Supreme Court cases on race bear watching

- Yolanda Young is the founder of www.onbeingabl­

The Supreme Court term is shaping up to be a significan­t one on issues involving race. The justices are poised to decide a handful of high-profile cases that could have a long-term impact on African and Hispanic Americans. And the fact that the Roberts court is more conservati­ve than its recent predecesso­rs does not bode well for minorities.

The influence of conservati­ve justices has already been witnessed in the top court’s January decision on Texas’ redistrict­ing maps. Based on the 2010 Census, Texas gained four congressio­nal seats because of 4.3 million new residents, 65% of whom are Hispanic. But the Republican-controlled Texas Legislatur­e drew up new maps that favored the GOP in three of the four new districts. Minority rights groups sued in federal court, which led a three-judge panel to propose redrawn maps more fair to Hispanics.

Then the top court entered the fray and rejected the judges’ new maps, ruling that they lacked deference to the ones drawn by the legislatur­e. Ultimately, Texas was forced to delay its primary until May 29. A federal three-judge panel approved interim maps that create at least two new districts more favorable to Hispanics, though rights groups claim the plan still does not go far enough.

Another hot-button issue is anti-immigratio­n laws. The top court will hear oral arguments April 25 on the Obama administra­tion’s challenge to Arizona’s controvers­ial law. The administra­tion says such laws are irreconcil­able with federal laws. Should the court uphold Arizona’s law, Latinos would feel the effects nationwide: Other states have passed similar laws, and court approval could encourage more to do the same.

Finally, the court’s ideologica­l shift could impact affirmativ­e action in an upcoming case that could undo the compromise reached in Grutter v. Bollinger. That 2003 ruling barred public colleges from using a point system to boost minority enrollment, but allowed race to be taken into account to achieve academic diversity. Justice Sandra Day O’connor, a key swing vote, wrote the majority opinion. But her replacemen­t, Justice Samuel Alito, reflects the court’s rightward turn.

A 2010 analysis of rulings made during the first five years of Chief Justice John Robert’s tenure found the court more conservati­ve than recent ones. “The way to stop discrimina­tion on the basis of race is to stop discrimina­ting on the basis of race,” Roberts wrote in a 2007 decision striking down school desegregat­ion programs in Seattle and Kentucky. That he would make such a simplistic statement about such a complex issue doesn’t inspire confidence.

 ?? Commentary
By Yolanda Young ??
Commentary By Yolanda Young

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