Supremes Start Monday With Focus on Civil Rights
Challenge to college affirmative action rules is on the docket
By Evann Gastaldo, Newser Staff
Posted Sep 28, 2012 9:23 AM CDT
The Supreme Court is back in business next week.   (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

(Newser) – The new Supreme Court term starts Monday, and one of the most important cases the court hears could be the one brought by a white woman against the University of Texas. Abigail Fisher says she was rejected while minority students with lesser academic qualifications were admitted, the Washington Post reports. Arguments begin next month, and if the court rules broadly, colleges across the nation could be barred from using race as a factor when admitting students—which the court has allowed, in a limited fashion, since 1978. The conservative court has shown its distaste for racial preferences in the past, but on the other hand, more than 70 amicus briefs have been filed in support of UT's diversity policy from a wide range of places including the military, many Fortune 100 companies, and professional athletes.

Civil rights issues will dominate the high court's term, NBC News notes. Among the other issues that could come before the justices:

  • A number of challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman for federal purposes, are likely to come before the court. If DOMA is struck down, the federal government would have to recognize gay marriages performed in states where they are allowed.
  • The court could also address the challenge to California's Proposition 8, which made gay marriage illegal in that state. But some legal experts think the Supremes may choose to tackle DOMA now and wait on the issue of the constitutionality of gay marriage.
  • The court may also hear a challenge to the Voting Rights Act, which has since 1965 required states with a history of discrimination to get permission from the federal government before changing any election procedures. Opponents of the law say it's unfair and unnecessary now.

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Oct 1, 2012 1:54 AM CDT
If the world were truly fair and colorblind, it would indeed be nice to see this system based solely on socioeconomic status and nothing else. Unfortunately, my father still remembers how when he first entered the workforce how there were virtually NO Latino (or black) blue collars in the workforce whatsoever. Capable, intelligent minorities who toiled from the bottom ranks - as these were the only positions available to us - would see themselves surpassed time and time again for the less capable, less educated white workers no matter the circumstance. My father was one of the lucky few first Latino management hired at AT&T as merely "window dressing" under this new affirmative action law despite his dual bacclaureate, and Army officer command (during which he brought his tank battalion from bottom ranked to #1 ranked within a matter of months, with glowing reviews and rapid promotion). As I grew up, I saw him passed over for awards and promotion again and again to lesser qualified, and lesser achieving white counterparts despite his top ranking among management. His track record for bringing bottom-ranking sales offices up to top ranking offices mirrored his Army achievements, and yet he still saw himself relegated to middle management and obscurity. This horrible injustice of prejudice was perpetrated VERY recently (within the last 10 years), yet still pales in comparison to the tales my grandfather told me about his trip back home as a war hero from WWII. He was a brave tail gunner of a B-17 during bombing runs over Germany. On his return bus trip home after the war, he encountered signs posted in restaurants that said "No dogs or Mexicans allowed" - which, despite his American citizenship, meant he was unwelcome to eat at the bus stop he was at. The history of prejudice and racism that has plagued this country is NOT ancient history, nor is it dead and gone. I could tell many stories of veiled prejudice against myself in the very recent past that continue against minorities to this day. Even as of a few weeks ago, the Republican candidate for president of the U.S.A. was secretly taped speaking ill of blacks and Latinos when he thought he was not being recorded. Anyone who thinks that minorities of any color are not still met with prejudice and even hatred has truly not seen it being perpetrated. Just because you have not personally seen it, does not mean it does not still exist!!! However, I would gladly trade affirmative action ( as in cancel it altogether) for the re-distribution of property tax funds EVENLY across all school districts so that even schools in poor neighborhoods received the same funds as those in rich neighborhoods. The quality of education received in poor public schools IS NOT comparable to wealthy public schools. Ten minutes of internet research (or any kind of real world research - ask a few college professors like I did...) will reveal this to be true. Those located in poor, underfunded schools overwhelmingly are minority students who are indisputably unprepared for both the workforce and for college. Affirmative action MUST remain in place until true educational equality, and workforce equality is achieved. Until then, counterbalancing of unfair practices must be maintained in order to attempt to have an equal playing field. P.S. I am a proud Chicano Latino (i.e.: I can trace my ancestry back to right here in Northern Mexico and SW U.S.A. for the past 10,000 years) who is 3 weeks away from obtaining a masters degree in medicine for physician assistant studies. Due to my hard work I have earned one of 16 slots available to 300+ applicants for this honor of serving the community as a medical practitioner. This would not be possible without the hard work and sacrifice of my family who have struggled against prejudice for generations to help get me to where I am today. I can only imagine where I would be today if my father were not assisted by the affirmative action program that ensured he could be hired and promoted in a manner that ALMOST resembled that of his white peers who became more awarded and prosperous despite not nearly attaining his level of documented achievement, respect and worth.
Sep 29, 2012 10:58 AM CDT
I would like to see a socioeconomic rather than race/gender-based approach... I believe we could successfully reach the same goal.
Sep 28, 2012 1:04 PM CDT
Most commentators on this thread are too young to remember the days before affirmative action. It was horrible--like living in a loaf of wonder bread. Boring, bland, culturally incestuous and really nasty underneath. We are better as a culture since we instituted it, especially in the educational institutions, where diversity makes for a better campus and classroom. Speaking as a white woman, I am happy we have it. There were times I was passed over for jobs because of it---so what? The gains society made in integration made my personal travails well worth it. Really, it is just evening out the playing field; hardly anyone would hire minorities in the 20th century without a push, and I see discrimination to this day. And for those of you who say that less competent people are hired because of it, I would say that I have had plenty of co-workers and bosses that were hopelessly incompetent----and they were in those positions despite affirmative action, not because of it.