Read Justice Sotomayor and Jackson’s Dissents in the Affirmative Action Case

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In a 6-3 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority said that admissions policies that consider race as a factor are unconstitutional, overturning about 45 years of precedent.

At issue was whether Harvard University discriminated against Asian American applicants in its admissions process, and whether the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill gave preference to Black, Hispanic, and Native American applicants over white and Asian applicants. Conservative activist Edward Blum brought the cases on behalf of Students for Fair Admissions.

“Many universities have for too long wrongly concluded that the touchstone of an individual’s identity is not challenges bested, skills built, or lessons learned, but the color of their skin,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion. “This Nation’s constitutional history does not tolerate that choice.”

Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina Supreme Court Justice and a vocal proponent of race-based affirmative action, wrote the dissenting opinion joined by the court’s two other liberal justices. Ketanji Brown Jackson, the court’s newest and first Black female justice, recused herself from the Harvard case because she has served on the university’s Board of Overseers, but issued a separate scathing dissenting opinion in the North Carolina case.

“The devastating impact of this decision cannot be overstated,” Sotomayor wrote.

Below are several highlights from Sotomayor and Jackson’s dissenting opinions. You can read the full text of the opinions here.

Sonia Sotomayor

“Today, this Court stands in the way and rolls back decades of precedent and momentous progress.”

“The Court subverts the constitutional guarantee of equal protection by further entrenching racial inequality in education, the very foundation of our democratic government and pluralistic society.”

“At its core, today’s decision exacerbates segregation and diminishes the inclusivity of our Nation’s institutions in service of superficial neutrality that promotes indifference to inequality and ignores the reality of race. ”

“Today, this Court overrules decades of precedent and imposes a superficial rule of race blindness on the Nation.”

“The majority’s vision of race neutrality will entrench racial segregation in higher education because racial inequality will persist so long as it is ignored.”

“Despite the Court’s unjustified exercise of power, the opinion today will serve only to highlight the Court’s own impotence in the face of an America whose cries for equality resound.”

Ketanji Brown Jackson

“With let-them-eat-cake obliviousness, today, the majority pulls the ripcord and announces ‘colorblindness for all’ by legal fiat. But deeming race irrelevant in law does not make it so in life.”

“No one benefits from ignorance.”

“The best that can be said of the majority’s perspective is that it proceeds (ostrich-like) from the hope that preventing consideration of race will end racism.”

“The Court has come to rest on the bottom-line conclusion that racial diversity in higher education is only worth potentially preserving insofar as it might be needed to prepare Black Americans and other underrepresented minorities for success in the bunker, not the boardroom (a particularly awkward place to land, in light of the history the majority opts to ignore).”

“The takeaway is that those who demand that no one think about race (a classic pink-elephant paradox) refuse to see, much less solve for, the elephant in the room— the race-linked disparities that continue to impede achievement of our great Nation’s full potential.”

“It would be deeply unfortunate if the Equal Protection Clause actually demanded this perverse, ahistorical, and counterproductive outcome. To impose this result in that Clause’s name when it requires no such thing, and to thereby obstruct our collective progress toward the full realization of the Clause’s promise, is truly a tragedy for us all.”

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