Ray Bogan

Political Correspondent

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Politics

Justices Thomas, Jackson clash on race in affirmative action decision

Jun 29, 2023

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Ray Bogan

Political Correspondent

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The Supreme Court ruled that colleges and universities cannot use race as a factor in admissions, effectively ending affirmative action. The organization Students for Fair Admissions sued Harvard and the University of North Carolina arguing that their admissions processes violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, respectively. 

But aside from the majority opinion, a concurring opinion from Justice Thomas and a dissenting opinion from Justice Jackson are getting attention for their blunt criticisms of views on race. 

Justice Jackson wrote, “Gulf-sized race-based gaps exist with respect to the health, wealth, and well-being of American citizens. They were created in the distant past, but have indisputably been passed down to the present day through the generations.”

But Justice Thomas took issue with that and called out Justice Jackson directly.

“Rather than focusing on individuals as individuals, her dissent focuses on the historical subjugation of black Americans, invoking statistical racial gaps to argue in favor of defining and categorizing individuals by their race,” Thomas wrote.

“In fact, on her view, almost all of life’s outcomes may be unhesitatingly ascribed to race,” Thomas continued. “This lore is not and has never been true. Even in the segregated South where I grew up, individuals were not the sum of their skin color.”

But Justice Jackson hit back at Thomas’ criticism.

“JUSTICE THOMAS’s prolonged attack responds to a dissent I did not write in order to assail an admissions program that is not the one UNC has crafted. He does not dispute any historical or present fact about the origins and continued existence of race-based disparity (nor could he)…”  

Jackson then went on to write, “The takeaway is that those who demand that no one think about race (a classic pink-elephant paradox) refuse to see, much less solve for, the elephant in the room— the race-linked disparities that continue to impede achievement of our great Nation’s full potential.”

Justice Jackson’s dissent did not impact the final outcome of the case because she recused herself.

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The Supreme Court ruled that colleges and universities cannot use race as a factor in admissions, effectively ending affirmative action.

 

This decision was a combination of two cases. The organization Students for Fair Admissions sued Harvard and the University of North Carolina, stating their admissions processes violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, respectively. 

 

But aside from the majority opinion, a concurring opinion from Justice Thomas and a dissenting opinion from Justice Jackson are getting attention for their blunt criticisms of the other’s views on race. 

 

Justice Jackson’s dissenting opinion, which did not impact the Harvard decision due to her recusal, she wrote: Gulf-sized race-based gaps exist with respect to the health, wealth, and well-being of American citizens. They were created in the distant past, but have indisputably been passed down to the present day through the generations.

 

But Justice Thomas took issue with that and called out Justice Jackson directly. He wrote quote: Rather than focusing on individuals as individuals, her dissent focuses on the historical subjugation of black Americans, invoking statistical racial gaps to argue in favor of defining and categorizing individuals by their race.

 

He went on to say: In fact, on her view, almost all of life’s outcomes may be unhesitatingly ascribed to race.

 

He added: This lore is not and has never been true. Even in the segregated South where I grew up, individuals were not the sum of their skin color.

 

But Justice Jackson hit back at Thomas’ criticism. She wrote: JUSTICE THOMAS’s prolonged attack responds to a dissent I did not write in order to assail an admissions program that is not the one UNC has crafted. He does not dispute any historical or present fact about the origins and continued existence of race-based disparity (nor could he)… 

 

She then went on to write: The takeaway is that those who demand that no one think about race (a classic pink-elephant paradox) refuse to see, much less solve for, the elephant in the room— the race-linked disparities that continue to impede achievement of our great Nation’s full potential.