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Supreme Court takes hits on two race-conscious decision

Greenlining Institute criticizes court’s judgments on affirmative action, Voting Rights Act

OW Staff Writer | 6/27/2013, midnight
Supreme Court

Two U.S. Supreme Court decisions this week have raised criticism from the Greenlining Institute, which refers to itself as “a racial justice institute that works to bring the American Dream within reach of all, regardless of race or income.”

On Monday, Greenlining’s Executive Director Orson Aguilar said the court’s decision to “punt” a crucial affirmative action case back to a lower court doesn’t change the continuing need for race-conscious programs. On Tuesday, the institute used even strong language in criticizing a court decision on the Voting Rights Act.

In a 7-1 decision the court on Monday handed down what some consider a “narrow” judgment in sending the dispute over University of Texas’ affirmative action policy back to the lower courts and handing ambiguous victories to both sides.

“It may be uncomfortable to say it, but race still matters in America in 2013,” said the Institute whose policies were at the center of Monday’s case. “Racial inequity is still a major problem, and doing away with consideration of race would mean trying to tackle it with one hand tied behind our back.

“In a nation where people of color will be the majority in less than 30 years, our growing racial wealth gap is simply not sustainable,” continued Aguilar. “For every dollar a White family in America owns, the median Asian family has 63 cents, the median Latino family has about seven cents, and the median African American family has less than a nickel. We simply cannot build a strong, prosperous country with that level of inequality.

“In California, we’ve seen what happens when you strike down affirmative action in college admissions. When voters outlawed affirmative action in 1996, the number of African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans at UCLA and UC Berkeley—the University of California’s most selective and prestigious campuses—dropped by more than half and never fully recovered.

“The fantasy that we live in a color-blind society and diversity doesn’t matter may be comforting, but it doesn’t reflect reality,” said Aguilar.

On Tuesday, the Institute released a statement by Claiming Our Democracy Director Michelle Romero saying the court had “effectively gutted a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, throwing out the map that determines which states or localities must get federal permission before they change their voting laws.”

“Within many of our lifetimes, brave men and women literally died for the right to vote, in the face of terror and intimidation from the Ku Klux Klan and others. Astonishingly, the court today effectively sided with the KKK, making it far easier to deny the vote to people of color, the poor, and anyone else who officials don’t want voting.

“Make no mistake: Though the court technically didn’t throw out the pre-approval provision, its decision today has the same effect unless Congress acts. This is a deeply shameful decision, every bit as shameful as the Dred Scott case or Plessy v. Ferguson.

“People of color live with the reality of discrimination and unequal treatment every day. From racial profiling to concerted attacks on the right to vote last year in state after state, we know that attacks on the rights of people of color haven’t gone away. Attacks on the right to vote may be more indirect and subtle than they used to be, but the provisions of the Voting Rights Act that the Court gutted today remain absolutely vital.

“Within the limits the Court has laid out today, Congress must move energetically to protect the right to vote for all citizens.”