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With Racial Justice for Some, Not All

By Gloria J. Browne-Marshall Contributing Writer | 6/28/2013, 1:59 p.m.
Trayvon Martin’s parents seek justice for a son killed for walking while Black.
Black and Hispanic student achievement are harmed by affirmative action policies like those in the case of Fisher v. University of Texas.

Trayvon Martin’s parents seek justice for a son killed for walking while Black. The Court gutted Voting Rights. Paula Deen is caught using racial slurs. Yet, the U.S. Supreme Court gutted both affirmative action and decided essential protections within the Voting Rights Act were unconstitutional.

When Chief Justice Roberts read the decision in the Shelby County voting rights case the courtroom was graveyard silent. He spoke of the lives lost and brutal injustices that led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. However, the country had changed, he said. Congress was wrong to re-authorize these voting protections in 2006. Section 5 of the Act, the part which requires many Southern states to seek pre-clearance from the U.S. Attorney General, based on a certain formula, was wrong.

The formula was old. Congress must start over with a new formula. The chances of this happening are nearly nonexistent. Given the past failures of a conflicted Congress, the Court had torn away the most powerful part of the Act and left a battered shell for a distracted Congress to retrofit. The same Congress, which is so far unable to complete its own agenda, has been told to pass voting legislation only passed in 1965 because people were dying just to vote.   

Like so many listening to the Court’s Voting Rights decision that day, a sense of doom grew with each word uttered. Despite 15,000 pages of evidence that people of color still needed to be protected, a 5-4 majority believed people of color must once again prove their vulnerability to racism, bigotry, and the machinations of majority politics. Now, expensive lawsuits must be brought to prove harm after a stolen election is over.

Before, under Section 5, the burden was on the local government to prove voting changes were harmless.  

Justice Thomas wrote that he would completely abolish all of Section 5, not just the formula pertaining to certain states. Then again, Justice Thomas described affirmative action as insidious and racial engineering. To him, college admissions officers are doing students of color an injustice.

Black and Hispanic student achievement are harmed by affirmative action policies like those in the case of Fisher v. University of Texas.

Abigail Fisher challenged her denial of admission to the University of Texas-Austin as race discrimination. Although the school takes into account a number of factors, including race, Fisher claims it was only her race that prevented admission. Although Texas created its admissions’ policy based squarely on compliance with an earlier Michigan ruling, this recent Texas decision once again places affirmative action in jeopardy.

In that early Michigan case, a White applicant, Barbara Grutter claimed she was denied admission to University of Michigan’s law school due to her race. The Court in Grutter v. Bollinger ruled race could be part of admissions, as long as it was only a part, and not the sole reason.

So, Texas used race as a part and not the sole reason. Texas allows the top 10% of all high school students to attend the college. Then, those not slotted into the top 10% may be selected based on personal factors such as whether the applicant is an immigrant or a child of a single parent or poor or a person of color. Race is only one part; not the sole reason.