The Harvard case on racial preferences and the antidemocratic character of affirmative action
19 October 2018
On Monday, the trial of the case Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard Corporation began in the US Federal District Court for Massachusetts in Boston. The estimated three-week-long case is widely expected to end up in the Supreme Court of the United States, which would likely take the occasion to outlaw all racial preferences in college admissions.
Taking place in a media spotlight, the trial underscores the reactionary and antidemocratic character of affirmative action—a policy that seeks to conceal the class division in society while permitting the political right to pose as defenders of equal protection under the law. The trial also highlights the ultimately class-based admissions preferences of Harvard and other elite American universities.
Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. (SFFA) filed the lawsuit against Harvard in 2014. Right-wing legal activist Edward Blum, a fellow of the American Enterprise Institute, directs the litigation. Blum launched a similar lawsuit against the University of Texas for its racial preferences in admissions. He also brought about the infamous Shelby County v. Holder case, which the Supreme Court heard in 2013 and used to strike down the preclearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act in a ruling that facilitates the Republican priority of discrimination at voting precincts.
SFFA’s complaint alleges that Harvard discriminates against students of Asian background. Documentation provided with the 120-page complaint shows a decades-long practice of racially allocating seats at the prestigious school. Despite an allegedly “holistic” admissions system—federal law bars the explicit use of racial quotas—Harvard retained an…