The Supreme Court on Tuesday restored common sense as well as the word of the Constitution by upholding Michigan's ban of racial preferences in state college admissions. Michigan voters had put the ban in their state constitution, ordering state colleges and universities not to "discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin."
This was clear, straightforward language that even a judge could understand, and the vote as an unequivocal 6 to 2, with the liberal Justice Stephen Breyer joining the usual five conservative justices. They understood George Orwell's point, in his novel "1984," that proclaiming that war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength — and, in this case, colorblindness is racism — does not make it so.
After decades of affirmative-action nonsense the public understands that however well-intentioned such policies may be, affirmative action reinforces the notion that minorities can't succeed on their own merits. Sometimes, when they do, accomplishment means little.
When white applicants for admissions are rejected to favor less-qualified minorities, it invariably fuels racial resentment. The quota system once used by the University of California at Berkeley meant that highly qualified Asian students were rejected to favor other minorities so admissions could create a "desirable" and arbitrary "mix."
In his concurring opinion Tuesday, Justice Antonin Scalia called it folly to divide Americans into racial blocs. "Does a half-Latino, half-American Indian have Latino interests, American-Indian interests, both, or half of both?"
The decision was further a victory for the rights of the states. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy concluded that the courts did not have the authority to set aside the Michigan law. "This case is not about the debate how the debate over racial preferences should be resolved," he said. "It is about who may resolve it. Michigan voters used the initiative system to bypass public officials who were deemed not responsive to the concerns of a majority of the voters with respect to a policy of granting race-based preferences that raises difficult and delicate issues."
By Any Means Necessary, a coalition of the left that sought to overturn the Michigan amendment, demands admissions based on racial calculus. The group's spokesman called Tuesday's ruling in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action "racist" and said that "this court is declaring its intention to uphold white privilege and to create a new Jim Crow legal system."
In her dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor bought into the convoluted reasoning that banning the use of racial preferences unfairly targets minorities. "Today's decision eviscerates an important strand of our equal-protection jurisprudence," she wrote, joined only by the hopelessly liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Most of all, the decision was a victory for common sense. School administrators shouldn't be in the position of treating the student body like a television set where it can be lightened or darkened with the turn of a knob. It makes only good sense to say that a qualified student is welcome, regardless of his — or her — race or creed.