Dear Commons Community,
Yesterday, the Supreme Court upheld Michigan’s ban on affirmative action. The Court’s 6-2 decision upheld a voter-approved change to the Michigan state Constitution that prevents public colleges from using race as a factor in its admissions. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was joined by John Roberts and Samuel Alito, said, “One of those premises is that a democracy has the capacity — and the duty — to learn from its past mistakes; to discover and confront persisting biases; and by respectful, rationale deliberation to rise above those flaws and injustices.” In other words, it’s not necessarily a race thing. “It is demeaning to the democratic process to presume that the voters are not capable of deciding an issue of this sensitivity on decent and rational grounds,” he wrote. The ruling provides a boost for other education-related affirmative action bans in California and Washington.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor delivered the dissent that said the decision infringed upon groups’ rights by allowing Michigan voters to change “the basic rules of the political process … in a manner that uniquely disadvantaged racial minorities.”
“In my colleagues’ view, examining the racial impact of legislation only perpetuates racial discrimination,” Sotomayor added. “This refusal to accept the stark reality that race matters is regrettable. As members of the judiciary tasked with intervening to carry out the guarantee of equal protection, we ought not sit back and wish away, rather than confront, the racial inequality that exists in our society.”
Sotomayor outlines well the problems associated with this decision and that it supports a “tyranny by the majority” form of democracy..