Opinion: Racial inequality is a shared burden for whites as well as blacks
Browne-Marshall says: 'Ending affirmative action after only thirty years ignores the vestiges of the last 300 years.'
March 19th, 2012
03:45 PM ET

Opinion: Racial inequality is a shared burden for whites as well as blacks

Editor's note: Gloria J. Browne-Marshall, an Associate Professor of Constitutional Law at John Jay College (CUNY), is the author of "Race, Law, and American Society: 1607 to Present" and the "U.S. Constitution: An African-American Context." The Founder/Director of The Law and Policy Group, Inc., she is a former civil rights attorney, and a freelance correspondent covering the U.S. Supreme Court.

By Gloria J. Browne-Marshall, Special to CNN

(CNN) –I was born into a country with immense opportunity and a deep history of racism.

Jennifer Gratz, the plaintiff in Michigan’s “reverse discrimination” case, and other opponents of affirmative action inherited this conflicted state of affairs as well. Yet, they want the great weight of America’s racial legacy to fall only on the shoulders of people of color. This inheritance belongs to all of us.

In the fall, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case of Abigail Fisher v. University of Texas. Then, the Court may deem affirmative action in higher education as unconstitutional, thus locking generations of people of color into an inherited inequality. In its present eviscerated state, affirmative action may be a mere bandage on the festering wound of American racism. It is neither a panacea nor a cure-all. However, for now, it is quite necessary.

Challengers of affirmative action focus on the last thirty years of alleged inequality. Unfortunately, for all of us, the seeds of racial injustice were planted centuries ago. Africans were part of the Jamestown Colony before the landing of the Mayflower. Anthony and Mary Johnson, a married African couple, with servants and land, resided in that Virginia colony in the 1600s. Before the century ended, laws were enacted to take their land and create chattel slavery. This is American history. For nearly 300 years, legal inequality subjugated people of color who lived, loved, hoped, and died praying for justice.

When slavery ended due to the efforts of Black and White abolitionists, the 14th Amendment was ratified. The 14th Amendment gave citizenship and equal protection to African-Americans whom the U.S. Supreme Court had previously designated under the Dred Scott decision as non-persons, outside the protection of American laws. The backlash was immediate. African-Americans became the object of terrorism unprecedented in American history. This malevolence by law and tradition would continue for 100 years, assuring every inch of progress would be hard fought and uncertain. Despite Black Codes designed to re-enslave African-Americans and Jim Crow segregation, the quest for equality under law remained the battle cry of people of color.

Read the full story from the In America blog
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Jennifer Gratz: It's time for 'equal' to mean equal
Jennifer Gratz challenged affirmative action policies at the University of Michigan’s undergraduate school in 2003.
March 11th, 2012
01:53 PM ET

Jennifer Gratz: It's time for 'equal' to mean equal

Editor’s note: Jennifer Gratz was the plaintiff in the Supreme Court case Gratz v. Bollinger which challenged affirmative action policies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She has since led efforts against racial preferences. Gratz graduated from the University of Michigan, Dearborn, with a degree in mathematics in 1999.

By Jennifer Gratz, Special to CNN

(CNN) – There is a short phrase, just four words, inscribed up above the main entryway into United States Supreme Court, “Equal Justice Under Law.”

I took note of this inscription on April 1, 2003, when my case, Gratz v. Bollinger, and a companion case, Grutter v. Bollinger, were heard by the high court. My case challenged affirmative action policies in admissions at the University of Michigan’s undergraduate school; Barb Grutter’s challenged affirmative action policies at the law school. By the time my case was heard by the Supreme Court the University of Michigan admitted that their affirmative action policy gave a 20 point boost to blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans on an admissions rating scale.

When I applied to University of Michigan in Ann Arbor for admission in 1995, I thought it was my path to medical school. When I received a rejection letter, I ultimately reconsidered my career choice, and pursued a degree in math at another University of Michigan campus. My confidence was shaken.

The court’s inscription brought confidence as I sat listening to oral arguments on that cold spring day. After all, how could anyone – especially legal scholars – conclude that “equal” meant unequal?

FULL STORY
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March 11th, 2012
01:40 PM ET

Minnesota girl alleges school privacy invasion

(CNN) - A Minnesota middle school student, with the backing of the American Civil Liberties Union, is suing her school district over a search of her Facebook and e-mail accounts by school employees.

The 12-year-old sixth grade student, identified in court documents only as R.S., was on two occasions punished for statements she made on her Facebook account, and was also pressured to divulge her password to school officials, the complaint states.

"R.S. was intimidated, frightened, humiliated and sobbing while she was detained in the small school room" as she watched a counselor, a deputy, and another school employee pore over her private communications.

The lawsuit claims that her First Amendment rights were violated by employees at Minnewaska Area Middle School, in west-central Minnesota, as well as her Fourth Amendment rights regarding unreasonable search and seizure.

The Minnewaska School District denies any wrongdoing.

FULL STORY
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Opinion: Will the court strike down affirmative action?
The Supreme Court will have only eight justices to hear arguments in Fisher v. University of Texas.
February 22nd, 2012
06:07 PM ET

Opinion: Will the court strike down affirmative action?

By Abigail Thernstrom, Special to CNN

Editor's note: Abigail Thernstrom is the vice chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and an adjunct scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. She is the author, most recently, of "Voting Rights and Wrongs: The Elusive Quest for Racially Fair Elections."

(CNN) - The Supreme Court has just agreed to take on the case of Fisher v. University of Texas. Abigail Fisher, a white woman, argues that she has been a victim of the university's race-conscious admission policies; the university contends that its drive for racial and ethnic diversity is educationally enriching - a benefit to all students.

Will the ugly discourse that generally characterizes debate over racially preferential policies disappear with the wave of a magic Supreme Court wand? It seems unlikely. The issue is a cat with many more than nine lives. It arrived in the early 1970s and, despite many attacks, some of which have taken the form of amendments to state constitutions, it has survived in pretty fine fettle.

The court will have only eight justices to hear the arguments. Elena Kagan, having been involved in the case as solicitor general in the Obama administration, has bowed out of participation. Her absence, however, leaves five justices likely to express at least some degree of skepticism about the racial preferences given to non-Asian minorities in the admissions process.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Abigail Thernstrom.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: After High School • Legal issues • Policy • Supreme Court • Voices
February 21st, 2012
03:07 PM ET

High court accepts case over use of race in college admissions

By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer

The Supreme Court has agreed to take up a case on the University of Texas' race-conscious admission policies.

The Supreme Court has agreed to take up a case on the University of Texas' race-conscious admission policies.

Washington (CNN) - The Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to tackle another election-year blockbuster and will decide whether the University of Texas' race-conscious admission policies violate the rights of white applicants.

If health care reform, illegal immigration crackdowns, voting rights and TV indecency were not enough, now the nine-member bench is poised to add to its high-profile docket, wading into the divisive, sea-change issue of state-mandated racial diversity and affirmative action. Oral arguments would be held this fall, ensuring the court - however it decides the appeal - will be a major campaign issue. A ruling however will not likely be issued until early 2013.

FULL STORY
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