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Justice Thomas’ Previous Comments Suggest He Supports Ending Race-Based College Admissions

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


The U.S. Supreme Court recently agreed to review a challenge to the consideration of race in college admission decisions, which is most commonly referred to as affirmative action.

The nation’s highest court will be hearing multiple cases dealing with race-based admissions practices at two colleges: Harvard University and the University of North Carolina.

Alex Deise, an attorney and policy manager at FreedomWorks, said the Supreme Court can deliver a “historic” decision to abolish the “ability for higher education to use race-based affirmative action in admissions.”

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Both UNC and Harvard have been sued over allegations of discrimination against Asian and white Americans, with some arguing their civil rights were violated in the admissions process.

“By taking these cases, the Supreme Court has a historic opportunity to eliminate the ability of colleges and universities to explicitly discriminate on the basis of race in their admissions process,” Deise said.

“The Court made a serious mistake in Grutter v Bollinger (2003) when it upheld these processes under the false notion that the educational benefits from a diverse student body were more important than the Equal Protection Clause’s central command of race neutrality,” he added. “The Court should overrule Grutter and heed Chief Justice Roberts advice from a similar case that ‘the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.’”

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Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas previously made it clear he’s ready to strike down affirmative action, calling the practice comparable to “bigotry.”

“I note that racial engineering does in fact have insidious consequences,” Thomas wrote, concerning a challenge to an affirmative action program at the University of Texas. “There can be no doubt that the University’s discrimination injures white and Asian applicants who are denied admission because of their race. But I believe the injury to those admitted under the University’s discriminatory admissions program is even more harmful,” Thomas previously argued.

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“Blacks and Hispanics admitted to the University as a result of racial discrimination are, on average, far less prepared than their white and Asian classmates,” Thomas added.

“The University admits minorities who otherwise would have attended less selective colleges where they would have been more evenly matched,” he argued. “But, as a result of the mismatching, many blacks and Hispanics who likely would have excelled at less elite schools are placed in a position where underperformance is all but inevitable because they are less academically prepared than the white and Asian students with whom they must compete. Setting aside the damage wreaked upon the self-confidence of these overmatched students, there is no evidence that they learn more at the university than they would have learned at other schools for which they were better prepared. Indeed, they may learn less.”

The Supreme court has shifted further to the right, with three new conservative justices appointed by former President Donald Trump.

Eliminating the practice would send shockwaves across American higher education and leave many schools scrambling to find other ways to promote “diversity.”

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Opponents say ending affirmative action would make the process fairer, and some say colleges could preserve racial diversity by giving an advantage to low-income students.

Mike Zhao, president of the Asian American Coalition for Education, said Americans should have equal opportunity to achieve success “through hard work, determination, and initiative.”

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“It’s time for the U.S. Supreme Court to step up to protect our constitutional rights,” he said in a statement.

NAACP Legal and Educational Defense Fund director Sherrilyn Ifill said it “threatens the nation’s ideals of equality.”

Ifill  claimed that a “race-conscious admissions” process “mitigates systemic barriers to educational opportunities faced by many Black students and other students of color, ensuring that all hard-working and qualified applicants receive due consideration.”

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