The court overturned lower court judgements which had sided in favor of the two school districts. A white woman in Louisville complained that her son was denied a transfer to attend kindergarten in a school that didnÃ¢Â€Â™t have enough Black pupils to keep its Black population at the districtÃ¢Â€Â™s required minimum of 15 percent. A group of Seattle parents had opposed their districtÃ¢Â€Â™s Ã¢Â€ÂœtiebreakerÃ¢Â€Â system, which aims to keep the nonwhite proportion of its ten high school student bodies within 15 percentage points of the districtÃ¢Â€Â™s overall makeup, which is 60 percent nonwhite.
According to The New York Times,
Chief Justice Roberts said the officials in Seattle and in Jefferson County, Ky., which includes Louisville, had failed to show that their plans considered race in the context of a larger educational concept, and therefore did not pass muster.
“Â€ÂœIn the present cases,”Â€Â Chief Justice Roberts wrote, recalling words from an earlier Supreme Court ruling, “Â€Âœrace is not considered as part of a broader effort to achieve ‘Â€Â˜exposure to widely diverse people, cultures, ideas, and viewpoints.'”
“Â€ÂœEven as to race,”Â€Â he went on, “Â€Âœthe plans here employ only a limited notion of diversity, viewing race exclusively in white/nonwhite terms in Seattle and Black/other terms in Jefferson County.
“Â€ÂœClassifying and assigning schoolchildren according to a binary conception of race is an extreme approach in light of this court’s precedents and the nation’s history of using race in public schools, and requires more than such an amorphous end to justify it.”
Of course, Roberts’ statement ignores America’Â€Â™s history of white privilege and white supremacist control. This is the very reason that there was a need for Brown v. Board of Education and diversity plans in the first place. His effort to place the blame on the districts is disingenuous and violates the essence of Brown v. Board.
The dissenters recognized this, and voiced their disappointment in emotional terms.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer said that today’Â€Â™s result “Â€Âœthreatens to substitute for present calm a disruptive round of race-related litigation, and it undermines Brown’s promise of integrated primary and secondary education that local communities have sought to make a reality.”Â€Â
“This cannot be justified in the name of the Equal Protection Clause,”Â€Â Justice Breyer went on, alluding to the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which bars states from denying people “Â€Âœthe equal protection of the laws.”Â€Â
Justice Breyer’s dissent was joined by Justices David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John Paul Stevens, the tribunal’s longest-serving member, who wrote a separate dissent that was remarkable for its feeling.
“While I join Justice Breyer’Â€Â™s eloquent and unanswerable dissent in its entirety, it is appropriate to add these words,”Â€Â Justice Stevens wrote. “There is a cruel irony in the chief justice’Â€Â™s reliance on our decision in Brown vs. Board of Education.”
Today’Â€Â™s ruling breaks faith with the 1954 ruling, Justice Stevens asserted. “It is my firm conviction that no member of the court that I joined in 1975 would have agreed with today’s decision,”Â€Â he wrote.
The legacy of George W. Bush’Â€Â™s presidency will include many a “cruel irony”Â€Â, not the least of which is his appointment of Supreme Court Justices who may very well help conservatives reverse all of the gains of the civil rights, women’Â€Â™s rights and environmental movements before they are finished. In an America that remains polarized by race and class, this ruling will cause many school districts to rethink their diversity policies, which, at least on paper, sought to strike a balance between white privilege and nonwhite social ascension.
The systematic dismantling of affirmative action in a nation with vast economic and educational disparities will prove to be a huge mistake as the United States struggles to maintain its status as an elite economic power. The American middle class is disappearing, but instead of working to preserve it, conservatives are using the deprivation of educational opportunities as a weapon to increase the divide.