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Racial Preferences Redux


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The Supreme Court revisits discrimination and government.


When the Supreme Court last upheld racial preferences in college admissions, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote that she "expects that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary." That was 2003. By agreeing to hear a challenge to the University of Texas's admissions policies yesterday, the Justices may have pushed up that deadline.


The precedent set by Justice O'Connor was in Grutter v. Bollinger, a 5-4 decision. Justice Anthony Kennedy dissented in that case, accusing the majority of shirking its constitutional duty to apply "strict scrutiny" to government policies that discriminate by race. "In a review that is nothing short of perfunctory," he wrote, the majority had merely accepted the university's "assurances" that its policies were constitutional.




That's what Justice Lewis Powell did in the 1978 Bakke case, which allowed the muddle of racial preferences that bedevils us today. Let's hope the Justices seize this new opportunity to issue an unambiguous affirmation of the American principle of racial equality.

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