The Community Coalition on Race responds to the Supreme Court's decision to strike down affirmative action in college admission decisions.
The Supreme Court’s decision to abandon the consideration of race in the admissions process sounds an alarm for all who work to achieve racial justice. The South Orange-Maplewood Community Coalition on Race is an intentional racial integration nonprofit organization whose mission is to build and sustain equity, integration and inclusion in all aspects of community life. Today’s decision, while specific to the college admissions process, threatens all efforts to achieve equitable outcomes in society through racial consciousness.
We’re often asked, “What would it take for you to consider your mission to be complete?” In 2003, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor proposed a time frame in Grutter v. Bollinger: “We expect that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today,” she wrote.
Many challenge our intentional equity and integration mission in the same way: When will you be done? When the schools are integrated? The neighborhoods? The Community Coalition on Race just passed the 25-year point and we’ve made progress in school and residential integration only because we have been intentional and race-conscious. But as long as deeply rooted systemic racism, overt racism, and unconscious bias exist (which the Court obviously ignored), we cannot for one moment take our eyes off the mission. Doing so risks backsliding into an even more severe state of separation and inequity.
We fear the Supreme Court’s decision leaves our race-conscious approaches to equity and integration vulnerable. For example, we use a race-based loan program as one component of achieving stable racial integration. This pro-integrative strategy is an unsecured, no-interest loan that is available to Black and Brown first-time homebuyers — a population that has been historically disadvantaged in the homebuying process. The rejection of affirmative action in the admissions process jeopardizes all efforts to account for racial disparities and injustices and puts our mission at risk.
The flip side of the question is, “What would the community look like without your work?” We know what happens to communities that gain diversity without doing the work of intentional integration. At best, people of different races tend to live, go to school, and socialize in isolation from one another. At worst, the community loses its diversity altogether. We fear that today's decision will undo the modest results achieved by affirmative action.
The passing of a quarter century cannot magically dissolve all the inequities accrued by people of color on the path to higher education. A single policy or an arbitrary timeframe can’t resolve the pervasive societal impact of racism which transcends hundreds of years. Color blindness is the opposite of intentionality. We won’t stand for it in our work because we see such efforts result in benefits for all. We shouldn’t stand for it in the college admissions process. We must be persistent in fighting for policies and laws that repair centuries of racial injustice and ensure we will never go back.