Earlier this week, the Supreme Court handed down a long-awaited decision in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action which upheld a voter-decided ban on race-conscious affirmative action in the state of Michigan. Followers of my blog know that I am passionate about the defense of affirmative action in this country, and have advocated strongly against Prop 107 in Arizona, and more recentily in favour of California’s proposed SCA5, a bill that would have repealed Prop 209 for California’s public university system.
Anti-affirmative action advocates are celebrating the Schuette decision as the final nail in the coffin of affirmative action. Anchors on Fox News are even hailing the Schuette decision as a victory for civil rights, the proverbial “Promised Land” of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
But, let me be clear: this is a spurious interpretation of Schuette, one that seems designed more to energize the anti-affirmative action base than to provide a clear and accurate summary of the Schuette decision.
Furthermore, while Schuette is certainly a setback for the affirmative action fight, the decision has far more general implications for minority rights in this country that should not be swept under the rug. In fact, the Schuette decision should be disconcerting not just to defenders of affirmative action, but to all minority groups (particularly people of colour): Schuette ultimately had only a minimal impact on the legal questions raised in the affirmative action fight, but its damaging impact on minority rights may be vast and still virtually unknown.