Critical Race Theory

Justice Thomas Challenges Colleges During Arguments Over Affirmative Action

What has become an increasingly frustrating issue, for otherwise qualified college student applicants, is the idea of them being rejected for admission based solely on their race.

This modern-day racism was destined to end up at the Supreme Court.

The SCOTUS ruled on a case in 2016 that was originally brought in 2013.

The decision came 3 months after the death of conservative Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in his sleep on February 13, 2016.

Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion upheld the race-based admissions plan at the University of Texas. It was a challenge brought by Abigail Fisher, a white woman, who said she was denied admission based on her race in violation of the equal protection clause.

Kenndy’s social justice reasoning was present in his “justification” for treating students based on race.

“Considerable deference is owed to a university in defining those intangible characteristics, like student body diversity, that are central to its identity and educational mission,” he wrote.

“Though a college must continually reassess its need for race-conscious review, here that assessment appears to have been done with care, and a reasonable determination was made that the university had not yet attained its goals,” Kennedy added.

Well, last January, the highest court in the land agreed to hear a pair of cases dealing with affirmative action being used in college admissions.

A legal advocacy group that opposes moving some students to the front of the line because of their racial identity filed complaints against both Harvard University and the University of North Carolina for “employing racially and ethnically discriminatory policies and procedures” when accepting students.

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Students for Fair Admission’s lawsuit against Harvard argued that Asian-American students need significantly higher test scores to gain admission to elite schools.

On Monday, Justice Clarence Thomas expressed skepticism that racial diversity has a measurable impact on educational outcomes as the Supreme Court weighed arguments regarding affirmative action in university admissions.

Thomas, one of two African-Americans on the Supreme Court, has repeatedly written opinions against affirmative action in the past.

In his 2012 opinion, the well-respected Associate Justice pointed out that segregationists once argued their policies would provide more leadership opportunities for blacks. “It is irrelevant under the Fourteenth Amendment whether segregated or mixed schools produce better leaders,” he said, noting that no court today would uphold segregation merely because historically black colleges produced individuals such as Booker T. Washington and Thurgood Marshall.

North Carolina State Solicitor General Ryan Park, an apparent social justice activist, repeatedly argued there is an “educational benefits of diversity”.  In response, Thomas challenged the attorney to present “a specific definition” in the context of the University of North Carolina, according to an official Supreme Court transcript.

“I’ve heard the word ‘diversity’ quite a few times, and I don’t have a clue what it means. It seems to mean everything for everyone,” Thomas remarked.

“I’d also like you to give us a clear idea of exactly what the educational benefits of diversity at the University of North Carolina would be,” Thomas added.

In response to Thomas’ request for a specific benefit, Solicitor Park referenced studies that claimed racial diversity leads to “a deeper and richer learning environment,” as well as the promotion of creative thinking and the reduction of racial bias. Thomas said that he still had not provided the precise educational benefits of diversity. When Park referred to another study indicating that traders made better investment decisions within racially diverse teams, Thomas said that he does not “put much stock in that” because he has heard “similar arguments in favor of segregation too.”

Other Supreme Court Justices weighed in, also doubting the merits of the defendant’s arguments.

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Justice Amy Coney Barrett noted that a previous decision concluded all governmental use of race must have “a logical endpoint” and “sunset provisions,” then expressed doubt to Park that the University of North Carolina’s policies had such provisions in place.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh raised similar concerns, noting that “racial classifications are potentially dangerous.”

Several analyses have highlighted the disadvantages faced by Asian Americans in college admissions processes seeking to reserve places for black and Hispanic students. One study from 2009 concluded that Asians required an SAT score approximately 140 points higher than white applicants, 270 points higher than Hispanic applicants, and 450 points higher than black applicants, according to a report from the Asian American Coalition for Education.

Many court watchers expect the conservative majority to overturn precedents related to affirmative action.

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