College-educated minority Americans who benefited from affirmative action programs should pay reparations to white students, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled.
The surprise 5-3 decision was issued with the court’s decision on Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, which weighed whether the university’s consideration of race in admissions was constitutional.
In a 2003 case, the Supreme Court ruled that universities could consider race in its overall considerations of student applications.
However, lawyers for the plaintiff in Fisher argued that white students who were passed over in favor of minority students using this criterion should be compensated by the government for potential lost education and career opportunities, due to them not attending their top universities of choice.
In the majority opinion authored by Justice Clarence Thomas – the only black justice and a critic of affirmative action – the court agreed with the plaintiff’s claim.
“Proponents of affirmative action claimed that it was needed to correct the past wrongs of racism and to help ensure equality for minority students,” Thomas wrote. “Instead, affirmative action allowed minority students who may not have been qualified to skip ahead over qualified white students in getting into universities that included race in their considerations for admittance.
“A top-performing white student forced to attend Brown or Cornell University instead of Harvard or Yale has been cheated out of an untold number of opportunities in life. This is an injustice that must be rectified.
“Therefore, in the interest of fairness and equality, these minority students should compensate white students for the lost opportunities, including additional education, wages and benefits that they may have received upon graduating from the same prestigious university.”
Thomas said he would be willing to make the first payment to the government, since affirmative action programs helped him attend Yale Law School.
In a dissenting opinion, Justice Sonia Sotomayor – the first Latina justice and a supporter of affirmative action programs – wrote that the majority decision was insulting to students who still worked hard to get through college.
“Are you trying to tell me that a portion of my salary should go to compensate some white guy who could be sitting here in my place, even though I still worked hard to get here?” she wrote. “While we're on the topic, why don't the Ivy League legacy kids compensate the students who were passed over in their favor?”
Special tax proposed
The Supreme Court’s decision directs the U.S. Congress to establish a government fund that awards cash payments to white students who can prove affirmative action played a role in their rejection from their first-choice university. All public universities will be required to submit the names of rejected white applicants and if affirmative action played a role in their rejection.
University-educated minority students would pay a special 7 percent tax on their earnings for 10 years to finance the transfer.
“It's really the least they could do," says Tagg Romney, the son of former presidential candidate Mitt Romney and future reparations recipient. "If it weren't for all those minorities, my father could have bought my way into Yale instead of BYU.”