Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a 20-year-old rule on how students are evaluated by institutions of higher learning. Friday’s reversal of affirmative action is now in the history books, but we have yet to turn the pages to find out how much damage this decision will ultimately cause.

Oral tradition in Black culture has pressed that “you have to work twice as hard to get half of the reward” for your endeavors. But now that affirmative action has been taken from us, we will have to work even harder. 

Affirmative action is the thread of American culture that stitches centuries of bondage during its creation. Now that it has been deconstructed before our eyes, we are left with tattered patterns of lost progress that looked nothing like equality.

(Image provided by Morehouse College.)

“[The ruling] has the potential to alter college admissions policies across the nation drastically,” said Dr. George French, President of Clark Atlanta University (CAU). With the school’s motto being “I’ll find a way or make one,” he says it is important to note that the decision applies explicitly to institutions that use race as a determinative factor in their admissions decisions.

Affirmative action is not new to education in America. It has been, in some form, helping minorities have an equal footing since the late 1800s. But these actions have always had detractors. The majority has been whitewashing who and what people are privy to access since Lincoln wrote his signature on the Emancipation Proclamation. 

This disdain for equality in education is why Historically Black Colleges and Universities — aka HBCUs — were established in the first place and will be critically important in the coming years.

“Attendance at PWIs [Predominately White Institutions] too often overdetermines the likelihood of gaining access to powerful and influential positions,” said Dr. David Thomas, President of Morehouse. “One needs only to examine the resumes of our Supreme Court Justices and their clerks over the last 40 years to see the evidence.”

Thomas and other academic leaders are disappointed by the ruling but not surprised.

“Affirmative action has long been an essential tool in the fight against systemic inequalities experienced by marginalized communities and has expanded access to educational opportunities that contribute to creating a more just society,” Thomas said.

Image from Spelman College’s 2019 graduation commencement. Credit: Spelman College.

French agrees and said that many PWIs have already considered racial factors in their admissions decisions before the ruling.

“While the court’s decision has struck down an effective remedy for racism and discrimination, it inadvertently presents an opportunity for HBCUs, such as CAU, to anticipate increased enrollment opportunities for students of color who may be denied access to these schools,” French said. 

People want to feel welcomed – not shunned – when choosing a school to call their alma mater and Black and Brown students will get that along with a family-friendly environment that encourages them to prosper at an HBCU. 

The courtroom of the Supreme Court. Credit:

We shouldn’t be in this position, though.

The six justices that voted in favor of this ruling will weaken this country and send us back to 1619 when the first ships holding human cargo from Africa docked at the shores of Virginia. 

They have disgraced the legacy of our first Black Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall, and they should explain their actions at the foot of his grave and ask the future generations they just disenfranchised for forgiveness. 

“As a nation, we must not only engage in thoughtful and constructive conversations about creating inclusive pathways for all individuals seeking higher education but also take action with our time and wallets to ensure our discussion becomes sustainable realities with real impact,” Thomas said.  

The emotion of having opportunity deflated from our dreams overwhelms people of color and comes at the cost of hope for this country. This ruling has made me feel hollow and now we have proof that I am three-fifths of a person in the eyes of justice. 

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