Supreme Court To Make Crucial Rulings On Race

Source: Richard Wolf / USA Today

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court may be on the verge of declaring victory in the fight against racial discrimination.

Two cases nearing decisions by the court within weeks threaten to uproot affirmative action programs at the nation’s public colleges and universities and weaken a federal statute that guards against discriminatory changes in state and local voting procedures.

For the civil rights community that came of age in the 1950s and 1960s, a defeat on racial integration, voting rights or both would signal “the worst year for backward movement on civil rights since the post-Reconstruction period,” says Gary Orfield, a graduate school professor and co-director of The Civil Rights Project at UCLA.

For conservatives who oppose racial preferences, however, the two cases represent a historic opportunity to move beyond race — or, as Chief Justice John Roberts said in a 2007 decision on public school integration: “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”

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