The Supreme Court may be gearing up to land the final blow in the decades long debate over affirmative action.
On Monday, the justices are hearing arguments challenging policies at Harvard and the University of North Carolina that use race as a consideration, among many other factors in admissions. The dual cases, spearheaded by a conservative activist, Edward Blum, could spell the end for one of the last tools remaining to help schools foster integration.
Lisa Crooms-Robinson, who spoke to The Root in late June, says she believes the courts will side against affirmative action:
“The higher ed cases on the docket for the next time,” said Crooms-Robinson. “Will be, I would suspect, the end of race-based affirmative action.”
Attacks on efforts to integrate schools have been going on since Brown v. Board of education was decided. And in recent years, they’ve been picking up some serious steam.
In 2006, the Supreme Court decided that K-12 schools could not use race as a “tiebreaker” to help determine which schools students would end up in, effectively taking away one of the last tools K-12 schools had to promote integration.
As of 2017, almost 70 percent of all Black children in the United States attended schools that are highly segregated by race, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
Efforts to integrate higher education using race-conscious admissions practices have also been under attack. And Blum, has been at the forefront of the anti-affirmative action charge.
In 2013 and then again in 2016, Blum brought the infamous Fisher v. University of Texas case before the Supreme Court. The case centered on Abigail Fisher, a 23-year-old white woman who claimed to have been discriminated against in the admission process at the University of Texas because she is white.
The only problem was there was absolutely zero evidence that she would have gotten in if she wasn’t white. The University of Texas has a policy where the top 10 percent of students from Texas high schools are granted automatic admission. Race is only used as one of many factors to determine who gets into the remaining slots.
The year Fisher applied, roughly 92 percent of slots were filled by students who’d made it in the top 10 percent of their class, according to ProPublica, leaving only 841 spots remaining.
Not only did Fisher not make it into the top ten percent of her class, her grades (3.59) and her SAT score (1180) likely would not have won her one of those highly coveted un-filled spots regardless of her race, according to ProPublica.
The Supreme Court ultimately sided in a 5-3 decision with the University of Texas, arguing that their use of race in admissions was “narrowly tailored.”
But just because affirmative action narrowly survived an attack in 2016 doesn’t mean it’ll make it through this court.
All three of the Supreme Court justices who dissented in the University of Texas case, Justice Samuel Alito, Chief Justice Roberts, and Clarence Thomas, are still on the court.
And the court has only gotten more conservative in the interim. Former-President Trump added three additional conservative votes to the court, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Justice Neil Gorsuch, and Justice Amy Coney Barrett.
That leaves just three liberal justices, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Justice Elena Kagan, and Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. However, Jackson, the first Black woman appointed to the Supreme Court, has decided to recuse herself from the Harvard case because she recently sat on their governing board.
Based on the court’s make-up and earlier willingness to upend decades of precedence by overturning Roe v. Wade, things are likely not looking good for the future of affirmative action.