On Monday, the United States Supreme Court granted review of two consolidated cases involving racial preferences in college admissions, for which the court will likely hear oral arguments in October.
Commentators widely expected the first case—Students for Fair Admissions vs. President and Harvard Scholars— would end up in the Supreme Court. In this case, the plaintiffs are a group of Asian Americans and whites who have argued that the remarkably stable acceptance rate of African Americans and Latinos into the Ivy League school over the decades does not could not have been achieved without an illegal quota system. The plaintiffs lost in the trial court and in the First Circuit Court of Appeals.
While prevailing at trial and on appeal, Harvard walked out of court with a sizable egg on its institutional face. The litigation uncovered internal admissions emails and memos describing a culture of anti-Asian sentiment. While African-American and Hispanic applicants performed well for their intangible “leadership” qualities, notes on Asian-American applications wallowed in racial stereotyping, describing otherwise qualified applicants as ” quiet/shy; science/mathematics oriented. One assessor derisively described an Asian candidate “he’s calm and, of course, wants to be a doctor.”
The Harvard lawsuit also highlighted the fact that applicants from well-to-do backgrounds flocked to the school in large numbers while qualified applicants of all ethnic backgrounds vigorously contested a handful of seats.
The second case also has the SFFA as a plaintiff, but this time against an elite public institution: the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Although the facts of the case are similar, the UNC case raises the legal question of whether the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution prohibits the consideration of race in admissions decisions, a question that is absent from the Harvard case, which concerns Title IV of the Civil Code Rights Act of 1964.
Procedurally, the Supreme Court took the highly unusual step of skipping the Court of Appeal and placing the UNC case directly on the High Court docket. This acceleration has only happened 14 times since February 2019 and before that, not once for 14 years. Given the makeup of the Supreme Court, this decision signals a rush to overturn precedents allowing some consideration of race in college admissions, whether at private or public universities.
There is no real progressive force on either side in these cases.
Racial preference – in college admission, employment, and now, alarmingly, in health care – rests on the unspoken premise of scarcity. There are only a limited number of places in major universities, a limited number of professional positions, good jobs, vaccines, etc. This is what is meant by reference to equal opportunities, equal access to this or that privilege. Socialists reject this premise of scarcity with contempt, unlike the Democratic and Republican wings of the ruling class.
A broader historical examination of the Democratic Party’s turn to identity politics is beyond the scope of this article. But in short, the old party of slavery and secession took on a new role in the 20th century: that of diverting popular movements into safe and bourgeois political channels. For a time, the Democratic Party championed limited social reforms such as the New Deal and the Great Society. As the post-war economic boom gave way to stagflation and class warfare, the party – with the help of fake socialists like Michael Harrington – moved further and further away from economic populism and sought to room to build an electoral base among women and upper-middle minorities. to classify. While the politics behind this shift were more budget-friendly — it was easier to advance a relative handful of people in select groups than the working class as a whole — the political right cynically seized on the mantle of equality. treatment before the law.
On the other side of the business, Students for Fair Admissions is a pet project of American Enterprise Institute fellow Edward Blum, who funded the legal attack on the Voting Rights Act in the case. Shelby County vs. Holder. The result of that 2013 Supreme Court ruling was the end of the VRA’s preclearance provision that allowed state lawmakers to design voter suppression programs with a free hand. Changes to election procedures — eliminating Sunday voting, requiring valid photo ID at the polls — target likely Democratic voters: young and African Americans, and low-income people of all races.
The social forces behind the SFFA care less about the unequal treatment of Asian Americans. Elements around the Republican Party first cultivated the Wuhan lab lie and stoked an atmosphere of suspicion and hostility towards Asian Americans with violent repercussions. Nor would these forces hesitate for a moment to use nuclear weapons to annihilate the entire People’s Republic of China, should the opportunity arise.
While the Democratic Party and the section of the bourgeoisie it represents believe that racial quotas in military command, corporate America, academia, and the highest-paying professions add some social stability to a grotesquely unequal society, the Republican faction is indifferent with stability in the conventional sense. Instead, Trump’s party presents itself as men of violence who will crush opposition, including growing working class militancy, by force.
In this unprecedented crisis, the right-wing Supreme Court is poised to end racial preference in college admissions — not as part of a sweeping advance of democratic rights — but as a boost to the racist militias that increasingly constitute the popular base of the Republican Party.