The recent Supreme Court decision eliminating the use of race in college admissions poses a threat to the ongoing work of racial justice, and equity. It delays the process of repairing the breach caused by present and historic bias and discrimination. The Court’s decision takes place in the context of continued racialized violence and the heightened impact of white nationalism on public policy. The decision is the long-anticipated result of the weakening of initiatives and programs taking affirmative actions to promote equal access, treatment and opportunity in education and employment that began after the Bakke case. This court’s decision distorts the history and purpose of the Equal Protection Clause and substitutes a troubling color-blind analysis that overturns established affirmative action jurisprudence.
The Opinion of the Court written by Chief Justice John Roberts eliminates the use of race in college admissions. It concludes the affirmative use of race as a consideration in admissions violates the Equal Protection of the Fourteenth Amendment. The court decided not to apply its reasoning and decision to military academies.
The Episcopal Urban Caucus disagrees with the Court’s decision and calls on The Episcopal Church to collaborate with other justice partners to more aggressively promote racial justice, equity and repair of the breaches caused by systemic racism.
We point to the dissenting opinion of Justice Kentanji Jackson to make meaning of the context of the Court’s decision. Justice Jackson persuasively writes about the “Gulf sized race-based gaps with respect to the health, wealth and well-being of American citizens.” She asserts,
“The point is this: Given our history, the origin of persistent race-linked gaps should be no mystery. It has never been a deficiency of Black Americans’ desire or ability to, in Frederick Douglass’s words, “stand on [their] own legs.” Rather, it was always simply what Justice Harlan recognized 140 years ago- the persistent and pernicious denial of “what had been done in every State of the Union for the white race.” History speaks. In some form, it can be heard forever. The race-based gaps that first developed centuries ago are echoes from the past that still exist today. By all accounts they are still stark.”
We affirm that the gap remains and continues to require affirmative steps to repair and remediate the breach. One need only look to the record in California and Michigan, where referenda were used to eliminate affirmative action, that the decision will substantially widen the gap.
As we grapple with the breadth of the court’s decision and the implications for our common life, let us reflect on the call to action imbedded in the closing words of Justice Jackson’s dissent:
“The Court has come to rest on the bottom-line conclusion that racial diversity in higher education is only worth potentially preserving insofar as it might be needed to prepare Black Americans and other underrepresented minorities for success in the bunker, not the boardroom (a particularly awkward place to land, in light of the history the majority opts to ignore). It would be deeply unfortunate if the Equal Protection Clause actually demanded this perverse, ahistorical, and counterproductive outcome. To impose this result in that Clause’s name when it requires no such thing, and to thereby obstruct our collective progress toward the full realization of the Clause’s promise, is truly a tragedy for us all.”
The Episcopal Urban Caucus calls on the people, congregations, dioceses, and institutions affiliated with The Episcopal Church to work inside the church, in the public square and communities to counter the impact of this decision. We condemn the Supreme Courts promotion of an oppressive and false notion of color blindness to justify its decision. Our work to eliminate racism necessitates the effective use of race consciousness. We must build on our book studies and convenings to advance transformative action in the public square. It is the only way to ensure a racialized hierarchy of human value is not further concretized following this case. Becoming the Beloved Community requires a quickening and deepening of our work of converting hearts and minds while co-laboring to develop public policy that promotes justice, equity, and flourishing of all.
SINCERELY THE EUC BOARD OF DIRECTORS:
The Rev. Gayle Fisher Stewart
Nell Braxton Gibson
The Rev. Sheldon N. N. Hamblin
The Rev. Glenna Huber
The Rev. Charles Lane
Diane B. Pollard
The Rev. Maria Tjelveit
The Rev Charles A. Wynder, Jr