Sonia Sotomayor Wrote an Epic Dissent Against the Supreme Court Decision Upholding Michigan’s Affirmative-Action Ban

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Photo: JOSE CABEZAS/AFP

A 6-2 Supreme Court decision today went in favor of a constitutional amendment approved by Michigan voters in 2006 banning affirmative action based on race, gender, ethnicity, or national origin in hiring or college admissions. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was joined by John Roberts and Samuel Alito, said, "One of those premises is that a democracy has the capacity — and the duty — to learn from its past mistakes; to discover and confront persisting biases; and by respectful, rationale deliberation to rise above those flaws and injustices." In other words, it's not necessarily a race thing. "It is demeaning to the democratic process to presume that the voters are not capable of deciding an issue of this sensitivity on decent and rational grounds," he wrote.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor disagreed with a passion.

Joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — Elena Kagan recused herself and Stephen Breyer was with the majority, but wrote his own opinion — Sotomayor delivered a 58-page dissent, "longer than the combined length of the four opinions in support of the outcome," the AP reported.

"We are fortunate to live in a democratic society," she began. "But without checks, democratically approved legislation can oppress minority groups. For that reason, our Constitu­tion places limits on what a majority of the people may do. This case implicates one such limit: the guarantee of equal protection of the laws."

"The Constitution does not protect racial minorities from political defeat," Sotomayor wrote. "But neither does it give the majority free rein to erect selective barriers against racial minorities."

The court, she continued, "ought not sit back and wish away, rather than confront, the racial inequality that exists in our society. It is this view that works harm, by perpetuating the facile notion that what makes race matter is acknowledging the simple truth that race does matter." You can read the rest here