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Judge Thomas Rejects Lawyers’ Rationale for Using Race to Recognize Diversity: ‘Don’t Count Too Much’

Judge Thomas Rejects Lawyers’ Rationale for Using Race to Recognize Diversity: ‘Don’t Count Too Much’

Supreme Court Judge Clarence Thomas on Monday he rejected an argument by an attorney who defends race-based affirmative action policies in college admissions and said he doesn’t give much weight to the idea that diversity automatically creates better outcomes.

During discussions regarding the admissions policy at the University of North Carolina (UNC), Thomas asked State Attorney Ryan Park to describe the educational benefit of including race as a factor in college admissions. Park responded that in studies involving stock trading results, “racially diverse groups of people … perform at a higher level.”

The mechanism is that it reduces groupthink and people have longer and more sustained disagreements, which leads to a more effective outcome, Park said.

Thomas replied, “I guess I don’t pay much attention to it because I’ve heard similar arguments in favor of segregation.”

Justice Clarence Thomas on Monday clashed with attorneys defending affirmative action in college admissions, saying some of their arguments reminded him of how people defended racial discrimination in decades past.

Justice Clarence Thomas on Monday clashed with attorneys defending affirmative action in college admissions, saying some of their arguments reminded him of how people defended racial discrimination in decades past.
(Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

“I’ve heard the word diversity a lot, and I have no idea what it means. It seems to mean everything to everybody,” Thomas also said during his line of questioning.

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Thomas took an active part in the usually most restrained justice Oral arguments on Monday in Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) v. University of North Carolina.

In a later discussion with David Hinojos, director of the Educational Opportunity Project at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Law, Thomas appeared to reject the idea that affirmative action policies should continue just because a school claims there is a compelling interest in doing so.

“I can’t think of another area of ​​another case where a court has left something as important as a compelling interest to an alleged discriminator,” Thomas said.

KETANJI BROWN JACKSON CLASHES WITH ANTI-AFFIRMATIVE ACTION ACTIVIST DURING SUPREME COURT ARGUMENT

Hinojosa disagreed and said that “limited consideration race holistically” is not “discrimination, per se”. Hinojosa also said that much of the case involved a “rigorous examination” of whether there was another way to achieve diversity in the student body without considering race.

The University of North Carolina is at the center of a major Supreme Court case that could result in affirmative action college admissions bans.

The University of North Carolina is at the center of a major Supreme Court case that could result in affirmative action college admissions bans.
(Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images)

Thomas was not convinced and said that the court would not so accept the college’s contrary claim.

“If this … this case involved a school district in Virginia in 1960 that was alleged to be discriminatory, would this court uphold its claim that the races are better off segregated?” Thomas asked.

Hinojosa said, “That’s not this case. This case is about a limited classification involving a compelling interest.”

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“I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about respect for the court. In that case, the court would have put Virginia on trial. In this case it didn’t. I ask you why the difference?” Thomas replied.

Hinojosa said the University of North Carolina faced a “high burden” to justify including race as an admissions factor, and claims it met it.

Justice Clarence Thomas, normally one of the most reserved justices, was vocally involved in the Monday, October 31, 2022, affirmative action college admissions case.

Justice Clarence Thomas, normally one of the most reserved justices, was vocally involved in the Monday, October 31, 2022, affirmative action college admissions case.
(AP Photo/John Amis, File)

Supreme Court hears two cases in which Students for Fair Admissions is suing a major university over its policy of including race as a factor in admissions decisions. Monday’s first case was against UNC. The court is considering a similar case against Harvard on the heels of the UNC case.

SFFA says it is “a coalition of prospective and denied postsecondary applicants, their parents, and other individuals who support the organization’s purpose and mission to eliminate racial discrimination in admissions to higher education. SFFA has members nationwide. “

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The group alleged in its original filing against UNC that its membership included at least one white student who had been denied admission to the university. The Harvard case, which will be argued later Monday, focuses more on how Harvard’s policy allegedly hurts applicants of Asian descent.

Those who support the use of affirmative action in admission to colleges cite multiple prior Supreme Court precedents that say this is permissible.

Supporters of affirmative action also say it’s important to ensure diversity in universities, which serve as conduits to key leadership positions in society.



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