The U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action case upheld the state of Michigan’s voter-approved ban on policies designed to provide equal opportunities to candidates of color. The opinion – issued by a plurality and not a majority of the Supreme Court’s justices, reversed the decision of the Sixth Circuit, which had previously found an amendment to the Michigan state constitution to be a violation of the Equal Protection Clause. The Supreme Court’s decision is a dangerous step in the wrong direction because, as Justice Sonya Sotomayor said in her dissenting opinion, “…without checks, democratically approved legislation can oppress minority groups.”
Those who believe in providing equal opportunities for our nation’s children recognize both the disappointment and significance of the ruling, which raises the stakes and demands that we renew our commitment to promoting equitable outcomes for children of color.
As Sotomayor said, “This refusal to accept the stark reality that race matters is regrettable…The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to speak openly and candidly on the subject of race, and to apply the Constitution with eyes open to the unfortunate effects of centuries of racial discrimination.”
Tuesday’s decision cannot be the end of the discussion, but rather a new chapter that should inspire advocates for racial equity. The need for continued discussion is evidenced by the fact that the justices were not able to form a majority in this case, nor recognize the legacy of racism in this country.
In last year’s Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin decision, the Supreme Court chose to rule on a technicality rather than severely limiting or ending affirmative action in higher education. The court demanded “strict scrutiny” when examining a policy that considers an applicant’s racial or ethnic background during the admissions process – a process designed to look beyond test scores and help mitigate barriers that many students of color confront in a nation where, from the moment they are born, they may face conscious and unconscious bias based on the color of their skin. Today’s decision stands to limit the ability of universities to forge such inclusive policies.
At the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, we are committed to healing the profound gaps and inequities that exist in our country by placing the health, education and well-being of children at the center of all we do. A WKKF-funded report released last fall by the Altarum Institute indicated that by closing the educational achievement gap between African American and Latino students and their white counterparts the gross domestic product would increase by at least $310 billion. We support college admission policies that identify qualified students of all races and provide them with equal opportunities to succeed so we are able to create a diverse classroom – one where students of different races, ethnicities and backgrounds together learn how to excel in the global economy.
For questions, please contact Omar Hussain at 269.969.2340.
About the W.K. Kellogg Foundation
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer, Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life.
WKKF is based in Battle Creek, Mich., and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti.