State Sen. Rob Sampson and House Republican leader Vincent Candelora are both wrong about the Supreme Court’s recent affirmative action ruling and their belief that these kinds of issues should be decided in the legislature.
When it comes to ensuring the rights of historically marginalized racial and ethnic minorities, elected representative bodies have been notoriously slow to take action if they take any action at all.
It is safe to say that throughout much of our nation’s history, elected officials, especially at the state level, have more likely been the problem rather than the solution when it comes to dealing with racial discrimination and inequality.
Racial and ethnic minorities have turned to state and federal courts precisely because lawmakers — historically, both Democrats and Republicans at all levels of government — have often failed to protect the most basic and fundamental rights guaranteed or belonging to a person by the U.S. Constitution.
The 14th Amendment was introduced in the aftermath of the Civil War to address racial discrimination written into law by state legislators across the South. Despite the High Court’s notorious 1896 ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson, which legitimatized the state-sanctioned racial caste system euphemistically referred to as Jim Crow segregation, since then, the Supreme Court has applied the 14th Amendment in a wide range of rulings to confirm the rights and privileges of citizenship, and guarantee all citizens regardless of their race and ethnicity, equal protection under the law.
If elected representative bodies had acted to address racial discrimination and inequality in the past, there would have been no need for seminal rulings by past Supreme Courts such as United States v. Wong Kim Ark (1898), Brown v. Board of Education (1954), and Loving v. Virginia (1968).
This extremely conservative High Court got it wrong in its ruling on affirmative action. America has never been and is still not a color-blind society. Although biological race is pure fiction, race is real in a social sense. That is, racial differences and the meanings we attach to those differences have always and continue to affect life opportunities and outcomes despite what Chief Justice Roberts and the court’s majority claim.