Top 10 Quotes from the Supreme Court’s Affirmative Action Decision

Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas / Getty Images
July 1, 2023

The Supreme Court on Thursday struck down race-based affirmative action in college admissions. The Court, in a 6-3 decision, ruled that the admissions programs at Harvard and the University of North Carolina "cannot be reconciled with the guarantees of the Equal Protection Clause" because they "lack sufficiently focused and measurable objectives warranting the use of race, unavoidably employ race in a negative manner, involve racial stereotyping, and lack meaningful endpoints."

Here are the 10 must-read quotes from the justices on the case.

1. Chief Justice John Roberts: "Eliminating racial discrimination means eliminating all of it."

2. Justice Clarence Thomas: "Justice Jackson would replace the second Founders’ vision with an organizing principle based on race. In fact, on her view, almost all of life’s outcomes may be unhesitatingly ascribed to race. ... This lore is not and has never been true. Even in the segregated South where I grew up, individuals were not the sum of their skin color."

3. Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson: "With let-them-eat-cake obliviousness, today, the majority pulls the ripcord and announces 'colorblindness for all' by legal fiat. But deeming race irrelevant in law does not make it so in life. And having so detached itself from this country’s actual past and present experiences, the Court has now been lured into interfering with the crucial work that UNC and other institutions of higher learning are doing to solve America’s real-world problems."

4. Justice Neil Gorsuch: "The words of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are not like mood rings; they do not change their message from one moment to the next."

5. Thomas: "Justice Sotomayor apparently believes that race-conscious admission programs can somehow increase the chances that members of certain races (blacks and Hispanics) are admitted without decreasing the chances of admission for members of other races (Asians). This simply defies mathematics."

6. Jackson: "For high-risk Black newborns, having a Black physician more than doubles the likelihood that the baby will live, and not die." FACT CHECK: FALSE

7. Roberts: "While the dissent would certainly not permit university programs that discriminated against black and Latino applicants, it is perfectly willing to let the programs here continue. In its view, this Court is supposed to tell state actors when they have picked the right races to benefit."

8. Thomas: "After siloing us all into racial castes and pitting those castes against each other, the dissent somehow believes that we will be able—at some undefined point—to 'march forward together' into some utopian vision."

9. Thomas: "Justice Jackson uses her broad observations about statistical relationships between race and select measures of health, wealth, and well-being to label all blacks as victims. Her desire to do so is unfathomable to me. ... it is an insult to individual achievement and cancerous to young minds seeking to push through barriers, rather than consign themselves to permanent victimhood."

10. Thomas: "While I am painfully aware of the social and economic ravages which have befallen my race and all who suffer discrimination, I hold out enduring hope that this country will live up to its principles so clearly enunciated in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States: that all men are created equal, are equal citizens, and must be treated equally before the law."