U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham) is the first in Alabama’s federal delegation to speak on the recent decision from the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) against affirmative action.
Affirmative action policies and programs give preference to particular minority groups, such as black people and Latin Americans, over other ethnic groups, such as white and Asian people.
SCOTUS ruled on Thursday morning that affirmative action in college admissions violated the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.
In response, Sewell blasted the SCOTUS decision, calling it “shameful.”
“For centuries, African Americans were systematically denied the opportunity to pursue a higher education and gain financial independence, leaving a painful legacy of discrimination that persists to this day,” Sewell said. “It was during my parents' lifetime that institutions like the University of Alabama finally allowed Black students to enroll alongside their peers.”
“For the past four decades, the Supreme Court has recognized the important role of affirmative action in breaking down educational barriers for Black students," she continued. "After all, our entire nation benefits when talented students of diverse backgrounds get a fair shot at success. But with today's extreme reversal, the Court has chosen to ignore our history and roll back our hard-fought progress.”
Student advocacy group Students for Fair Admissions (SFA) filed cases against Harvard and the University of North Carolina (UNC) in 2014, suggesting that the universities’ affirmative action violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act by discriminating based on race, color and national origin while receiving federal funding.
Specifically, the plaintiff argued the policies discriminated against Asian-American students.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit initially ruled in favor of Harvard, arguing that the “observed discrimination” affected a minor pool of Asian-American students and that the plaintiffs lacked evidence to prove the school had violated the Civil Rights Act.
In a separate case, a federal district court ruled in UNC’s favor.
SCOTUS overturned both cases, ruling against UNC 6 to 3 and against Harvard 6 to 2. Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson recused herself from the Harvard case due to her previous involvement with the university’s advisory governing board.
Thursday’s ruling reverses several prior SCOTUS rulings that upheld race-based college administration programs.
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