|Regents of the University of California v. Bakke
18 Cal.3d 34, 553 P.2d 1152, affirmed in part and reversed in part.
[ Powell ]
[ White ]
[ Marshall ]
[ Blackmun ]
[ Stevens ]
Regents of the University of California v. Bakke
MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL.
I agree with the judgment of the Court only insofar as it permits a university to consider the race of an applicant in making admissions decisions. I do not agree that petitioner's admissions program violates the Constitution. For it must be remembered that, during most of the past 200 years, the Constitution, as interpreted by this Court, did not prohibit the most ingenious and pervasive forms of discrimination against the Negro. Now, when a State acts to remedy the effects of that legacy of discrimination, I cannot believe that this same Constitution stands as a barrier.
Three hundred and fifty years ago, the Negro was dragged to this country in chains to be sold into slavery. Uprooted from his homeland and thrust into bondage for forced labor, [p388] the slave was deprived of all legal rights. It was unlawful to teach him to read; he could be sold away from his family and friends at the whim of his master; and killing or maiming him was not a crime. The system of slavery brutalized and dehumanized both master and slave. [n1]
The denial of human rights was etched into the American Colonies' first attempts at establishing self-government. When the colonists determined to seek their independence from England, they drafted a unique document cataloguing their grievances against the King and proclaiming as "self-evident" that "all men are created equal" and are endowed "with certain unalienable Rights," including those to "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." The self-evident truths and the unalienable rights were intended, however, to apply only to white men. An earlier draft of the Declaration of Independence, submitted by Thomas Jefferson to the Continental Congress, had included among the charges against the King that
[h]e has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither.
Franklin 88. The Southern delegation insisted that the charge be deleted; the colonists themselves were implicated in the slave trade, and inclusion of this claim might have made it more difficult to justify the continuation of slavery once the ties to England were severed. Thus, even as the colonists embarked on a [p389] course to secure their own freedom and equality, they ensured perpetuation of the system that deprived a whole race of those rights.
The implicit protection of slavery embodied in the Declaration of Independence was made explicit in the Constitution, which treated a slave as being equivalent to three-fifths of a person for purposes of apportioning representatives and taxes among the States. Art. I, § 2. The Constitution also contained a clause ensuring that the "Migration or Importation" of slaves into the existing States would be legal until at least 1808, Art. I, § 9, and a fugitive slave clause requiring that, when a slave escaped to another State, he must be returned on the claim of the master, Art. IV, § 2. In their declaration of the principles that were to provide the cornerstone of the new Nation, therefore, the Framers made it plain that "we the people," for whose protection the Constitution was designed, did not include those whose skins were the wrong color. As Professor John Hope Franklin has observed, Americans
proudly accepted the challenge and responsibility of their new political freedom by establishing the machinery and safeguards that insured the continued enslavement of blacks.
The individual States likewise established the machinery to protect the system of slavery through the promulgation of the Slave Codes, which were designed primarily to defend the property interest of the owner in his slave. The position of the Negro slave as mere property was confirmed by this Court in Dred Scott v. Sandford, 19 How. 393 (1857), holding that the Missouri Compromise -- which prohibited slavery in the portion of the Louisiana Purchase Territory north of Missouri -- was unconstitutional because it deprived slave owners of their property without due process. The Court declared that, under the Constitution, a slave was property, and "[t]he right to traffic in it, like an ordinary article of merchandise and property, was guarantied to the citizens of the United [p390] States. . . ." Id. at 451. The Court further concluded that Negroes were not intended to be included as citizens under the Constitution, but were
regarded as beings of an inferior order . . . altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations; and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect . . . .
Id. at 407.
The status of the Negro as property was officially erased by his emancipation at the end of the Civil War. But the long-awaited emancipation, while freeing the Negro from slavery, did not bring him citizenship or equality in any meaningful way. Slavery was replaced by a system of
laws which imposed upon the colored race onerous disabilities and burdens, and curtailed their rights in the pursuit of life, liberty, and property to such an extent that their freedom was of little value.
