On the Supreme Court Striking Down Affirmative Action in Education

Following is a statement from Rebecca Dixon, president and CEO of the National Employment Law Project, on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions striking down affirmative action in education:

The National Employment Law Project denounces today’s decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court striking down affirmative action in college admissions.

The Court’s ruling that race-conscious college admissions practices violate the Equal Protection Clause is a gross perversion of a critical constitutional protection for Black Americans and people of color. In so ruling, this conservative Court refuses to acknowledge the reality that racial segregation is alive and well in our schools and institutions, and in our workplaces and the labor market.

This Court refuses to acknowledge that racial segregation is alive and well in our schools, workplaces, and institutions.

Once again, Black, Latinx, and Native American students and families will bear the brunt of the harm from these terrible decisions—not only in terms of attendance at the most selective schools but in lifespan outcomes across a variety of indicators, including health, educational, occupational, and economic. In the employment context, these rulings mean that students of color will have less exposure to career paths and will continue to have unequal access to professional networks and other career opportunities—all of which will exacerbate occupational segregation.

We agree with Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson’s blistering dissent: “With let-them-eat-cake obliviousness, today, the majority pulls the ripcord and announces ‘colorblindness for all’ by legal fiat. But deeming race irrelevant in law does not make it so in life. And having so detached itself from this country’s actual past and present experiences, the Court has now been lured into interfering with the crucial work that UNC and other institutions of higher learning are doing to solve America’s real-world problems.”

The Court’s decisions also set back employers’ interest in having a diverse workforce. Now, employer initiatives designed to promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) in the workplace will be more important than ever. Such efforts include expanded recruiting, anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training, initiatives to improve workplace cultures, and evaluation of job requirements to break down systemic barriers to jobs based on race.

We want to emphasize that these cases address only college admissions and nothing else. Employers continue to have a duty to create workplaces free from discrimination; employers cannot retreat from this duty.

The United States needs to be on a path toward repairing centuries of harm done to people of color and people without money. NELP and our partners will continue to fight for true equality for Black workers and all workers of color, as we work to shape a good-jobs economy in which all workers can thrive and achieve their full potential.

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