Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News earlier this week.
In the United States Supreme Court’s landmark ruling Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. Presidents and Fellows of Harvard College, the court prohibited universities from discriminating against prospective students because of their race. While the ruling is specific to racial discrimination by universities, it has much broader implications.
The brilliant Justice Clarence Thomas revealed the broad consequences of the ruling in his concurring opinion when he definitively wrote, “the Fourteenth Amendment outlaws government-sanctioned racial discrimination of all types.” In the majority opinion of the court, Chief Justice John Roberts definitively stated that, “Eliminating racial discrimination means eliminating all of it.”
It does not get any clearer than that. Discrimination in favor of one race consequently discriminates to the detriment of another race. Equality can only exist when we actually treat people equally.
For this reason, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, Wisconsin’s most important private organization in defense of the Constitution, launched the “Equality for All Agenda,” in which they are calling for the repeal of all race-based laws and programs. WILL’s accompanying report highlights several examples of how various Wisconsin governments discriminate on the basis of race.
For example, the state of Wisconsin’s Ben R. Lawton Minority Undergraduate Grant Program gives grants to anyone who is a black American, American Indian, Hispanic, or people who hail from Laos, Vietnam, or Cambodia. This grant program specifically excludes white Americans, Middle Eastern Americans, Persian Americans, Indian Americans, non-Hispanic South American Americans, and all of the other races that make up the kaleidoscope of the American experience. The grant program is inherently racist.
In a throwback to the era of “separate but equal,” the University of Wisconsin-Madison offers racially segregated student housing, “to provide a living experience focused on supporting students and allies who self-identify within the Black diaspora.”
The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development launched the New Workforce Equity Grant program after the pandemic. These grants are awarded companies in southeastern Wisconsin that create training programs for underserved communities, which are defined as, “Black, Indigenous, and people of color, women.”
The University of Wisconsin’s School of Medicine gives grants to programs that, “focus on underserved and marginalized communities, including but not limited to, Asian, Black, Hispanic, Native American, rural, and low-income communities.” One can focus on underserved communities without segregating them into racial categories. Poverty, for example, affects all races.
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation runs a Diverse Business Development Program that only provides support to, “minority-, woman-, LGBT and veteran-owned businesses.” Once again, the program specifically discriminates on the basis of race and other factors that have nothing to do with the worthiness of the business.
The list goes on. The fact is that racial discrimination permeates our governments at every level. From the state of Wisconsin to our local government school districts, people of favored races are granted preferential treatment, opportunities, and money while people of disfavored races are excluded from these opportunities. This kind of racial discrimination was intolerable in 1860. It was intolerable in 1960. It is intolerable in 2023.
As Justice Thomas so eloquently put it in his concurring opinion, “the solution announced in the second founding (his reference is to the transformative 14th Amendment written after the Civil War) is incorporated in our Constitution: that we are all equal, and should be treated equally before the law without regard to our race. Only that promise can allow us to look past our differing skin colors and identities and see each other for what we truly are: individuals with unique thoughts, perspectives, and goals, but with equal dignity and equal rights under the law.”
Our nation has had a long road to racial equality. We have a long way yet to go. The Supreme Court’s ruling is a long stride in the right direction. Now it is up to all of us to see that the principles announced in our Declaration of Independence, written into the Constitution in the 14th Amendment, and affirmed in Students v. Harvard, are upheld by our government, our businesses, and ourselves.