Magazine article Black Enterprise

Down but Not Out: The Court Makes It Tougher for Affirmative Action Programs, but Doesn't Eliminate Them

Magazine article Black Enterprise

Down but Not Out: The Court Makes It Tougher for Affirmative Action Programs, but Doesn't Eliminate Them

Article excerpt

The U.S. Supreme Court, in two separate cases, recently fueled the anti-affirmative action debate by attacking--but not completely dismantling--federal programs providing preferences to minorities.

Opponents of affirmative action programs lauded the two decisions as steps toward a color-blind society, while supporters feared the high court's ruling will help cripple the action President Johnson took 30 years ago.

"By taking up this case, [Adarand vs. Pena] the court reopened what was thought to be a settled issue," says Nigel Parkinson, president of the National Association of Minority Contractors. "This has contributed to the atmosphere of assault on affirmative action that has unfortunately become part of the political debate in this country."

In the school desegregation case, the less publicized of the two, the court ruled that school systems did not have to guarantee equal results for black and white students.

In Adarand, the court limited the government's ability to set aside business for minority contractors. It ruled that federally sponsored programs must be narrowly tailored to serve a compelling government interest.

Adarand, a white-owned construction company in Colorado, submitted the lowest bid on a federal highway project, but lost the project to a Latino company that submitted a higher bid. The Latino company won the bid because minority status was considered in the bidding process. Adarand argued that its right to "equal protection" had been violated and, while this argument was rejected by lower courts, the high court agreed.

But what effect will the Adarand decision have on federal affirmative action programs? …

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