Aryelle Berry, a member of the Michigan Black Law Student Association at the University of Michigan, protests the Supreme Court's affirmative action ruling last year (Joseph Xu/ University of Michigan).
Affirmative action cases at the Supreme Court have always dealt with some version of the question,"is affirmative action constitutional?"
However, in the latest case making headlines, that question is flipped on its head. Instead of asking whether affirmative action is allowable under the Constitution,asks if it's ok that a state ban affirmative action. And the answer is, yes.
Here's the chain of events:
In 2003, the Supreme Courtthat the University of Michigan's undergraduate admissions policy, which used a point-based and quota-based system of racial classification, was not constitutional. At the same time, the Supreme Court also decided that Michigan law school's admissions policy, which used race holistically as one of many factors, was constitutional.
The take-away? Giving race a specific point value in the admissions policy was not allowable, but having it as one of many factors that was a general benefit was.
In response, the people of Michigan voted to change their state constitution. In athat passed in 2006, the state prohibited the use of race-based preferences of any sort as part of the admissions process for all Michigan state universities.
That ballot initiative is what was the subject of the latest Supreme Court’s 6-to-2 ruling - and what the Court decided is constitutional. Voters in a given state can decide for themselves whether a policy of race-based preferences can be used in their state. Justice Kennedy wrote the plurality decision.
What does this mean for affirmative action nation-wide? Nothing new.
Instead, it explicitly legitimizes the process that has already been occurring in states like California and Florida – where legislatures are deciding that they don't want affirmative action policies used at their public schools.
So no, the Supreme Court did not just kill affirmative action. But the people can if they want to, and this Supreme Court won't stop them.
Watch Brandeis University president discuss the ruling on: