“If you give a n—– an inch, he will take an ell. A n—– should know nothing but to obey his master, to do as he is told to do. Learning would spoil the best n—– in the world.” Slave master Hugh Auld warned his wife as he forbade her to educate Frederick Douglas.
“From that moment,” wrote Douglas, “I understood the pathway from slavery to freedom . . . “
One hundred seventy-eight years later the Supreme Court of the United States ruled 6–3 in Auld’s favor. They sympathetically endorsed the complaints of certain “disadvantaged white and Asian-American applicants” who claimed that affirmative action violated the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.
This landmark decision to deny colleges and universities the prerogative to consider race as a partial basis for admissions affirms the devout wishes and fears of Mr. Douglas’s en-slaver. It establishes a new, unnecessary, and unprincipled barrier to realizing their goal of enrolling a diverse student body.
This is harmful to all scholars as it diminishes the range of experiences and voices the “disadvantaged white and Asian-American” students are exposed to. It ultimately dilutes the multiplicity of our nation’s most prominent professionals and minimizes the opportunities of worthy Black and brown citizens from exercising the power to alter these decisions since it is graduates of “the ivies” who tend to become the wealthiest and most politically influential citizens.
Since the 1960s the Supreme Court has ad-dressed the question of race in university admissions on many occasions. Affirmative action has protected many Black and Latino students from discrimination, including Justice Clarence Thomas, who now vociferously op-poses similar assistance for graduating high schoolers. The evisceration of affirmative action aborts this established precedent.
Civil rights leaders and educators deplore this ruling. “The only thing it’s going to do is further discourage students from underrepresented groups from applying for these institutions,” Zack Mabel, a researcher for George-town’s Center for Education and the Workforce, said.