The Spectacle Blog

SCOTUS Affirmative Action Ruling a Partial Victory for Equality

By on 6.24.13 | 3:22PM

Civil rights activists opposed to the use of race preferences were encouraged after today’s Supreme Court decision in Fisher v. University of Texas. In a 7-1 ruling, the justices vacated and remanded the Fifth Circuit Court’s decision to uphold the university’s system of race preferences. This is an important step forward in the fight for equal treatment. But it is also a call for more activism.

Jennifer Gratz, CEO of the XIV Foundation, has the right take. “Racial discrimination will not end simply by passing a law or by receiving a favorable legal decision,” she said in a press release. "It takes a determined, unrelenting movement to bring about such lasting change. The Supreme Court won’t do it for us.”

That last part says it all: “The Supreme Court won’t do it for us.”

And Jennifer Gratz should know. She was the plaintiff in the 2003 Gratz v. Bollinger decision that struck down race preferences at the University of Michigan’s undergraduate program. Unfortunately, the court split the difference in a separate but related decision in Grutter v. Bollinger – this one involved the university’s law school admission program. In Grutter, the court ruled that race could be taken into consideration as part of university admissions policies so as long as it was “narrowly tailored.” Taken together, the Gratz and Grutter decisions make it clear that court will not tolerate overt racial quotas. But Grutter allows for admissions officials to play games at expense of equality.

“This [the Fisher ruling] is a reminder that the Court barely tolerates race preferences and that attorneys on our side should be bold and ask for Grutter to be overturned,” Gratz said. “Justice [Antonin] Scalia provided a brief concurring opinion, stating that because the petitioner did not ask the Court to overrule Grutter, he joined the opinion of the Court in full.”

Gratz also spearheaded a successful constitutional amendment in Michigan (MCRI) that made race and gender preferences illegal in public education, public employment, and public contracting.

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