Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles (Advancing Justice – LA) is deeply concerned by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Actionupholding Proposal 2, a 2006 Michigan ballot initiative amending the state constitution to prohibit race-conscious college admissions policies. The decision overturns the 2012 ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which held that Proposal 2 impermissibly imposed heightened burdens on racial minorities advocating race-conscious admissions policies – burdens not shared by the majority.
As Justice Sotomayor pointed out in dissent: “The effect of [Proposal 2] is that a white graduate of a public Michigan university who wishes to pass his historical privilege on to his children may freely lobby the board of that university in favor of an expanded legacy admissions policy, whereas a black Michigander who was denied the opportunity to attend that very university cannot lobby the board in favor of a policy that might give his children a chance that he never had and that they might never have absent that policy.”
The plurality decision by Justice Kennedy, who was joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito, condones the entrenchment of this fundamentally unequal political system by disregarding the long-standing “political-process doctrine,” which prohibits the majority from creating a separate political process that makes it more difficult for racial minorities to enact beneficial legislation.
“The passage of Proposal 2 demonstrates that race still matters and that the courts are more necessary than ever to protect the rights of minorities,” said Stewart Kwoh, president and executive director of Advancing Justice – LA.
As Justice Sotomayor opined in dissent, “The Constitution does not protect racial minorities from political defeat. But neither does it give the majority free rein to erect selective barriers against racial minorities. The political-process doctrine polices the channels of change to ensure that the majority, when it wins, does so without rigging the rules of the game to ensure its success.”
Despite the disappointing and harmful decision by the Supreme Court today, it is important to note that the Court did not address the merits of race-conscious admissions, which are still constitutional underFisher and Grutter. Advancing Justice – LA is committed to supporting race-conscious admissions policies and increasing access to higher education for all underrepresented and disadvantaged students.
Senator Ed Hernandez also expressed concerns:
“I am disappointed and find it inherently unfair that the Supreme Court decided to preserve a political process in Michigan that establishes a rather large political hurdle for underrepresented racial minorities, while allowing the vast majority of other people a much less burdensome process to address their concerns. I have to agree with Justice Sotomayor, who wrote in her dissent today that ‘While our Constitution does not guarantee minority groups victory in the political process, it does guarantee them meaningful and equal access to that process.'”
“However, the Supreme Court’s decision today upholds the idea that the people should decide whether race-conscious programs should be allowed, and the Majority made it very clear that the constitutionality of race-conscious programs was not in question and was not impacted by today’s decision. From the beginning, my intention for introducing Senate Constitutional Amendment 5 (SCA 5) has been to allow the voters of California that choice.”