Slaughter-House Cases, 16 Wall. 36, 70 (1873). Despite the passage of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments, the Negro was systematically denied the rights those Amendments were supposed to secure. The combined actions and inactions of the State and Federal Governments maintained Negroes in a position of legal inferiority for another century after the Civil War.
The Southern States took the first steps to reenslave the Negroes. Immediately following the end of the Civil War, many of the provisional legislatures passed Black Codes, similar to the Slave Codes, which, among other things, limited the rights of Negroes to own or rent property and permitted imprisonment for breach of employment contracts. Over the next several decades, the South managed to disenfranchise the Negroes in spite of the Fifteenth Amendment by various techniques, including poll taxes, deliberately complicated balloting processes, property and literacy qualifications, and, finally, the white primary.
Congress responded to the legal disabilities being imposed [p391] in the Southern States by passing the Reconstruction Acts and the Civil Rights Acts. Congress also responded to the needs of the Negroes at the end of the Civil War by establishing the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, better known as the Freedmen's Bureau, to supply food, hospitals, land, and education to the newly freed slaves. Thus, for a time, it seemed as if the Negro might be protected from the continued denial of his civil rights, and might be relieved of the disabilities that prevented him from taking his place as a free and equal citizen.
That time, however, was short-lived. Reconstruction came to a close, and, with the assistance of this Court, the Negro was rapidly stripped of his new civil rights. In the words of C. Vann Woodward:
By narrow and ingenious interpretation [the Supreme Court's] decisions over a period of years had whittled away a great part of the authority presumably given the government for protection of civil rights.
The Court began by interpreting the Civil War Amendments in a manner that sharply curtailed their substantive protections. See, e.g., Slaughter-House Cases, supra; United States v. Reese, 92 U.S. 214 (1876); United States v. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542 (1876). Then, in the notorious Civil Rights Cases, 109 U.S. 3 (1883), the Court strangled Congress' efforts to use its power to promote racial equality. In those cases, the Court invalidated sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1875 that made it a crime to deny equal access to "inns, public conveyances, theatres and other places of public amusement." Id. at 10. According to the Court, the Fourteenth Amendment gave Congress the power to proscribe only discriminatory action by the State. The Court ruled that the Negroes who were excluded from public places suffered only an invasion of their social rights at the hands of private individuals, and Congress had no power to remedy that. Id. at 24-25.
When a man has emerged from slavery, and, by the aid of beneficent legislation, has shaken off the inseparable concomitants of that [p392] state,
the Court concluded,
there must be some stage in the progress of his elevation when he takes the rank of a mere citizen, and ceases to be the special favorite of the laws. . . .
Id. at 25. As Mr. Justice Harlan noted in dissent, however, the Civil War Amendments and Civil Rights Acts did not make the Negroes the "special favorite" of the laws, but instead
sought to accomplish in reference to that race . . . -- what had already been done in every State of the Union for the white race -- to secure and protect rights belonging to them as freemen and citizens; nothing more.
Id. at 61.
The Court's ultimate blow to the Civil War Amendments and to the equality of Negroes came in Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896). In upholding a Louisiana law that required railway companies to provide "equal but separate" accommodations for whites and Negroes, the Court held that the Fourteenth Amendment was not intended
to abolish distinctions based upon color, or to enforce social, as distinguished from political, equality, or a commingling of the two races upon terms unsatisfactory to either.
Id. at 544. Ignoring totally the realities of the positions of the two races, the Court remarked:
We consider the underlying fallacy of the plaintiff's argument to consist in the assumption that the enforced separation of the two races stamps the colored race with a badge of inferiority. If this be so, it is not by reason of anything found in the act, but solely because the colored race chooses to put that construction upon it.
Id. at 551.
