Can a law whose intent is to discourage sexual and racial discrimination, in fact, be discriminatory itself? This is the question going before the Supreme Court on Tuesday where an amendment to the Michigan State Constitution prohibits schools from using racial preferences when determining enrollment. Those who object to this amendment say that it violates the 14th Amendment, which guarantees equal protection under the law.
Many states, such as California, have done away with affirmative action, but advocates say that by amending to the constitution to prevent affirmative action is a step too far. Michigan voters approved the amendment in 2006 and, according to The New York Times, “since then black undergraduate enrollment at the University of Michigan is down 33 percent.”
The heart of the matter is the original intention of affirmative action and whether or not it still applies in today’s world. Historically low-income minority groups – either race- or gender-based – claim that the system itself is stacked against those who aren’t privileged. At the time the law was enacted in America, by President Kennedy in 1961, the struggle for civil rights in America was at its peak. However today, even liberal supporters of the spirit of affirmative action argue, “[t]he current huge fairness problem in university admissions isn’t race based. It’s class based.”
However, despite the progress that has been made in seeking racial equality, there are still many different ways in which minorities are still being disenfranchised. And some advocates see this fight as a fight for the future of affirmative action in the United States. Ward Connerly, author of the Michigan Proposal, told The Washington Times, “If those are forbidden by the court, we may as well resign ourselves to a long period of race preferences in the country.”