Opinion

I have come across much news coverage that has been hailing the recent Supreme Court rulings as civil rights victories. However, like the decision, I am split on this. The Gratz and Grutter v. Bollinger decisions were harmful and helpful in more than one respect.

It is true that in today’s political climate our ability to sustain any rights that help the advancement of minorities and working class people is a victory. But how much of a victory? To me, victory means progress, not just being rescued after being dangled off the edge of a cliff. While the decision in respect to affirmative action was upheld, the means to implement it was denied, leaving colleges and employers to act simply on a voluntary basis. What policy toward diversity do we really have if we simply respect the ideology without providing the ability to enforce it?

The ruling in Grutter v. Bollinger – upholding the University of Michigan Law School’s affirmative action program – sets legal precedent, arming Texan students with grounds to insist that the state universities implement a real affirmative action plan. On the other hand, the ruling in Gratz – overturning the University of Michigan’s undergraduate admissions affirmative action procedures – does not look at all the other reasons – besides race – why points are awarded to applicants, i.e., parents who are alumni, military service, and gender. Ironically, two of the plaintiffs in these cases were women. In fact, women have been among the main beneficiaries of affirmative action.

Lastly, the largest horror committed throughout these trials was President Bush’s blatant disregard for the entire judicial process. During the judicial proceedings, he spoke out against affirmative action policies and even went so far as to file a brief against the University of Michigan admissions policies. Legally speaking, it is the duty of the judiciary branch of government and the Supreme Court to uphold the law. This is to be interpreted based on a combination of previous case findings and the Constitution or what is referred to as “black letter law.” The executive branch of government had no grounds to interfere in the Supreme Court’s deliberations and the Bush administration’s public opposition to affirmative action should be reprimanded as this could have been highly detrimental to the outcome – not to mention that this was an attempt to single-handedly overrule the Bakke decision.

In an article in the March edition of Political Affairs, I wrote: “Historically, America has responded inadequately to its shortcomings, whether they are health issues, race-related, or civil rights-related. We have very few programs that address the root of the problems or make up for any past and current racial discrimination or inequalities. Affirmative action is the only program that even remotely resembles any form of reparations, yet is still only limited to a select group of future generations while ignoring disadvantaged groups as a whole. Without affirmative action we only have our past to look forward to.”

Where does that put us now, in the past or the future? I would say we have one foot in each. When asking people their opinions of the rulings one person told me a story of a fox who was so deft and quick that while being shot at he got away with only the tip of his tail being lost to the gunshot. I ask you, was the fox victorious?

Melissa Chadburn is a law student from Los Angeles and member of the Young Communist League. She can be reached at pww@pww.org

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