Mr. Justice Harlan's dissenting opinion recognized the bankruptcy of the Court's reasoning. He noted that the "real meaning" of the legislation was "that colored citizens are so inferior and degraded that they cannot be allowed to sit in public coaches occupied by white citizens." Id. at 560. He expressed his fear that, if like laws were enacted in other [p393] States, "the effect would be in the highest degree mischievous." Id. at 563. Although slavery would have disappeared, the States would retain the power
to interfere with the full enjoyment of the blessings of freedom; to regulate civil rights, common to all citizens, upon the basis of race; and to place in a condition of legal inferiority a large body of American citizens. . . .
The fears of Mr. Justice Harlan were soon to be realized. In the wake of Plessy, many States expanded their Jim Crow laws, which had, up until that time, been limited primarily to passenger trains and schools. The segregation of the races was extended to residential areas, parks, hospitals, theaters, waiting rooms, and bathrooms. There were even statutes and ordinances which authorized separate phone booths for Negroes and whites, which required that textbooks used by children of one race be kept separate from those used by the other, and which required that Negro and white prostitutes be kept in separate districts. In 1898, after Plessy, the Charlestown News and Courier printed a parody of Jim Crow laws:
"If there must be Jim Crow cars on the railroads, there should be Jim Crow cars on the street railways. Also on all passenger boats. . . . If there are to be Jim Crow cars, moreover, there should be Jim Crow waiting saloons at all stations, and Jim Crow eating houses. . . . There should be Jim Crow sections of the jury box, and a separate Jim Crow dock and witness stand in every court -- and a Jim Crow Bible for colored witnesses to kiss."
Woodward 68. The irony is that, before many years had passed, with the exception of the Jim Crow witness stand,
all the improbable applications of the principle suggested by the editor in derision had been put into practice -- down to and including the Jim Crow Bible.
Id. at 69.
Nor were the laws restricting the rights of Negroes limited [p394] solely to the Southern States. In many of the Northern States, the Negro was denied the right to vote, prevented from serving on juries, and excluded from theaters, restaurants, hotels, and inns. Under President Wilson, the Federal Government began to require segregation in Government buildings; desks of Negro employees were curtained off; separate bathrooms and separate tables in the cafeterias were provided; and even the galleries of the Congress were segregated. When his segregationist policies were attacked, President Wilson responded that segregation was "‘not humiliating, but a benefit,'" and that he was "‘rendering [the Negroes] more safe in their possession of office, and less likely to be discriminated against.'" Kluger 91.
The enforced segregation of the races continued into the middle of the 20th century. In both World Wars, Negroes were, for the most part, confined to separate military units; it was not until 1948 that an end to segregation in the military was ordered by President Truman. And the history of the exclusion of Negro children from white public schools is too well known and recent to require repeating here. That Negroes were deliberately excluded from public graduate and professional schools -- and thereby denied the opportunity to become doctors, lawyers, engineers, and the like is also well established. It is, of course, true that some of the Jim Crow laws (which the decisions of this Court had helped to foster) were struck down by this Court in a series of decisions leading up to Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954). See, e.g., Morgan v. Virginia, 328 U.S. 373 (1946); Sweatt v. Painter, 339 U.S. 629 (1950); McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents, 339 U.S. 637 (1950). Those decisions, however, did not automatically end segregation, nor did they move Negroes from a position of legal inferiority to one of equality. The legacy of years of slavery and of years of second-class citizenship in the wake of emancipation could not be so easily eliminated. [p395]
The position of the Negro today in America is the tragic but inevitable consequence of centuries of unequal treatment. Measured by any benchmark of comfort or achievement, meaningful equality remains a distant dream for the Negro.
