The NWHN Executive Director’s Statement on the Supreme Court’s Affirmative Action Decision

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 
This statement can be attributed to Denise Hyater-Lindenmuth (MA, MBA), Executive Director of the National Women's Health Network. Contact Director of Communications Adele Costa at [email protected] or by phone at 631 – 538 – 6348 for comments and questions.

Republished with explicit permission from the artist.
Republished with explicit permission from the artist.

The Network is appalled but not surprised by the Supreme Courts decision to strike down racial and ethnic preferences in higher education admissions, throwing out nearly 40 years of legal precedent. Specifically, and according to multiple studies, equitable access to higher education has proven to be vital in empowering individuals to obtain good jobs, provide the fundamentals to help build families and strong communities, encourage entrepreneurship, and spur greater invention and innovation. 

The Supreme Courts decision simply ignores reality. Justice Jackson said in her dissent that “deeming race irrelevant in law does not make it so in life.” The evidence is already in front of us. Before the Supreme Court’s ruling, nine states had already banned using race as a factor in college admissions. The Wall Street Journal analyzed the “before and after” of these states and found student populations were less reflective of society after the bans, and colleges and universities struggled to recruit diverse student bodies. The Supreme Court has now sentenced the rest of the country to that inevitable outcome.  

The Court’s majority opinion un-levels the playing field many colleges and universities have laid out for decades. It claimed the admissions policies at issue perpetuated racial stereotypes and employed race negatively yet went on to conclude that Nothing prohibits universities from considering an applicants discussion of how race affected the applicants life, so long as that discussion is concretely tied to a quality of character or unique ability that the particular applicant can contribute to the university. Many universities have wrongly concluded that the touchstone of an individuals identity is not challenges bested, skills built, or lessons learned, but the color of their skin.” In other words, the court has declared that race, by itself, no longer matters under the law. Yet, life tells us that it does still matter. 

College admissions are only half the battle for many students of color, and this decision now forces students to prove their worthiness” and ability to overcome” life challenges, including racism. By ignoring the legacy and pervasiveness of racism within our country, the Supreme Court has ensured that Black and brown students will continue to be faced with more barriers to even taking steps toward success. More damaging, the decision left affirmative action in place for military academies— making it very clear that Black and brown students are welcome to fight and die for this country, but they will not be guaranteed the same access to higher education. This, in addition to blocking the student loan forgiveness program, will guarantee poor educational outcomes and expectations in the future.   

The Network recognizes that college admissions is a matter of social and racial justice. Further, we understand that education is an important social determinant of health. We urge U.S. lawmakers to restore affirmative action and increase funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other schools that disproportionately serve communities of color. 

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The National Women's Health Network, a 501c3 not for profit, represents the health interests of women across the life continuum with an intersectional focus on sexual and reproductive health, maternal health and the health and well-being of aging women. We work to improve women’s health outcomes through state and federal advocacy, consumer health education, and grassroots technical assistance initiatives. For more information about or programs, services and initiatives visit www.nwhn.org.