Advocates call for Supreme Court reform during NC stop of ‘Just Majority’ campaign

By: - June 14, 2023 12:21 pm
Woman stands in front of a bus parked on the side of the road

Arndrea Waters King addresses a small crowd in front of the Story Venue in Chapel Hill on June 13, 2023. Photo: Chantal Brown

Who’s hiding on the bus?” an older white male pedestrian asked. About two dozen people gathered around the black and neon-painted charter bus on Chapel Hill’s bustling Franklin Street. 

The press conference was the latest stop on the ‘Just Majority’ campaign’s national bus tour. The group’s judicial accountability campaign, whose slogan is “Democracy Demands a Fair and Ethical Court,” calls for reforms, including Supreme Court expansion. It is backed by national organizations that advocate for racial justice, reproductive rights, gun violence prevention, and judicial reform. The bus tour began in Boston in April and has traveled as far west as California and as far south as Texas.

The group’s visit came ahead of the Supreme Court’s impending rulings in the cases of Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina. The rulings will likely determine whether race can be used as a factor in college admissions. 

“When you can see a court, based on partisanship, may take away affirmative action, and may take away other rights – it’s time for us to expand the Court to expand the options of justice,” said veteran civil rights advocate, the Rev. Al Sharpton. “And that’s why we in the civil rights community stand with Just Majority. We need to expand the Court.”

Sharpton was accompanied by Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger, Martin Luther King III, Arndrea Waters King (President of the Drum Major Institute — a nonprofit created in Martin Luther King Jr.’s honor), and Professor Kermit Roosevelt who studies and teaches constitutional law and conflict of laws at the University of Pennsylvania. 

The anti-affirmative action group Students for Fair Admissions initially filed a lawsuit challenging UNC admission policies in 2014. The group claims that the university’s use of race as a factor in its “holistic approach” to the college admissions process is discriminatory against white and Asian students. 

Roosevelt said a Supreme Court ruling against affirmative action that denies schools the right to make use of such a process would amount to the Court interfering in an “anti-democratic way” and “imposing their own views.” 

Roosevelt said that people can look to the University of California’s ban on affirmative action in 1996 as an example of what could happen on a national scale. 

“They banned consideration of race and their students of color plummeted. It was very hard to work their way back from that and they’ve tried but they haven’t gotten back to where they were.”

Speakers at Tuesday’s event said that the impact of the Court’s ruling on affirmative action will go far beyond the classroom. 

“If the Court rules that race cannot be a factor, it will overlap even outside of education. Then the private sector will say they can’t consider races with contracts. ‘We can’t consider race with our board makeup. We can’t consider race in our employment,’” Sharpton said. 

“And when people like me, Martin, and Arndrea go to a company and ask if they are diverse, they can’t keep that data because it is against the law now. They will have undermined the entire movement of diversity in the country with that decision.”

Waters King said that the impact of the decision could last for generations; “from Kindergarten to the grave.”

“We have a 15-year-old daughter. Not only will you have to look at higher education, but what will happen to primary schools, middle schools, and high schools?” she said. “We not only need to look at the trickle effect up, but we also need to look at the trickle effect foundationally and how this is impacting our children from kindergarten.”

A decision in the Students for Fair Admissions vs. the University of North Carolina is set to come before the court’s session ends on June 26.

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Chantal Brown
Chantal Brown

Chantal Brown was a summer reporting fellow at NC Newsline. She was recently graduated from The Ohio State University with a B.A. in Journalism. Brown was hired as a K-12 reporter at Education NC in 2023.