STATEMENT FROM RISE CEO DIAHANN BILLINGS-BURFORD
June 29, 2023
Today, the Supreme Court ruled to end affirmative action at US colleges and universities. This ruling is the culmination of a decades-long fight against affirmative action, a fight often based on the belief that the policy is unfair to some racial groups, particularly white and Asian students.
The court's decision, though arguably well-intentioned in the pursuit of uncompromising equality, fails to consider the centuries of discrimination that Black people and other underrepresented minorities have faced in their struggle for equal access to opportunities in higher education. Too often, we seek solutions to end inequality without adequately considering the original context. It is this context and history of racial discrimination and exclusion that led to the formation of HBCUs and the landmark Supreme Court decision of Brown v. the Board of Education. It is against this backdrop that affirmative action was originally created and it is this backdrop that the Supreme Court failed to consider in their decision.
As I reflect on today's ruling, I was struck by the powerful dissenting opinion of Justice Kentanji Brown Jackson, the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court in its 234-year history. She wrote: “Deeming race irrelevant in law does not make it so in life.”
I agree and I know that the negative implications of the court's decision and subsequent setbacks to racial equity will reach far beyond Harvard, UNC and college campuses around the country. BUT the severity of this decision is still in the hands of the people. Martin Luther King Jr. said that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it always bends towards justice. RISE works to bend that arc every day. In the face of adversity, we at RISE, like our 300+ collegiate partners, remain committed to the value of diversity and the unending labor required to end racial discrimination.
Seeking equity via policies like affirmative action will result in greater fairness. In contrast, ignoring race and history and mandating others to do so as the court did today will uphold racism and white supremacy. We hope that you will bend this arc with us.
Read Justice Jackson's full dissenting opinion here, starting on page 209.
RISE is a national nonprofit that educates and empowers the sports community to eliminate racial discrimination, champion social justice and improve race relations. Through partnerships and programs, RISE inspires leaders in sports to create positive change on matters of race and equality. RISE's vision is to create a nation unified through sports committed to racial equity and social justice. Follow RISE on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook @RISEtoWIN or learn more at https://risetowin.org
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