CSadler why not go by socioeconomics if that's the issue? Why race? Like I said: what about the Whites (and Asians - often ignored in race issues in the U.S. as though they are White but not) who are poor? They get no support? Just because of their skin colour? Why not lift up everyone who needs the help in the fairest way?
CSadler (London)
@Stranger in a strange land Since ethnicity correlates so closely to wealth in the US, the outcomes would be the same at a macro level. You already have a system in place. Why spend millions to replace something with much the same outcome?
Rashawn (Atlanta, GA)
Affirmative action in the modern age of an increasing number of biracial young adults is condescending, racist, demeaning to Black students and their mixed families. When other students look upon Black students and think, or in the case of Harvard - know, that they have been admitted based on different standards it reinforces the most pernicious, pervasive, and utterly nasty racial stereotypes. If Harvard ends up being 2 percent Black as a result of the removal of race based admissions - that will be an exceptionally happy 2 percent knowing full well that they deserve their spot just as much as the next student and much more than the legacies.
CSadler (London)
@Rashawn If people with legacy places at these universities feel no shame for taking up slots that rightly belong to kids scoring higher, then why should able but disadvantaged kids feel somehow less deserving? Why should we hold poorer, disadvantaged students to a higher standard? Honestly, why should they care if it's their ticket to a better life? If a black woman from a poor district has to work twice as hard to come close to the admission for Harvard as a tutored rich white boy with all their advantages, then affirmative action to recognise her extra work and ability is a good thing., not only for her, but for the college.
MFW (Tampa)
You know Greenhouse, this one is just too easy. First, discriminating against anyone on the basis of race is not just wrong or illegal, it is morally repugnant. It is the source of the "original sin" of this country. Second, why do you assume that merit-based criteria for college admission are Defacto racist? Third, college admissions, unlike other outcomes in society, are a zero-sum game. Which means that the artificial assistance to members of one ethnic group necessarily come at negative discrimination against another. In this instance, whites for sure, but Asian Americans even more. How is that just? Hopefully this Supreme Court will continue to clean up the litter created by previous courts who, in the language of "penumbras" and "privacy rights" went beyond their jurisdiction to legislate rather than adjudicate. Racial quotas, affirmative action, whatever you call it, is an abomination and must go.
Seriously? (AZ)
Race discrimination should never have been countenanced under the law. You cant solve race discrimination by engaging in race discrimination.
Slocum Doc (Akron)
When will we ban using another accident of birth in college admissions? Does anyone really think George W Bush would have been admitted to Yale or Harvard but for his legacy status? Legacy is OK to consider in order to privilege some, but race isn't OK to consider for any purpose?
Adam (Philadelphia)
@Slocum Doc A lot of AA proponents think legacies are some kind of trump card. Believe me, AA opponents are happy to throw those out, too. While they won't be compelled to do so (there is no constitutional/legal violation with legacy admissions), my guess is that schools will abandon them if AA is ruled unlawful.
NgHai (Vermont)
Schools will never abandon legacy admissions.
Srini (Los Altos)
I think Chief Justice Roberts said it best: “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race” It's really that simple.
See also