The decision of the Supreme Court to end the use of race in college admissions was not unexpected. Yet, President Joe Biden expressed outrage and actually claimed that the court gutted the constitutional guarantee that “all men and women are created equal.”
In declaring that this court was not “normal,” Biden further insisted that these admissions decisions and the Dobbs abortion decision reversed the gains that “we fought a war over in 1860” to secure.
In an interview on MSNBC’s “Deadline: White House,” President Biden accused the court of ignoring what “the Constitution says: We hold these truths to be self-evident, all men and women are created equal, endowed by their creator.” That is actually a reference to the Declaration of Independence, but it was the substance of the point that was so baffling.
The president is not alone in such hyperbole. Figures like ABC’s Whoopi Goldberg actually asked whether the decision will be “leading to no women in colleges soon? Who knows.”
We actually do know. An opinion rejecting the use of racial classification to determine who goes to college could not be read by anyone as endorsing the exclusion of other groups.
The truly baffling statement was Biden’s claims over the Civil War. By leaving questions like abortion to the states, Biden claims that the court was reversing what was gained in that war. The criticism came in response to an opinion insisting that there is no place for racial discrimination in higher education. That would hardly seem an argument that would be embraced by the Confederacy.
ABC’s Whoopi Goldberg ridiculously asked whether the court’s decision will lead “to no women in colleges soon?” (ABC/"The View"/Screenshot)
The Civil War did not end federalism or states rights. It denied the right of the states to secede and ultimately fulfilled the pledge to equality first made in the Declaration of Independence.
One can have good-faith disagreements on whether to use racial criteria in admissions. However, Biden is belittling our prior struggles for equality with these sweeping and erroneous claims.
In his interview, the president also insisted that one has to “look at how it’s ruled on a number of issues that are — have been precedent for 50-60 years sometimes. And that’s what I meant by not normal.”
It is also ironic to hear the president bewailing the reversal of precedent since the greatest advance in racial equality was the reversal of Plessy v. Ferguson and the doctrine of “separate but equal.” That was the governing precedent from 1894 to 1954, but few denounced the Supreme Court for reversing that precedent to eliminate separate or different treatment on the basis for race.
The president also asserted that “the vast majority of the American people don’t agree with a lot of the decisions this court is making.” The majority clearly opposed the Dobbs ruling, but that is not the case on the affirmative action ruling.
Polls have consistently shown (including this week) that the majority of the public does not support the use of race in college admissions. Indeed, even in the most liberal states like California, voters have repeatedly rejected affirmative action in admissions.
We should have a robust and passionate debate over these issues. Yet, a president should be seeking to facilitate that dialogue rather than distorting and weaponizing our shared history. It is a continuation of his prior declarations that members of Congress opposing his election reforms to block state laws are voting with “Jefferson Davis” and the Confederacy.