Washington, D.C. | www.mpac.org | June 29, 2023 — The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) is deeply concerned by today’s United States Supreme Court decision ruling that determining higher education admissions based on race is unconstitutional.
Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the Court’s majority, struck down the use of race in Harvard College and the University of North Carolina’s (UNC) admissions programs. “Eliminating racial discrimination means eliminating all of it,” Roberts wrote. [c] He continued by outlining how the two programs “unavoidably employ race in a negative manner, involve racial stereotyping, and lack meaningful end points.” [c]
In her dissenting opinion, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson pushed back on the Chief Justice’s claims, defending the constitutionality and importance of race-conscious programs within educational institutes.
“With let-them-eat-cake obliviousness, today, the majority pulls the ripcord and announces ‘colorblindness for all’ by legal fiat. But deeming race irrelevant in law does not make it so in life.” [c]
— Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson
Jackson also responded to a notable footnote in the majority opinion excluding military academies from the force of the decision due to the “potentially distinct interests” concerning national security that the military holds. Her dissent characterizes this conclusion from the majority as an attempt to “prepare Black Americans and other underrepresented minorities for success in the bunker, not the boardroom.” [c] In other words, the Court seems to conveniently keep an open race-based consideration when candidates apply to join the military in defending our country— sacrificing their lives, yet closes the door on them when they apply to join elite institutions in hopes of also attaining the socio-economic benefits often solely afforded to graduates of such institutions.
MPAC believes this decision will inevitably deal a blow to the fight for racial justice, backsliding progress for universities in their attempt to diversify their student body. After decades of progress, the Court has decided to reverse precedent and further enable existing racial inequality.
Americans — including each of the diverse racial and ethnic groups that make up the American Muslim community — will only benefit when historically disadvantaged populations are elevated to a position of equality. Maintaining existing racial disparities under the guise of equality and retreating to a colorblind conception of our Constitution does not uphold equality or promote diversity; rather, it furthers the existing gaps of disparity.
It can seem reasonable to many that the Court has erred on the side of caution in throwing out any system of racial classification. However, the issue of race is nuanced. Abolishing race-conscious systems designed to elevate historically disadvantaged groups dismisses the harsh realities of American history. As historians have argued, the framers of the 14th Amendment recognized the distinction between “racial designations that denigrate and harm” and “race-conscious laws that ameliorate discrimination.” [c]
Following the Court’s 2003 decision in Grutter v. Bollinger upholding the constitutionality of affirmative action, MPAC stated,
“MPAC looks forward to the day when a color-blind approach to university admissions is possible… Only when institutional racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination are essentially abolished should we consider ending programs that address these problems.”[c]
Today, MPAC affirms that position.