Go back in time sixty years to the date. May 17, 1954—the Supreme Court deemed unconstitutional the segregation of African-American students in school, blasting the “separate-but-equal” status quo that existed to that point. Columbia’s favorite affirmative action and equal opportunity advocate, PrezBo, wrote an article in The New Yorker arguing that, while we’ve come a long way as a society, we might recently have forgotten what Brown vs Board really stood, and still stands, for.
The 1978 Bakke decision, PrezBo writes, turned this original idea of affirmative action on its head by declaring these new policies, put in place to establish certain “critical masses” of historically oppressed racial groups, unconstitutional because they disadvantaged other innocent but historically privileged people; rather, the decision allowed for the consideration of race and ethnicity in creating a more diverse student population.
However, PrezBo argues, this decision has required college presidents and other officials to create and follow “hollow and banal” admissions policies that students can see right through. In fact, both university and government officials are hesitant to touch on the topic of race. PrezBo notes the few memorable times a certain other president has spoken up on the issue, most recently regarding the Donald Sterling debacle, supporting his claim with extremely timely and true examples. He counters by including his own defense of University of Michigan’s policies, a case that also went to the Supreme Court and won, but was, in unprecedented Supreme Court fashion, given a time limit before affirmative action could become irrelevant.
Our famed scholar then gets to the good stuff, but we’ll leave that to you to explore.
Warren Court via Wikimedia Commons