Two Black justices argued over the merits of affirmative action in a remarkable conversation that took place within the pages of a Supreme Court ruling that declared racial admissions at colleges and universities across the country to be unlawful.
Justices Clarence Thomas and Ketanji Brown Jackson sharply countered one other’s arguments, illuminating the intense disagreements and feelings that Americans have regarding the practise. They came to different conclusions about how and what to do, although appearing to agree on the policy’s goal, which is to end the long-standing prejudice and segregation of Black Americans.
Both justices were admitted to prestigious law schools (Justice Jackson to Harvard and Justice Thomas to Yale) before being appointed to the Supreme Court. Both justices were raised by Black family members who experienced Jim Crow and segregation. However, their views on the law and how affirmative action functions in American society are completely at odds with one another.
In a lengthy critique in his concurring opinion, Justice Thomas singled out Justice Jackson’s views on race and attacked liberal support for affirmative action more broadly.
According to how she perceives the world, “slavery’s original sin and Black Americans’ historical subjugation still dictate our lives today, keeping us all inexorably trapped in a fundamentally racist society,” he said.
Justice Jackson vehemently disagreed in her dissent, calling his comments a “prolonged attack” in response to a dissent she did not write to criticise an admissions policy that was not created by the U.N.C.
She concurred that although they had arrived at completely different conclusions, they did not dispute on the history or facts pertaining to racial inequality in the United States. She said that Justice Thomas “ignites too many more straw men to list, or totally extinguish,” adding that he “is somehow persuaded that these realities have no influence on a fair judgement of ‘individual success.
Their replies amounted to a debate over how best to deal with the enduring effects of racism and ongoing discrimination.
Justice Thomas criticised Justice Jackson for supporting affirmative action, branding it a magic fix that would cause society to “unquestioningly accede to the view of elite experts and reallocate society’s riches by racial means as necessary to ‘level the playing field.'”
He stated that “our society is not, and has never been, colorblind,” but he still believed that the income divide between Black and White Americans was “constitutionally irrelevant.” According to Justice Jackson, “almost all of life’s outcomes may be unhesitatingly ascribed to race.”