Ruling example of changing moods

The issue of using race as a factor in college admissions has been a factor in the national discussion of civil rights since the integration of school districts was ordered by the court in the 1950s.

In a landmark ruling more than a generation ago, the justices ruled that racial quotas in college admissions were not constitutional though affirmative action programs were.

As is the case throughout the nation’s history, the justices change rulings, and the law changes, with the national mood. Of late, the court has been striking down what were once seen as pillars of the Civil Rights movement, including voting laws. Thus it may not be surprising that the idea of race as a factor in college admissions was delivered a knockout ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States.

The justices upheld a ban enacted by voters in Michigan. The ruling was met with the expected outcries of foul from many corners of society, but we would hope that in an era where an African-American man is president, and the highest court in the land includes an African-American man and an Hispanic woman among its justices that the time for advancement based on something other than merit has passed.

The ruling was very narrowly written, skirting around the issue of the court’s role in racial fairness. Instead, under the usual legalese one finds in Supreme Court rulings, the issue was couched as one based in state’s rights. The court found that nothing in law would allow the federal government to supercede the right of the state of Michigan’s voters to make the determination as to whether race should be a factor in college admissions.

Which means the ability for the nation’s mood to shift is still possible so long as the mood shift fits through the legal door left open in the majority ruling.

The Bakke decision was made in 1978. College admissions and race issues continued with affirmative action in place right through this week in 2014.

Except in some states, including California, which banned race as a factor in college admissions in 1996, enacting instead guarantees to top graduates in the state’s public schools system to get into the state of California’s college system.

Sometimes it takes 36 years to enact the national mood’s shift into court decisions, or law.