US Supreme Court seizes on affirmative action debate

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US Supreme Court Takes Over Affirmative Action Debate

U.S. Supreme Court

U.S. Supreme Court Reopens Monday the very sensitive issue of affirmative action programs at university, much to the chagrin of progressives who fear a setback for minorities.

The high court, firmly rooted in conservatism, will examine for two hours the admissions procedures at the oldest private and public universities in the country, those of Harvard and North Carolina.

Like many very selective establishments, they take into account the skin color or the ethnic origin of their candidates in the evaluation of their files. The goal is to correct inequalities stemming from the segregationist past of the United States and to increase the share of black, Hispanic or Native American students, who remain underrepresented in higher education.


These policies, known as positive discrimination, have always been highly criticized in conservative circles, who consider them opaque and see in them reverse racism. Nine states have already banned them.

For half a century, they have been the subject of several complaints brought by white students.

Seized on the subject on several occasions since 1978, the Supreme Court has prohibited quotas, but authorized universities to take into account, among other things, racial criteria, judging that the search for greater diversity was of legitimate interest.

In 2014, neoconservative activist Edward Blum, who initiated several legal challenges against affirmative action programs, adopted a new angle of attack.

Neoconservative activist Edward Blum.

At the head of an association called Students for Fair Admission, he sued Harvard and the University of North Carolina accusing them of discriminating against students of Asian descent.

The latter, who have significantly above average academic results, would be more numerous on campus if their performance were the only selection criterion, he argued.

After having suffered several defeats in court, he turned to the Supreme Court asking it, more broadly, to declare that the Constitution prohibits all discrimination, including positive discrimination.

The temple of law could have refused, as it does for the majority of cases submitted to it. By accepting this appeal, he hinted that he was ready to make a new reversal after having dynamited the right to abortion in June.

This Court scares me, said Monday Natasha Smith, a 44-year-old African-American from North Carolina to demonstrate in front of the high institution to defend affirmative action programs in the hope that her 13-year-old son can benefit from them.

I'm nervous, abounded Rachel Woods, a 32-year-old black woman.

“We've never had such a diverse Court, and yet we have to fight for things we we took for granted. »

— Rachel Woods

Several actors from the political, academic and economic world intervened to defend the status quo.

In an argument submitted to the Court, the government of Democratic President Joe Biden insisted on the need to develop leaders with varied profiles ready to lead an increasingly diverse society.

Large companies, including Google and General Motors, have pointed out that a diverse workforce improves their performance and that they are drawing to select it from student pools on campus.

But the Court has been radically overhauled by Donald Trump and its conservative majority (six judges out of nine) tends to consider that racial registration, even for laudable reasons, violates the Constitution, recalls Steven Schwinn, professor of law at the University. University of Illinois at Chicago.

If we want to put an end to racial discrimination, we must stop discriminating on racial grounds, notably wrote in 2007 the head of the Court, John Roberts. Even the African-American Clarence Thomas, who nevertheless benefited from these programs to enter the prestigious Yale University, publicly denigrated them.

Already a minority, the progressive camp is weakened: Black magistrate Ketanji Brown-Jackson recused herself in Harvard's case because she served on the institution's supervisory board.

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson is sworn in.

Supreme Court to issue ruling before June 30.

It will have an impact beyond higher education, predicts Steven Schwinn. It could, he says, prohibit the government from using racial criteria in other areas, such as awarding government contracts, a practice allowed today.

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