The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday surrounding the constitutionality of a 2006 Michigan law banning racial preferences at universities and other institutions, and a coalition of black conservatives says it's beyond time for all Americans to realize showing favoritism to minorities is not the answer to the discrimination of years past or the way to balance opportunity today.
The Project 21 Black Leadership Network also asserts government is the greatest stumbling block to achieving the goal of a colorblind society.
The case before the Supreme Court, Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, centers on a 2006 ballot initiative in Michigan to scrap racial preferences at public universities, in hiring for government jobs or awarding government contracts. Voters approved the referendum by a 58-42 percent margin. The Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declared it unconstitutional.
"This is a very common-sense concept, and this is the reason why in that 58 percent of Michiganders who supported this, there were a significant number of blacks, significant number of Latinos as well as women, all who could be identified as minorities but they recognized that this equality principle is one that's important for everybody," said Project 21 Co-Chairman Horace Cooper, a former constitutional law professor.
Cooper told WND in the 2006 vote, the initiative to ban racial preferences received 50 percent more votes in the heavily Democratic city of Detroit than Republican U.S. Senate nominee Mike Bouchard.
"Very, very revealing that people understand the equality principle and even if they're partisans, even if they are people who live in certain enclaves and communities, they get this concept," he said. "Equality is what's important."
Supporters of affirmative action claim the effect of states like Michigan removing racial components in university admissions can already be seen in declining enrollment numbers for minority applicants.
Cooper said there's much more to the story.
"It's been a mixed bag, but the truth is this: There are more schools that have eliminated their race-based admissions programs and have been able to retain significant minority presence than there are schools that have eliminated it and resulted in a drop," said Cooper, who also argued enrollment numbers are not the proper gauge for whether an admissions program is operating impartially.
"It isn't clear to me that the only test for whether a racially neutral admissions program can operate is that you guarantee X number of people of a certain race are going to come. That's the exact opposite of a race-neutral program," Cooper said.
Regardless of the intentions behind affirmative action, Cooper said government-imposed racial preferences are one of the greatest hindrances to a truly colorblind culture.
"The truth of the matter is, government is probably the last place where we still have this kind of mindset that you need to judge people by their skin color rather than their achievements and the content of their character," Cooper said. "If I discriminated against you, you don't get to come back and discriminate against me. We don't defeat racism with more racism. We don't defeat bigotry with more bigotry."
Justice Elena Kagan recused herself in this case. Cooper believes Justice Anthony Kennedy will end up writing a majority opinion bolstered by the four conservatives on the Court to uphold the 2006 Michigan initiative.