For I, the Lord, love justice,
I hate robbery and wrongdoing; [a]
I will faithfully give them their recompense,
and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
Isaiah 61:8, NRSVUE
The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA vehemently opposes the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Students for Fair Admissions v President and Fellows of Harvard College to eliminate the consideration of race and ethnicity from the college admissions process. The decision reverses decades of legal precedent and progress in providing equitable access to higher education for Black Americans and other racial groups who have endured the shackles of structural and systemic discrimination for centuries.
Affirmative action is a reparative attempt to undo the lasting effects of slavery, segregation, and systemic discrimination against Black people in education and other aspects of American society. Since the 1960s, colleges and universities have developed programs to improve access to higher education for racial minority groups to reflect the full strength and diversity of the United States. Affirmative action considers an applicant’s racial background, including financial and other hardships due to systemic racism, as one of several factors in the college admissions process when evaluating a qualified pool of applicants.
It is short-sighted, shameful, and downright immoral for American institutions to deny the history and impact of racism and discrimination. Opposition to affirmative action programs in higher education is evidence of how deeply entrenched white supremacy is in our society and how much more work is needed to undo and end racial injustice.
“Refusing to remedy the wrongs of the past does not erase them. It only exacerbates and magnifies the negative effects they have had. Unfortunately, the nation and some of our most vulnerable citizens will pay the price for this egregious ruling,” said Bishop Teresa Jefferson-Snorton, Chair of NCC’s Governing Board.
While progress has been made to close the racial gap in education, disparities remain in many institutions of higher education. It is tone deaf to act as though racism is not still a factor in American life, despite the realities of ongoing structural and systemic racial barriers that plague our society. All God’s people, regardless of their race, should have not only equal but equitable opportunity to thrive and realize their full potential.
“Race has been a factor in making employment, housing, banking, health care and education decisions for centuries in America. The decision by the Supreme Court adds to the pain of marginalized people and pits one group against the other, vying for a few spaces in certain institutions of higher learning. When our colleges, corporations, communities, and country make space for people of diverse backgrounds and experiences to participate fully, it enriches all our lives. This decision undermines ‘liberty and justice for all’ in the face of historical discrimination and rising racism,” said NCC President and General Secretary Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie.
Today, we reaffirm the commitment made by the National Council of Churches in 1997 to encourage our member denominations and ecumenical agencies to continue support of and advocacy for effective affirmative action programs, statutes, policies, and practices; to speak out against retrogressive legislative and other attempts to rescind or weaken affirmative action statutes on municipal, state, or federal levels; to align themselves with others of good will to defeat anti-affirmative action initiatives constructed to turn back the clock; and to encourage members to exercise their constitutional and civil responsibilities fully in helping to defeat these and other assaults on productive affirmative action programs.
We must remain steadfast about the realities of racism and be willing to make changes to overcome new challenges that emerge as we strive to become the Beloved Community.