A Negro child today has a life expectancy which is shorter by more than five years than that of a white child. [n2] The Negro child's mother is over three times more likely to die of complications in childbirth, [n3] and the infant mortality rate for Negroes is nearly twice that for whites. [n4] The median income of the Negro family is only 60% that of the median of a white family, [n5] and the percentage of Negroes who live in families with incomes below the poverty line is nearly four times greater than that of whites. [n6]
When the Negro child reaches working age, he finds that America offers him significantly less than it offers his white counterpart. For Negro adults, the unemployment rate is twice that of whites, [n7] and the unemployment rate for Negro teenagers is nearly three times that of white teenagers. [n8] A Negro male who completes four years of college can expect a median annual income of merely $110 more than a white male who has only a high school diploma. [n9] Although Negroes [p396] represent 11.5% of the population, [n10] they are only 1.2% of the lawyers and judges, 2% of the physicians, 2.3% of the dentists, 1.1% of the engineers and 2.6% of the college and university professors. [n11]
The relationship between those figures and the history of unequal treatment afforded to the Negro cannot be denied. At every point from birth to death, the impact of the past is reflected in the still disfavored position of the Negro.
In light of the sorry history of discrimination and its devastating impact on the lives of Negroes, bringing the Negro into the mainstream of American life should be a state interest of the highest order. To fail to do so is to ensure that America will forever remain a divided society.
I do not believe that the Fourteenth Amendment requires us to accept that fate. Neither its history nor our past cases lend any support to the conclusion that a university may not remedy the cumulative effects of society's discrimination by giving consideration to race in an effort to increase the number and percentage of Negro doctors.
This Court long ago remarked that
in any fair and just construction of any section or phrase of these [Civil War] amendments, it is necessary to look to the purpose which we have said was the pervading spirit of them all, the evil which they were designed to remedy. . . .
Slaughter-House Cases, 16 Wall. at 72. It is plain that the Fourteenth Amendment was not intended to prohibit measures designed to remedy the effects of the [p397] Nation's past treatment of Negroes. The Congress that passed the Fourteenth Amendment is the same Congress that passed the 1866 Freedmen's Bureau Act, an Act that provided many of its benefits only to Negroes. Act of July 16, 1866, ch. 200, 14 Stat. 173; see supra at 391. Although the Freedmen's Bureau legislation provided aid for refugees, thereby including white persons within some of the relief measures, 14 Stat. 174; see also Act of Mar. 3, 1865, ch. 90, 13 Stat. 507, the bill was regarded, to the dismay of many Congressmen, as "solely and entirely for the freedmen, and to the exclusion of all other persons. . . ." Cong.Globe, 39th Cong., 1st Sess., 544 (1866) (remarks of Rep. Taylor). See also id. at 634-635 (remarks of Rep. Ritter); id. at App. 78, 80-81 (remarks of Rep. Chandler). Indeed, the bill was bitterly opposed on the ground that it "undertakes to make the negro in some respects . . . superior . . . , and gives them favors that the poor white boy in the North cannot get." Id. at 401 (remarks of Sen. McDougall). See also id. at 319 (remarks of Sen. Hendricks); id. at 362 (remarks of Sen. Saulsbury); id. at 397 (remarks of Sen. Willey); id. at 544 (remarks of Rep. Taylor). The bill's supporters defended it not by rebutting the claim of special treatment, but by pointing to the need for such treatment:
The very discrimination it makes between "destitute and suffering" negroes and destitute and suffering white paupers proceeds upon the distinction that, in the omitted case, civil rights and immunities are already sufficiently protected by the possession of political power, the absence of which in the case provided for necessitates governmental protection.
Id. at App. 75 (remarks of Rep. Phelps) .
Despite the objection to the special treatment the bill would provide for Negroes, it was passed by Congress. Id. at 421, 688. President Johnson vetoed this bill, and also a subsequent bill that contained some modifications; one of his principal [p398] objections to both bills was that they gave special benefits to Negroes. 8 Messages and Papers of the Presidents 3596, 3599, 3620, 3623 (1897). Rejecting the concerns of the President and the bill's opponents, Congress overrode the President's second veto. Cong.Globe, 39th Cong., 1st Sess., 3842, 3850 (1866).
