In the wake of the Supreme Court’s 6-3 and 6-2 Affirmative Action ruling, striking down all references to race in college admissions, scholars, advocates, and activists, long fighting for diversity, equity, and inclusion, are now concerned with the fallout of the high court’s decision. These concerns include the impact on employment, the awarding of contracts, and equal access to resources among segments of society still suffering from the legacy of anti-Black racism, and race-based discrimination.
The decision split along ideological lines favoring Conservatives, 6-2 against Harvard College and 6-3 against the University of North Carolina (UNC). What started as an Asian students group arguing for a change in admissions policies, Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. University of North Carolina, et al, succeeded in convincing the high court to overturn 45 years of Affirmative Action policy regarding college admissions, effectively killing off race-conscious diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in higher education.
With the U.S. Supreme Court effectively saying race-conscious remedies are in fact a violation of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, it is now unlawful to consider race as a factor, a tool, or a mechanism, in the fight to eliminate institutional racism and discrimination.
“I think that race has always been a topic, directly and indirectly, in the Supreme Court, and frankly, on the entire American dialogue,” said Dr. Raymond Winbush, director and research professor for the Institute of Urban Research at Morgan State University, in an interview with The Final Call. “‘Make America Great Again,’ the mantra of Donald Trump, is only (a few) letters away from, ‘Make America White Again,’ and I think this Supreme Court decision is probably the final nail in the coffin of whatever gains Black people made over the past 50 years,” Dr. Winbush said.
“Most of us grew up under the influence of what we call the Warren Court that Dwight Eisenhower kicked off in the early 1950s, when he appointed Earl Warren as Chief Justice, and I think that we were used to the Supreme Court being the final arbiter,” Dr. Winbush explained. Earl Warren served on the Supreme Court from 1953 until 1969. “We could kind of count on Thurgood Marshall, (Lewis) Powell, and other justices. Well, that all ended when Donald Trump became president because he got more Supreme Court picks (for the bench) than any other president in the past 100 years,” he said.
Prof. Winbush added that the June 29 decision will affect policy beyond the rhetoric of Affirmative Action and a Black person’s desire to attend a predominately White institution. “I think HBCUs—which have seen an explosion in growth since the unfortunate killing of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor—Black parents, they feel their children are safer at Black colleges and they are.
And we’re going to see a lot of Black applicants, even more now because of this decision,” he said. “White America will no longer have the excuse, ‘You got in here because you’re an Affirmative Action admit.’” He described the role of White supremacy in creating a narrative pitting Black and Asian communities against each other in the name of combating racism and discrimination.
“What we’ve got to understand as Black people (is) that Asians did not make that much of a gain in this,” Dr. Winbush said. “Most of these elite institutions, both state and private, they look at criteria more than that. Affirmative Action simply means that you look at (and) act affirmatively in recruiting students based on a variety of criteria. Clarence Thomas aside, I think (the court) has a good understanding of what seems to be Affirmative Action, but a bad understanding about how Affirmative Action works,” he said. “Now, outside of academia, I think the greatest impact is going to be on DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) stuff.”
Bigger than college admissions
Statistics have shown that White women have made the biggest gains from Affirmative Action policies when it comes to colleges and the workplace. But repercussions from the decision will go beyond that, analysts note.
Dr. Wilmer Leon, a political scientist and host of the weekly program, “Inside the Issues,” on Sirius XM Satellite Radio’s Urban View channel 126, told The Final Call that the ramifications of the Conservative-backed student group’s Supreme Court victory may reverberate well into the foreseeable future and beyond.
“I think that this decision is another example of how far the dominant community will go in order to protect White privilege and White access. One has to believe that racism has been vanquished or that racism is no longer relevant in America in order to come to the conclusions that the court came to,” he said in a telephone interview.
“One would have to believe that race is no longer a systemic cancer in the American process and to believe something along those lines is ahistorical, anti-intellectual, intellectually dishonest, and foolish. It’s going to have much broader implications beyond education, the likes of which you will not be able to accurately assess for a few years out, but we know that already they’re attacking diversity programs in business,” Dr. Leon explained.
Dr. Melina Abdullah, professor of Pan African Studies at Cal State Los Angeles and a co-founder of Black Lives Matter Grassroots and BLM LA, told The Final Call that she agreed the Supreme Court ruling is an indication that the U.S. is moving backward, and without the people pushing back, the courts will continue siding with what she said is a White supremacist agenda. She noted that while the court’s ruling removes race-conscious inclusion programs from the civilian sector, it keeps DEI in place for military service schools and careers, sending a conflicting message to both military and college-age youth.
“We will absolutely put your bodies on the front lines, that’s what this country is saying, and they’ve always done that, to die for a country that doesn’t respect us as human beings and refuses equality or equity for Black people,” she said. “It’s not anything new, they allowed Black people in the military for a long time, because it’s a recognition that our bodies and lives are disposable, but we have no rights or very few rights within the country that we’re fighting for,” Dr. Abdullah added.
“Maybe we should focus on our HBCUs rather than integrating the University of North Carolina, maybe we should talk about developing Black-owned businesses instead of trying to be executives in their systems. So, I think Black autonomy may need to be the priority for Black folks.”
Noting that the announced exits of four Black women executives did not come across as coincidental, shortly before and after the Supreme Court’s June 29 rulings, Dr. Abdullah said that Disney’s senior vice-president and chief diversity officer, Latondra Newton; Warner Bros. Discovery’s Executive of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Karen Horne; Netflix’s first head of Inclusion, Vernā Myers; and the Film Academy’s vice-president of Impact and Inclusion, Jeanell English, are further signs that Black people must focus on self, as a people, before working to build the interests of others.
“When we talk about Black excellence, it’s most important to be excellent to ourselves, to put less energy into showing them our worth, (but) show ourselves our worth, demonstrate excellence to ourselves,” Dr. Abdullah insisted.
Dr. Gerald Horne, a historian, a political activist, and an author of several books on race and politics, described the ruling as a disaster that may place Black youth, who are denied access to higher education and gainful employment, into an uncertain future during a time of growing international conflict and war in Eastern Europe.
“Interestingly enough, in the majority opinion, Chief Justice Roberts said that the military is exempted from invalidating Affirmative Action, so that means that the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, presumably the Virginia Military Institute, and the Citadel in South Carolina, can continue to aggressively recruit Black youth to serve in the military,” Dr. Horne said.
“Taken in the context of the military being unable to fill its quotas, with regard to recruiting, you don’t have to be a cynic nor an expert on the military to suspect that what the Supreme Court is saying is that it’s ok to die defending the empire, but don’t expect to be placed at the top of the socio-economic pyramid of this empire,” he said.