US Supreme Court quashes race-based Quota

The verdict is likely to have an impact on affirmative action in universities all across the United States of America
A Cartoon criticizing the recent US Verdict against affirmative action
A Cartoon criticizing the recent US Verdict against affirmative action

The ruling by the US Supreme Court- dominated by the conservatives, quashing race-based college admissions has spurred speculation regarding the future of affirmative action in United States, which is known for promoting diversity in corporate sector and campuses.

The ruling which was in response to an appeal filed by a group "Students for Fair admission”. The group asserted that the race based admission was a violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Title VI, which bars discrimination based on race, color or national origin.

The 6-3 verdict came on expected lines as the jury was divided on ideological lines with conservatives comprising six of the nine members of the jury.

Ironically, Justice Clarence Thomas, who is the second black justice of US Supreme Court and a conservative said that such programmes were “patently unconstitutional”. While Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first black woman appointed to the court and a liberal said the decision was “ truly a tragedy for us all.”

The Verdict assailed by Liberals

Liberals and Democrats came down heavily on the verdict. While former US president Donald Trump welcomed the decision, his predecessor Barack Obama lambasted the ruling saying that affirmative action policies had “allowed generations of students” including him and his wife Michelle to “prove we belonged”.

Obama’s wife and former first lady Michelle Obama, a graduate of the Harvard University joined the tirade and said “So often, we just accept that money, power, and privilege are perfectly justifiable forms of affirmative action, while kids growing up like I did are expected to compete when the ground is anything but level, The incumbent US President Joe Biden also launched a broadside against the decision,“

"In case after case, including recently, just a few years ago in 2016, the court has affirmed and reaffirmed this view that colleges could use race, not as a determining factor for admission, but as one of the factors among many in deciding who to admit,” said biden adding that “ The court has effectively ended affirmative action in college admissions and I strongly , strongly disagree with the court’s decision,” he said.

Teachers College, Columbia University also criticized the verdict. A statement issued by the college read "While the ruling does permit a student to disclose and discuss their race and the impacts race may have had on their lives, it permits an institution to consider that discussion based on only individual characteristics such as courage and leadership — not on the basis of race. We feel this is an unrealistic and unfair result."

Affirmative action in the United States

Affirmative action in the United States refers to policies and practices that aim to address historical and ongoing discrimination against certain groups, particularly racial and ethnic minorities and women. The goal of affirmative action is to promote equal opportunity and increase the representation of underrepresented groups in areas such as education, employment, and business.

Affirmative action initiatives began in the 1960s as a response to systemic discrimination and segregation faced by African Americans and other minority groups.

"Executive Order No. 10925", signed by President John F. Kennedy on March 6th,1961 included a provision that government contractors "take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and employees are treated fairly during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin".

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and subsequent executive orders issued by Presidents Kennedy and Johnson established the legal framework for affirmative action. These policies required federal contractors and institutions receiving federal funding to take proactive steps to ensure equal opportunity and nondiscrimination in their hiring and admissions practices.

Quotas: a Key Component of Affirmative Action

One of the key components of affirmative action is the use of preferential treatment or quotas to increase the representation of underrepresented groups. This means that in certain circumstances, employers or educational institutions may give preferential treatment or set specific goals for hiring or admitting individuals from historically marginalized groups.

Affirmative action has been a subject of ongoing debate and controversy in the United States. Critics argue that it leads to reverse discrimination, as some individuals may perceive themselves as being unfairly disadvantaged due to their race or gender. They argue that merit should be the sole criterion for employment and admission decisions. Proponents of affirmative action, on the other hand, argue that it is necessary to address the historical disadvantages faced by certain groups and to create a more inclusive and diverse society. They contend that affirmative action is a temporary measure to level the playing field and promote equal opportunity.

The implementation and scope of affirmative action policies have varied over time and across different contexts. Court decisions have placed limitations on the use of quotas and strict racial preferences in some cases, requiring institutions to use race-conscious admissions or hiring practices as one of many factors in their decision-making process.

The long history of Racial Discrimination in the United States

The history of Racial Discrimination in the United States goes back to 16th-17h century- in the formative years of the United States. The European settlers to United States brought people from Africa and enslaved them. In August of 1619, the first enslaved Africans arrived to the English colonies in the Americas. The slaves- African of black skin were forced to work as labourers in fields , mines, factories in adverse circumstances.

What made the slavery of Africans the United States easier was that they [slaves] could not have escaped to their continent which involved crossing the sea to reach there.

The slavery had a legal sanctity for more than 200 years until 1865, when the slavery was abolished officially by the then President Abraham Lincoln.

However, despite the abolition of slavery, discrimination against Black Americans remained widespread.

Sustaining Slavery through Racism

Black codes were introduced post-1865 era and aimed to control the behaviour of the newly freed Blacks. For example in Georgia It was illegal for a Black Man to stroll about leisurely, if he was able to work

In South Carolina, A person of Color was prohibited from owning a shop, or work as an artisan or a mechanic. They were barred from pursuing any trade, business, besides farming, manual labour or domestic service.

Besides restrictions on owning property, the blacks were also not having the voting rights in most of the states.

The discrimination reached a tipping point in the 1950s when the blacks began organizing under civil rights activist like Martin Luther King Jr. He inspired many other activists like Rosa Parks, A Montgomery resident, who refused to give her seat the bus to a white passenger, despite being threatened of police action. The event led to Montgomerry bus boycott which was led by Martin Luther King Jr. The controversy ended when the United States District Court issued a ruling in Browder v. Gayle that prohibited racial segregation on all Montgomery public buses. This movement gave a fillip to the fight against racial discrimination in US and by 1960, numerous measures of affirmative actions were started.

Over the last few decades, the Black Population had made a mark in business and entertainment industry. In 2008, the country also elected its first Black President- Barack Obama.

However, the Afro-Americans still lag far behind the whites in Education, Business, etc. The ruling can severely hamper the education prospects of Black Students.

Vikas Tatad, an Indian Student studying at Columbia University says " There is ample evidence to show that racial discrimination exists in the United States, so the verdict of the US Supreme Court against the race based quotas is wrong, I think the Ambedkarite groups should stand with the black community on this issue, as they (blacks) have stood with Ambedkarites on the issue of Caste.

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