The Supreme Court's decisions on two cases this week left both sides in the affirmative action debate claiming victory, but the real losers were the American people. At issue were two programs at the University of Michigan that gave preference in admission to certain minority students. In one case, Grutter v. Bollinger, the Court upheld a program at the University of Michigan law school that gave preference to black, Latino and American Indian applicants; in the other, Gratz v. Bollinger, the Court struck down a similar program at the undergraduate level. But in both cases, the Court paid homage to the notion that "racial diversity" rather than non-discrimination is the true measure of equal opportunity in this society. In doing so, the Court not only reversed several decades of its own precedents but also, for all practical purposes, abandoned the goal of a colorblind society.
Forty years ago this August, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., stood at the Lincoln Memorial and gave a speech that galvanized Americans of all races. In his wonderfully stentorian voice, King invoked the image of a day in America's future: "I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal,'" he said. "I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."
These words launched a civil rights revolution that was embraced by the American people and led to passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968. As a result, America is today a more just nation.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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