Yesterday, Chris Wallace featured two panelists to debate the outcome of a recent United States Supreme Court ruling on Affirmative Action and the use of race in the admissions process. The case upheld a Michigan voter referendum banning the use of race or gender based Affirmative Action programs in the public university admissions process, among other things.

One panelist was a successful litigant from a prior Affirmative Action Supreme Court case, Jennifer Gratz. Gratz is also the CEO of XIV Foundation, an organization “dedicated to the principle that equal treatment is the essence of civil rights and that all people are entitled to civil rights.” The other panelist was civil rights attorney, Shanta Driver.

As I watched the debate unfold, one thing I could not help but notice was the use of the word “equality,” in each opposing side’s rationale for their position.

Gratz, who advocated for upholding the Michigan referendum to end race preferences cited “equal treatment under law,” regardless of race. Likewise Driver, advocated for the continuation of federally protected race preferences in the admissions, also citing the need for equality. In fact, Driver went so far as to compare this decision by the Supreme Court as a revival of Plessy v. Ferguson, the 1896 Supreme Court case that brought about the concept of “separate but equal” segregation.

Even allowing for hyperbole, the rhetoric employed by Driver in voicing her dissatisfaction with the Supreme Court decision is wildly irresponsible. Moreover, her logic was far from sound, and Gratz continually proved to be the more knowledgable advocate at this debate.

At one point, Driver completely went of the rails of reason. In doing so, she declared,

This decision not only allows for the segregation of schools in Michigan, California and other places, but it restructured the political process. Now, any other group in the state of Michigan — alumni, donors — anyone wants a change in the admission system to favor the chances of their sons and daughters getting in, can go to the Michigan regents and lobby them. Black, latino and Native American, if we want a change, we have to get a state constitutional amendment passed.

Gratz countered,

That’s not true. No one based on their race or their gender can now lobby the regents to give preferential treatment to anyone based on their race or gender. The people of Michigan, and the people in seven other states have said “take race and gender off the table.”

Put another way, blacks, latinos and Native Americans have every right to lobby the Michigan regents just as anyone else in the state of Michigan does. A black alumni can lobby for his/her son or daughter based on their alumni status. A latino or Native American donor can lobby for his/her son or daughter based on their status as a high powered and influential donor.

What a black, latino, or Native American cannot do is lobby based on their race. Just as whites cannot lobby based on their race. Just as Asians cannot lobby based on their race. By the very definition of the word, this Supreme Court decision was a dramatic step toward equality, not away from it.

And therein lies the fatal flaw in a program like race-based Affirmative Action. At its very core, it is not a program designed to treat every individual equally. It is a program designed to give special treatment.

Ultimately, that’s what Driver wants. Not equality, but preferential treatment on the basis of race.

The full video of the debate is posted below.

(Featured Image Source: YouTube)


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