Racial Justice

SCOTUS Affirmative Action decision leaves Young People on their Own, But Not Alone

June 29, 2023 | National

Return to Race-Neutral Admissions is Community Call to Action 

Children’s Defense Fund President and CEO Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson issued the following statement upon the announcement of the U.S Supreme Court’s decisions to nullify affirmative action policies in college admissions: 

Today, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) placed more obstacles on the path to Black and Brown young people achieving their dreams. But our children, their families, and those of us who stand with them will keep fighting to shape a nation where young people grow up with dignity, hope, and joy. 

In a disappointing decision, the conservative majority on the Supreme Court gutted affirmative action policies, reversing decades of effort to diversify university campuses and promote economic mobility for Black and Brown families. History has shown that “race-neutral policies” in university admissions are a license to discriminate. As Justice Jackson notes, “our country has never been colorblind.” Unquestionably, SCOTUS’s decisions will lead us backward to a time when countless qualified students of color were denied access to the gifts of higher education. Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce determined earlier this year that if the court decided as they did today, selective institutions will be “extremely unlikely to enroll student bodies that come close to mirroring the demographic diversity of the high school class.” Further suppression of Black and Brown students in college admissions threatens our nation’s growth toward a multicultural democracy. 

As Justice Sotomayor noted in the dissenting opinion, “the Court stands in the way and rolls back decades of precedent and momentous progress.” Affirmative action is one effort to acknowledge and correct centuries of economic and social policies that have prevented Black families from attaining access and accumulate assets which are critical to America’s promise of economic mobility. With education as the most promising path from poverty to prosperity, a wider college-access gap will further expand Black-White income and wealth disparities. According to CDF’s 2023 State of America’s Children report, the income of White families with children is more than double that of Black families with children. This intentional disregard of the conditions our nation has created itself speaks loudly to the ongoing need for race-based affirmative action policies.  

With the increasing diversity of young people in America, ‘affirmative action’ in every facet of public life is more important now than ever. What the Supreme Court has made clear is that the responsibility is ours. We, the community of advocates, activists, organizations, faith leaders and community champions must take affirmative, assertive, and even aggressive action to build a nation where all people can thrive and ‘let America be America again.’ 

As partners with educators and institutions of higher education across the country, Children’s Defense Fund is invites university leaders who have benefited from more diverse learning environments over the last two generations to hold fast to their commitments to excellence and creatively leverage innovation in the face of this challenge. 

We encourage individuals and institutions of resource and access to invest in the infrastructure of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and other minority-serving institutions (MSIs) whose missions are more important than ever and whose capacity will be tested by an influx of students seeking sanctuary from the world the Court is advancing for their education, formation, and development in critical years. 

More than anything, we speak on this dark day to the 1,500 college students leading the CDF Freedom Schools® program across the country this summer, the 16,000 young Scholars in their care, and the most diverse generation of children in our nation’s history whose path to college just got narrower. The Supreme Court may have signaled that you are on your own, but we will organize, advocate, and build the power to ensure that you are never alone.