Since the Congress that considered and rejected the objections to the 1866 Freedmen's Bureau Act concerning special relief to Negroes also proposed the Fourteenth Amendment, it is inconceivable that the Fourteenth Amendment was intended to prohibit all race-conscious relief measures. It
would be a distortion of the policy manifested in that amendment, which was adopted to prevent state legislation designed to perpetuate discrimination on the basis of race or color,
Railway Mail Assn. v. Corsi, 326 U.S. 88, 94 (1945), to hold that it barred state action to remedy the effects of that discrimination. Such a result would pervert the intent of the Framers by substituting abstract equality for the genuine equality the Amendment was intended to achieve.
As has been demonstrated in our joint opinion, this Court's past cases establish the constitutionality of race-conscious remedial measures. Beginning with the school desegregation cases, we recognized that, even absent a judicial or legislative finding of constitutional violation, a school board constitutionally could consider the race of students in making school assignment decisions. See Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, 402 U.S. 1, 16 (1971); McDaniel v. Barresi, 402 U.S. 39, 41 (1971). We noted, moreover, that a
flat prohibition against assignment of students for the purpose of creating a racial balance must inevitably conflict with the duty of school authorities to disestablish dual school systems. As we have held in Swann, the Constitution does not compel any particular degree of [p399] racial balance or mixing, but when past and continuing constitutional violations are found, some ratios are likely to be useful as starting points in shaping a remedy. An absolute prohibition against use of such a device -- even as a starting point -- contravenes the implicit command of Green v. County School Board, 391 U.S. 430 (1968), that all reasonable methods be available to formulate an effective remedy.
Board of Education v. Swann, 402 U.S. 43, 46 (1971). As we have observed, "[a]ny other approach would freeze the status quo that is the very target of all desegregation processes." McDaniel v. Barresi, supra at 41.
Only last Term, in United Jewish Organizations v. Carey, 430 U.S. 144 (1977), we upheld a New York reapportionment plan that was deliberately drawn on the basis of race to enhance the electoral power of Negroes and Puerto Ricans; the plan had the effect of diluting the electoral strength of the Hasidic Jewish community. We were willing in UJO to sanction the remedial use of a racial classification even though it disadvantaged otherwise "innocent" individuals. In another case last Term, Califano v. Webster, 430 U.S. 313 (1977), the Court upheld a provision in the Social Security laws that discriminated against men because its purpose was "‘the permissible one of redressing our society's longstanding disparate treatment of women.'" Id. at 317, quoting Califano v. Goldfarb, 430 U.S. 199, 209 n. 8 (1977) (plurality opinion). We thus recognized the permissibility of remedying past societal discrimination through the use of otherwise disfavored classifications.
Nothing in those cases suggests that a university cannot similarly act to remedy past discrimination. [n12] It is true that, [p400] in both UJO and Webster, the use of the disfavored classification was predicated on legislative or administrative action, but in neither case had those bodies made findings that there had been constitutional violations or that the specific individuals to be benefited had actually been the victims of discrimination. Rather, the classification in each of those cases was based on a determination that the group was in need of the remedy because of some type of past discrimination. There is thus ample support for the conclusion that a university can employ race-conscious measures to remedy past societal discrimination without the need for a finding that those benefited were actually victims of that discrimination.
While I applaud the judgment of the Court that a university may consider race in its admissions process, it is more than a little ironic that, after several hundred years of class-based discrimination against Negroes, the Court is unwilling to hold that a class-based remedy for that discrimination is permissible. In declining to so hold, today's judgment ignores the fact that. for several hundred years, Negroes have been discriminated against not as individuals, but rather solely because of the color of their skins. It is unnecessary in 20th-century America to have individual Negroes demonstrate that they have been victims of racial discrimination; the racism of our society has been so pervasive that none, regardless of wealth or position, has managed to escape its impact. The experience of Negroes in America has been different in kind, not just in degree, from that of other ethnic groups. It is not merely the history of slavery alone, but also that a whole people were marked as inferior by the law. And that mark has endured. The dream of America as the great melting pot has [p401] not been realized for the Negro; because of his skin color, he never even made it into the pot.
