Clarence Thomas bluntly calls for end of affirmative action

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Justice Clarence Thomas again urged the end of affirmative action on Monday, writing a fiery concurring opinion in which he agreed with the Supreme Court’s decision not to defend the University of Texas’ diversity program, but urged the Court to go further and simply outlaw the consideration of race in public life.

Thomas has long been an opponent of affirmative action and repeated much of the rhetoric he has used before in condemning the policy. But in his 20-page opinion, Thomas broke new ground in repeatedly likening the rationales of the University of Texas in its admissions program to the people who defended segregation generations ago.

“The University asserts, for instance, that the diversity obtained through its discriminatory admissions program prepares its students to become leaders in a diverse society.  The segregationists likewise defended segregation on the ground that it provided more leadership opportunities for blacks,” Thomas wrote.

He added, “This argument was unavailing. It is irrelevant under the Fourteenth Amendment whether segregated or mixed schools produce better leaders. Indeed, no court today would accept the suggestion that segregation is permissible because historically black colleges produced Booker T. Washington, Thurgood Marshall, Martin Luther King, Jr., and other prominent leaders. Likewise, the University’s racial discrimination cannot be justified on the ground that it will produce better leaders.”

In another section of the opinion, he writes, “The University’s professed good intentions can not excuse its outright racial discrimination any more than such intentions justified the now denounced arguments of slaveholders and segregationists.”

As he did in 2003, when Thomas also called for the Court to issue a broader ruling against affirmative action, Thomas suggested racial preferences not only violated the Constitution and discriminated against white and Asian students, but also did not benefit the blacks and Hispanics it was designed to help. He argues that students who benefit from affirmative action end up in schools in which they cannot keep up with more qualified students and that all of the black and Hispanic students at the University of Texas would be tarred as having only been admitted for diversity purposes, even those who would have gotten into the school without racial considerations.

“The University admits minorities who otherwise would have attended less selective colleges where they would have been more evenly matched. But, as a result of the mismatching, many blacks and Hispanics who likely would have excelled at less elite schools are placed in a position where under-performance is all but inevitable because they are less academically prepared than the white and Asian students with whom they must compete,” Thomas wrote.

He added, “Setting aside the damage wreaked upon the self confidence of these over-matched students, there is no evidence that they learn more at the University than they would have learned at other schools for which they were better prepared. Indeed, they may learn less.”