Michigan Proposition 2

In the wake of Gratz v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 244 (2003) (invalidating a hard 20-pt advantage for racial minorities in admissions) and Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003)
288 F.3d 732, affirmed (upholding flexible racial preferences in admissions), Proposition 2 passed in Michigan. The language of the proposition, which won despite opposition from the Democratic governor and her Republican opponent.

The language of the proposition is as follows:

“The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.”

Is the passage of this initiative a good thing or a bad thing, and why? Cathy Young’s Boston Globe column argues that it’s progress in ending racism, while Cheryle Jackson argues in the Chicago Sun Times that affirmative action is still vital.

My biggest problem with affirmative action is that you don’t get what you want by settling for something you don’t want. Law students that want to do public interest work don’t get there by joining big firms. I can’t see the path to ending racial discrimination that stops at institutionalizing racial preferences on the way.

If affirmative action is necessary to dismantle years of institutionalized racism, when will it no longer be necessary? Furthermore, are any of the affirmative action laws and policies written with these success criteria?

Institutions have their own momentum and are much harder to stop than they are to start. We should be careful about trying to destroy one institution (racism) by starting another one (affirmative action).

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