Senior Correspondent

WASHINGTON ( – On June 28, to the dismay of liberals and supporters of school integration, a sharply divided Supreme Court struck down the admissions policies of school districts in Louisville, Ky., and Seattle, Wash. which considered race in determining where students were assigned to attend.

The 5-4 ruling was announced ironically on the same date the controversial Bakke decision in 1978 first declared that Whites could be victims of “reverse race discrimination” in medical school admissions. The Bakke decision began successful conservative efforts to chip away at the effect of the unanimous 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision that outlawed so-called “separate but equal” public schools for Blacks and Whites.

Educators and prominent Democratic Party elected officials predicted the decision will lead many school districts to abandon efforts at racially balancing schools. In a rare dissent, read out loud from the bench, Justice Stephen Breyer complained that the decision is one “the court and the nation will come to regret.”


“We applaud the remarks of Supreme Court Justice Breyer, in his dissenting opinion,” Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Chair Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-Mich.) said in a statement. “The Supreme Court rejected reason, rationality, and respect for all Americans in its decision limiting access to education for all Americans. In rejecting school diversity plans…the Court tears at the very fabric of unity in our nation. We can, and we must, do better for our children and grandchildren.”

That “unity” may have always been a mirage, however.

“We believe that the offer of integration is hypocritical and is made by those who are trying to deceive the Black peoples into believing that their 400-year-old open enemies of freedom, justice and equality are, all of a sudden, their ‘friends,’” the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad declared in Point No. 9 of “What the Muslims Believe,” under the “The Muslim Program” that appears on page 163 of “Message to the Black Man in America,” as well as every edition of The Final Call newspaper.

“Furthermore, we believe that such deception is intended to prevent Black people from realizing that the time in history has arrived for the separation from the Whites of this nation,” Point No. 9 continues.

In addition to shockwaves throughout the educational community, Democratic presidential candidates criticized the decision that same day at a candidates’ forum at Howard University—ironically the school where former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall attended law school, and where the he and others crafted the strategy that Mr. Marshall argued before the Supreme Court, which overturned the 1896 Plessy v. Feguson decision which permitted segregation so long as schools were “separate but equal.”

Sen. Christopher Dodd’s (D-Conn.) comment during the debate was typical. “To say today that you’re going to exclude race as a means of allowing for diversity in our communities is a major step backwards,” he said.

Only about 1,000 of the country’s 15,000 school systems use race in deciding which schools’ children will attend, Amy Stuart Wells, a professor of Education at Columbia University’s Teachers College said, according to a published report, and that number will shrink considerably.

“We are going to see a major increase in racial segregation that will cause our children to be less prepared to live in our diverse society, Prof. Stuart Wells said, predicting that school districts will abandon race-conscious admissions policies in light of the Court’s decision.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who cast the deciding vote against the use of race in school admissions, did not embrace the Court’s opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts. “It is permissible to consider the racial makeup of schools and to adopt general policies to encourage a diverse student body, one aspect of which is its racial composition,” Justice Kennedy wrote. “What the government is not permitted to do, is to classify every student on the basis of race and to assign each of them to schools based on that classification.”

Supporters of school integration complain that segregated housing patterns, which have remained unchanged despite court rulings and anti-housing discrimination legislation, will now intensify school segregation. The dissenting opinion noted that from 1968 through 2000, the percentage of White students in schools attended by the average Black student has dropped.

“As a former teacher, a mother, and a grandmother, I understand the value of education,” Rep. Kilpatrick said in the CBC statement. “Access to education is one of our most sacred privileges. Education is the linchpin of achievement, success, and stability in our country. If you were not born of privilege, education and hard work can earn you privilege.

“This heinous ruling not only topples more than half a century of progress achieved under the Brown v. the Topeka, Kansas Board of Education decision, it encourages separation and segregation in private industry and government as well as in education,” she said.

In his opinion on behalf of himself and Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, David Souter, and Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice Roberts equated the harm done to White students today, to that suffered by Black students who suffered racism and discrimination for more than 80 years in segregated public schools, after more than 300 years of slavery when Blacks were not permitted any education.

“Before Brown, schoolchildren were told where they could and could not go to school based on the color of their skin. The school districts in these cases have not carried the heavy burden of demonstrating that we should allow this once again—even for very different reasons.

“Simply because the school districts may seek a worthy goal does not mean they are free to discriminate on the basis of race to achieve it, or that their racial classifications should be subject to less exacting scrutiny,” Mr. Roberts wrote. “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”