• June 16, 2024

Jackson blasts ‘obliviousness’ to racism in affirmative action dissent

 Jackson blasts ‘obliviousness’ to racism in affirmative action dissent

ByBreccan F. Thies 

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson issued a scathing rebuke of the Supreme Court‘s decision to strike down affirmative action in college admissions, saying the majority opinion has “let-them-eat-cake obliviousness.”

The high court ruled against both Harvard College and the University of North Carolina for having admissions schemes that overtly looked at race as a factor to go to school.


While Jackson had to recuse herself from the Harvard case, she wrote a lengthy dissent to the UNC decision, arguing for race-based admissions and calling the majority an “impediment to racial progress” that views the 14th Amendment with “two dimensional flatness.”

“With let-them-eat-cake obliviousness, today, the majority pulls the ripcord and announces ‘colorblindness for all’ by legal fiat,” she wrote in an opinion joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. “But deeming race irrelevant in law does not make it so in life. And having so detached itself from this country’s actual past and present experiences, the Court has now been lured into interfering with the crucial work that UNC and other institutions of higher learning are doing to solve America’s real-world problems.”

“No one benefits from ignorance,” she said.

Jackson spent the lion’s share of her opinion setting out a hypothetical admissions consideration in an attempt to highlight “systemic racism,” adding that the Supreme Court has consistently chosen to restrict the scope of the second founding — the period after the Civil War when the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments were adopted.

“History speaks. In some form, it can be heard forever,” she continued. “The race-based gaps that first developed centuries ago are echoes from the past that still exist today.”

“Given the lengthy history of state-sponsored race-based preferences in America, to say that anyone is now victimized if a college considers whether that legacy of discrimination has unequally advantaged its applicants fails to acknowledge the well-documented ‘intergenerational transmission of inequality’ that still plagues our citizenry,” she continued.


For Jackson, UNC has a remedy for the race-based gaps by considering the relative generational privileges, or lack thereof, for applicants and using those factors in determining an applicant.

“Gulf-sized race-based gaps exist with respect to the health, wealth, and well-being of American citizens,” Jackson wrote. “Every moment these gaps persist is a moment in which this great country falls short of actualizing one of its foundational principles — the ‘self-evident’ truth that all of us are created equal.”

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