Supreme Court Confirms:

White Supremacy Has Been—and Will Be—the Law of the Land

Updated 2 pm EDT April 27, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


In a 6-2 ruling announced April 21, the Court upheld a Michigan constitutional amendment banning affirmative action in admissions to the state’s public universities. In other words, white supremacy is, and will remain, the law of the land.

Seven other states, including California, Texas, and Florida, have passed similar constitutional amendments; so the Supreme Court was well aware that their ruling is an endorsement of the outrageous under-representation of Black and Latino students in the most elite public universities across the country.

In California, the percentage of college-aged residents who are Latino is 49 percent, while 9 percent are Black. Yet the 2011 freshman class at UC Berkeley was only 11 percent Latino and 2 percent Black. UCLA’s freshmen class was 17 percent Latino and 3 percent Black. In Texas, Latinos make up 45 percent of the college-aged residents, while Blacks make up 15 percent. But at the University of Texas, the 2011 freshman class was 21 percent Latino and 5 percent Black. At Texas A&M, Latinos made up 19 percent of the 2011 freshman class, while Blacks made up only 3 percent.1

Affirmative action policies in education were a product of the tremendous struggles of the 1960s and early 1970s for the liberation of Black and other oppressed peoples. These policies attempted to overcome discrimination by increasing the numbers and percentages of people of oppressed nationalities who had been systematically kept out of the country's colleges and universities. At the time, a section of the ruling class itself gave support to such policies, in an effort to show that fundamental change in the conditions of Black people and other oppressed nationalities could take place within this capitalist-imperialist system.

While some changes were made, and the growth of a middle strata from among the oppressed took place in that period, in part as a result of affirmative action policies, these policies soon came under attack on the grounds that they were “discriminating” against whites. In other words, the “privilege” of being from the dominant nationality was being threatened. And the ruling class as a whole upholds white privilege. It is so embedded in this system, its dominant institutions, and its culture, so crucial to what the USA is and what holds it together in the society as a whole, that it cannot be challenged.

For many, many people, not only among Black and other oppressed people but among people of all nationalities who understand the horrific history and present-day reality behind these statistics, this ruling takes you back to how it felt the moment it was announced that Trayvon Martin’s murderer would walk free—like taking a hard punch in the gut, but not a surprise.

Because the deeper reality that is being brought home once again—and must be recognized, with all of its implications—is that the Supreme Court and the U.S. constitution itself represent the interests of this ruling class and the capitalist-imperialist system, including its white supremacy as an historic, and essential, cornerstone.

The decision reached by the Supreme Court went against many of its own previous rulings, so there are many different arguments made to justify what it has done. And four separate opinions were written supporting—or in the case of Justices Sotomayor and Ginsberg, opposing—the Court’s decision. But never do those approving Michigan’s constitutional ban on affirmative action touch the question of why these inequalities in admissions to the universities exist, and what they have to do with the historical crime of slavery and its continuation today in what’s been characterized as the New Jim Crow. Nor do they speak to the impact their ruling is going to have in making all of these conditions worse. In fact, the Court’s opinion, issued by Justice Kennedy, is introduced with an “assurance” that amounts to "hiding in plain sight":

Before the Court addresses the question presented, it is important to note what this case is not about. It is not about the constitutionality, or the merits, of race-conscious admissions policies in higher education.

But in the end what the opinion rests on is the "sanctity" of the so-called "will of the people." As described in the Syllabus that introduces the ruling:

Michigan voters exercised their privilege to enact laws as a basic exercise of their democratic power, bypassing public officials they deemed not responsive to their concerns about a policy of granting race-based preferences. … this Nation’s constitutional system also embraces the right of citizens to speak and debate and learn and then, as a matter of political will, to act through a lawful electoral process, as Michigan voters have done here.

Here you have a country that is founded on slavery, and for hundreds of years slavery was supported by the vast majority of the country—but that didn’t make it right. The debate over the writing of the U.S. constitution gave great consideration to the "will" of the supporters of slavery, and wrote slavery into it; but the "will" of the slaves did not matter at all. In fact, the Supreme Court itself, in 1857, ruled that Dred Scott—an enslaved person who managed to escape his enslavement—“had no rights which the white man was bound to respect” and sent him back to his owner.

And for nearly 100 years after slavery, “states' rights”—the doctrine that the "will of the people" of a southern state could not be challenged by a higher court—made legal a world of “Jim Crow” segregation throughout the South. This kept Black people from voting; made them second-class citizens in every way; and used Ku Klux Klan terror to enforce it. And today the system, as legally embodied and codified in its constitution, is in the service of the New Jim Crow, maintaining Black people, and other oppressed people, in an exploited and oppressed condition—and declaring it the "will of the people" that it should continue, and nothing can be done to interfere with that.

What we’re witnessing is the consolidating in an even greater, formal/legal way, the reality, and permanence, of the New Jim Crow that Black people have been forced into, following the struggles of the 1950s, '60s, and '70s that struck at the previous period of Jim Crow. Students, and especially Black students, on some campuses across the country are righteously standing up against the outlawing of affirmative action and demanding change. This struggle must not only be supported, but it must be built. And, more, this struggle should be linked with the struggle to make revolution, as the whole nature of this Supreme Court ruling makes it even clearer why it is going to take a revolution, and nothing less, to finally defeat, dismantle and eliminate this system, finally put an end to all of its crimes against Black and other oppressed people, and bring a whole different kind of society, and world, into being.


1. From charts included in “Court Backs Michigan on Affirmative Action,” Adam Liptak, New York Times, April 22, 2014. [back]


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