While we do not usually weigh in on domestic, politicalized issues, the recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn affirmative action policies at U.S. colleges and universities is reflective of a larger, anti-historical trend of the last decade. Affirmative action policies in the U.S. are unique to the legacy of slavery and inequality in the American founding. Thinking of them as a political issue is perhaps misguided; they are a historical one. Overturning them in favor of “colorblind” constitutions (as the Supreme Court majority argued) ignore the very meaning and purpose of history.

While thoughtful citizens may debate the best mechanisms for ensuring diversity and inclusion in higher education, there is no question that the legacy of slavery and inequality is a fact of American (and global) history. Those legacies have produced significant advantages for a white majority in the U.S., and have led to the exclusion of certain races from educational opportunities, both historically and currently. The Supreme Court ruling sends two, equally disturbing messages to the world: first, that these racial legacies do not matter; and second, that constitutional “law” is more important than historical record.

One of the central arguments of the Supreme Court majority was that the U.S. Constitution is “colorblind.” This is an argument with Originalist overtones that obviously ignores the fact that slavery was prevalent during the writing and implementation of the Constitution, and subsequently. The idea that the writers of the Constitution were “colorblind” is mistaken, and has been proven time and time again through historical scholarship. These efforts by certain groups to maintain power through the appeal to “law” ignores the historicism and empiricism made so much a part of the American ideal. The Supreme Court arguments are disturbingly similar to recent laws prohibiting the teaching of race and racial history in American schools.

At GlobalEd, we remain firmly committed not only to dialogue, but to examining the facts of history.


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