The Pendulum Swings: Supreme Court Upholds Michigan’s Affirmative Action Ban

Screenshot 2014-04-24 at 10.44.45 AMIn a stunning 6-2 vote on Tuesday, the Supreme Court upheld the state of Michigan’s right to eliminate affirmative action from its state colleges’ admissions policy. Michigan voters had elected to remove affirmative action as an enhancement for qualification for higher education by a 58% margin in 2006. Specifically, the law bars publicly funded colleges from granting “preferential treatment to any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin.”

Despite this, lower courts, as have been their wont in recent years, wrested control from the voters and overrode the law…over and over again. Michigan, unlike other states, however, fought the remorseless appeals since they began, all the way to the Supreme Court. This time they’ve won and there is no place remaining for entitlement mongers to take their fight.

Even Justice Stephen Breyer agreed that the state of Michigan has the right to eliminate affirmative action from consideration for extra credit. Justice Elena Kagan recused herself from the vote. Other Justices in agreement with the majority decision were Chief Justice John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and weathervane Anthony Kennedy. Kennedy even wrote the majority opinion.

His opinion suggested that taking affirmative action off the table might be appropriate in other areas as well. FOX News quotes: “There is no authority in the federal constitution or in the [courts’] precedents for the judiciary to set aside Michigan laws that commit to the voters the determination whether racial preferences may be considered in governmental decisions, in particular with respect to school admissions…This case is not about how the debate about racial preferences should be resolved. It is about who may resolve it…”

The Wall Street Journal expanded on Breyer’s written statement: “The electorate’s instruction to governmental entities not to embark upon the course of race-defined and race-based preferences was adopted, we must assume, because the voters deemed a preference system to be unwise on account of what voters may deem its latent potential to become itself a source of the very resentments and hostilities based on race that this nation seeks to put behind it…” Based upon the court system’s recent antics, including those of the Supreme Court, it is astounding that voters’ decisions are being taken into consideration for anything that the bench decides.

Predictably, the two dissenting votes were cast by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and “the wise Latina”, Sonia Sotomayor. Sotomayor wrote the dissenting opinion (Ginsburg might have been unable to muster the attention span long enough to do so). Not satisfied with producing a 58-page complaint which, according to FOX News, “was longer than the combined length of the four opinions in support of the outcome.”

Sotomayor read her tome aloud in the courtroom. Presumably she believed this would add weight to her objections. Sotomayor’s opinion boiled down to something close to “it’s not fair.” CNN offers a snippet of her diatribe: “For members of historically marginalized groups, which rely on the federal courts to protect their constitutional rights, the decision can hardly bolster hope for a vision of democracy that preserves for all the right to participate meaningfully and equally in self-government…” What is notably absent from Sotomayor’s lament are three, relevant questions:

  • How many centuries are “historically marginalized groups” supposed to rely on Uncle Sam to pave the way for them?
  • Where in the Constitution does affirmative action appear as a “right”?
  • What is preventing “marginalized groups” from joining the rest of the American herd from participating “meaningfully and equally in self-government”?

Although statist mouthpieces like the Washington Post and the ACLU, who lost the appeal before the Supreme Court, are already howling that this decision sets America back to the days of slavery, not much is being said about the harm affirmative action does. Not the least of which is to the very people the Left claims to defend.

Contrary to their wailing and gnashing of teeth, affirmative action doesn’t level the playing field; it reduces standards and artificially elevates the playing field for some while it handcuffs and digs trenches under others. In 2010 Inside Higher Ed reported that females outnumber males in colleges across the nation 2 – 1. In 2010 the U.S. Census offered the following statistic: “In 2010, there were 96.7 males for every 100 females in the United States.” Yet there was no ACLU outcry over that inequity.

What this has done to minorities is to undermine a perception of genuine achievement. If something is difficult just labeling it “racist” or “sexist” makes it disappear. It has reduced the worth of an entire society. For decades offering unearned advantages merely for the sake of “equalizing” human color palettes and being gender-diverse, whether in colleges or jobs, in proportion to their numbers or not, deserving or not, has been more important than maintaining standards of excellence.

Maybe the pendulum is finally swinging back to sanity.

About the author: Marilyn Assenheim

Marilyn Assenheim was born and raised in New York City. She spent a career in healthcare management although she probably should have been a casting director. Or a cowboy. A serious devotee of history and politics, Marilyn currently lives in the NYC metropolitan area.

View all articles by Marilyn Assenheim
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