These differences in the experience of the Negro make it difficult for me to accept that Negroes cannot be afforded greater protection under the Fourteenth Amendment where it is necessary to remedy the effects of past discrimination. In the Civil Rights Cases, supra, the Court wrote that the Negro emerging from slavery must cease "to be the special favorite of the laws." 109 U.S. at 25; see supra at 392. We cannot, in light of the history of the last century, yield to that view. Had the Court, in that decision and others, been willing to
do for human liberty and the fundamental rights of American citizenship what it did . . . for the protection of slavery and the rights of the masters of fugitive slaves,
109 U.S. at 53 (Harlan, J., dissenting), we would not need now to permit the recognition of any "special wards."
Most importantly, had the Court been willing in 1896, in Plessy v. Ferguson, to hold that the Equal Protection Clause forbids differences in treatment based on race, we would not be faced with this dilemma in 1978. We must remember, however, that the principle that the "Constitution is colorblind" appeared only in the opinion of the lone dissenter. 163 U.S. at 559. The majority of the Court rejected the principle of color blindness, and for the next 60 years, from Plessy to Brown v. Board of Education, ours was a Nation where, by law, an individual could be given "special" treatment based on the color of his skin.
It is because of a legacy of unequal treatment that we now must permit the institutions of this society to give consideration to race in making decisions about who will hold the positions of influence, affluence, and prestige in America. For far too long, the doors to those positions have been shut to Negroes. If we are ever to become a fully integrated society, one in which the color of a person's skin will not determine the opportunities available to him or her, we must be willing [p402] to take steps to open those doors. I do not believe that anyone can truly look into America's past and still find that a remedy for the effects of that past is impermissible.
It has been said that this case involves only the individual, Bakke, and this University. I doubt, however, that there is a computer capable of determining the number of persons and institutions that may be affected by the decision in this case. For example, we are told by the Attorney General of the United States that at least 27 federal agencies have adopted regulations requiring recipients of federal funds to take
"affirmative action to overcome the effects of conditions which resulted in limiting participation . . . by persons of a particular race, color, or national origin."
Supplemental Brief for United States as Amicus Curiae 16 (emphasis added). I cannot even guess the number of state and local governments that have set up affirmative action programs, which may be affected by today's decision.
I fear that we have come full circle. After the Civil War, our Government started several "affirmative action" programs. This Court, in the Civil Rights Cases and Plessy v. Ferguson, destroyed the movement toward complete equality. For almost a century, no action was taken, and this nonaction was with the tacit approval of the courts. Then we had Brown v. Board of Education and the Civil Rights Acts of Congress, followed by numerous affirmative action programs. Now, we have this Court again stepping in, this time to stop affirmative action programs of the type used by the University of California.
1. The history recounted here is perhaps too well known to require documentation. But I must acknowledge the authorities on which I rely in retelling it. J. Franklin, From Slavery to Freedom (4th ed.1974) (hereinafter Franklin); R. Kluger, Simple Justice (1975) (hereinafter Kluger); C. Woodward, The Strange Career of Jim Crow (3d ed.1974) (hereinafter Woodward).
2. U.S. Dept. of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Statistical Abstract of the United States 65 (1977) (Table 94).
3. Id. at 70 (Table 102) .
5. U.S. Dept. of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Current Population Reports, Series P-60, No. 107, p. 7 (1977) (Table 1).
6. Id. at 20 (Table 14).
7. U.S. Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment and Earnings, January, 1978, p. 170 (Table 44).
9. U.S. Dept. of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Current Population Reports, Series P-60, No. 105, p. 198 (1977) (Table 47).
10. U.S. Dept. of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Statistical Abstract, supra, at 25 (Table 24).
11. Id. at 407-408 (Table 662) (based on 1970 census).
12. Indeed, the action of the University finds support in the regulations promulgated under Title VI by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare and approved by the President, which authorize a federally funded institution to take affirmative steps to overcome past discrimination against groups even where the institution was not guilty of prior discrimination. 45 CFR § 80.3(b)(6)(ii) (1977).