A Pledge to Recuse by KBJ Likely Means the End of Affirmative ActionRoundup
tags: Supreme Court, Harvard, affirmative action, Ketanji Brown Jackson
Keisha N. Blain is an award-winning historian and writer. She is an associate professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh and has written extensively on race, gender and politics in national and global perspectives. Her most recent book is Until I Am Free: Fannie Lou Hamer’s Enduring Message to America.
The fate of affirmative action policies, specifically the ability of colleges to consider race during admissions decisions, may hang in the balance this fall when the Supreme Court hears a case from Students for Fair Admissions, a nonprofit organization led by Edward Blum, alleging that Harvard University's admissions policies discriminate against Asian American applicants "and give unlawful and unfair preferences to white, Hispanic and Black applicants."
Some conservatives expressed alarm at Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court, in part because President Joe Biden promised his nominee would be a Black woman but also because she, an alumna of Harvard and Harvard Law, has served on Harvard’s Board of Overseers since 2016.
Wednesday, during the third day of Judge Jackson's confirmation hearing, in response to a question from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, she indicated that if she's seated on the Supreme Court that she intends to recuse herself from the case filed by Students for Fair Admissions.
If recent developments are any indication, Jackson's recusal makes it more likely than it already was that the conservative court will bring an end to affirmative action on college campuses or, at the very least, significantly limit its use and, thus, widen the educational and economic inequality that affirmative action policies were designed to help redress.
“Affirmative Action, Mismatch, and Economic Mobility after California’s Proposition 209,” a study by labor economist Zachary Bleemer published last month in The Quarterly Journal of Economics, uses data from 1994 to 2002 to shed new light on the impact of California’s Proposition 209, a ban on race-based affirmative action policies that went into effect in 1998. Bleemer, a postdoctoral fellow at Opportunity Insights at Harvard University and an incoming assistant professor of economics at Yale University, told me his study “shows that ending affirmative action had sharp negative educational and labor market ramifications for young Black and Hispanic Californians from across the distribution of academic preparation.” Based on his computations, Bleemer observed that “overall, Prop 209 resulted in a net outflow of lower-income students from highly selective public universities.”
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