CHARLES R. LAWRENCE III
RACE AND AFFIRMATIVE ACTION: A CRITICAL RACE PERSPECTIVE
IN 1995 Cheryl Hopwood and three other rejected White applicants sued the University of Texas Law School, claiming that the school's affirmative action admissions program violated their constitutional right to equal protection of the laws. They argued that the program amounted to reverse discrimination because their college grades and their scores on the law school admissions test were higher than those of many Black and Mexican American applicants who had been admitted.
A federal district court held that the law school admissions program was constitutional because it was necessary to remedy the continuing effects of a history of official discrimination in primary, secondary, and higher education in Texas.1 This discrimination was "well documented in history books, case law, and [in] the record of the trial," the court said, and was "not a relic of the past." In 1994, desegregation lawsuits were pending against more than forty different Texas school districts and, although the public school population in Texas was approximately half White and half minority, the vast majority of both White and minority students attended schools that were segregated in fact if not by law. The high school graduation rate for Whites was 81.5 percent compared to 66.1 percent for Blacks and 44.6 percent for Hispanics.
At the university level, an investigation conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights between 1978 and 1980 found that Texas had "failed to eliminate vestiges of its former de jure racially dual system . . . which segregated blacks and Whites" and that there were strong indications of discrimination against Mexican Americans. In 1994 the Office of Civil Rights found that Texas still had not eliminated its segregated system of public higher education.