“Eliminating racial discrimination means eliminating all of it.” That was the conclusion of the majority in the Supreme Court case Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard. The court concluded that it violates the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law for colleges and universities to consider a student’s race in their admissions process.
For many, this is common sense. Earlier in our battle against racism, the Supreme Court clarified that segregated schools were illegal because “separate but equal” was not actually equal. In doing so, the court established that it is inappropriate to reward and punish people based on the color of their skin. But more recently, some have decided it’s not merely acceptable to treat people differently based on the color of their skin, it’s good provided we do so for the right reasons.
That’s one of the reasons why, in recent years, colleges of been creating “safe spaces” where white students are not allowed. It is also the reason a Colorado elementary school hosted a “Families of Color Playground Night” and put it on the sign in front of their school. They weren’t ashamed to be engaging in racial discrimination, they were proud of it because they were doing it for the right reasons. They were protecting racial minorities, not harming them. Similar sentiments motivate those who want to use race as a determining factor in the college admissions process. They don’t believe racial discrimination is always bad, it’s only bad if it’s done for the wrong reason.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor voiced her belief that race-based evaluations are constitutional if done for the right reasons. “The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment enshrines a guarantee of racial equality” she said. “The Court long ago concluded that this guarantee can be enforced through race-conscious means in a society that is not, and has never been, colorblind.”
Good intentions aside, there are unavoidable problems with the effort to rebrand racial discrimination as “race-consciousness” because anytime the law favors one group on account of their race, they necessarily disfavor other groups because of their race. This was illustrated in Harvard’s own admissions data. While the goal was to help Hispanic and black students gain opportunities they otherwise might not have, the result was that Asian students were required to score, on average, 22 points higher than white students and 63 points higher than black students in order to be admitted. Creating opportunities for one group means handicapping another.
Obviously, that’s not fair, but you’re also not supposed to care that it’s not fair.
The Left has divided the world into “oppressors” and “oppressed,” and often those categories are defined by our skin color. The bad kind of racism punishes those who they see as “oppressed” and should be stopped. The good kind of racism punishes those they see as “oppressors” and should be tolerated or even celebrated as a race-conscious effort to “level the playing field.”
You don’t need to be concerned that the poor Vietnamese kid from a broken home and better test scores was rejected for a black kid with billionaire parents, because the individual circumstances of their lives matter less than the identity politics we’re all supposed to be focused on. This is Critical Race Theory 101, and this is the world the political Left wants us all to live in. But the Supreme Court just said you can’t do that. “Eliminating racial discrimination means eliminating all of it.”
It has never made sense that we would be able to solve the problem of racism with more racism, but the Supreme Court just went a step further and clarified that fighting racism with racism isn’t just a bad idea, it’s also illegal.
Joseph Backholm is Senior Fellow for Biblical Worldview and Strategic Engagement at Family Research Council.
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