Race and Ethnicity
June 11, 2014
Is the “post-racial society” dream dead?

Race continues to be an undercurrent in American society. African-Americans have made economic and educational progress, but continue to lag behind whites in jobs and wealth. The Supreme Court has ruled that voters may decide whether state universities can apply affirmative action policies during the admissions process. Researchers say public schools are more segregated now than before integration, and blacks are incarcerated at a rate double their share of the population. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. believes shorter sentences for minor, nonviolent crimes could help rectify the incarceration imbalance, but some say that would threaten public safety. Civil rights activists say increasingly common “stand your ground” laws are racially biased. As the 2014 midterm elections approach, some states are enacting election laws critics say discriminate against minorities and the poor, while other states are making it easier for all to vote. Meanwhile, public reaction to racially offensive remarks indicates the debate over racial discrimination isn’t over.

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling triggered a national
            debate about racism this spring when he made offensive remarks about African-Americans
            in a secretly-recorded conversation with his girlfriend   Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling triggered a national debate about racism this spring when he made offensive remarks about African-Americans in a secretly-recorded conversation with his girlfriend. The National Basketball Association banned Sterling for life for his remarks and fined him $2.5 million. Sterling has since decided to sell the team. (AFP/Getty Images/Robyn Beck)

Long-standing university affirmative action practices took a blow on April 22, when the Supreme Court ruled that state schools cannot use race as a factor in admissions if voters oppose it. The decision dealt with a successful Michigan state ballot initiative banning racial preferences in university admissions. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion that the decision did not apply to the constitutionality or merits of schools’ race-conscious admissions policies, but rather to whether a state’s voters may choose to prohibit consideration of those preferences.

“This case is not about how the debate about racial preferences should be resolved. It is about who may resolve it,” Kennedy wrote. “Here Michigan voters acted in concert and statewide to seek consensus and adopt a policy on a difficult subject against a historical background of race in America that has been a source of tragedy and persisting injustice.”

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