The Supreme Court continues to chip away at our progress. Last year, they attacked the Voting Rights Act. This week, they voted to uphold the state of Michigan's ban on affirmative action using race in university admissions.
Proposition 209, passed in 1996, amended our own state constitution to prohibit government institutions from considering race, sex, or ethnicity in public employment, public contracting or public education.
We've seen the results in California ever since. The percentages of African Americans among entering freshmen at the University of California-Berkeley and UCLA were the lowest among the nation's top universities in 2011.* While the University community in California has become increasingly diverse, it has not kept pace with demographic changes. In 2008-09, the University community was 14 percent Chicano/Latino compared to 34 percent for California as a whole. African Americans represented 5 percent of the University community compared to 7 percent for California as a whole.*
We do not live in a race-blind world, we are not yet on a level playing field for all. Every child today does not have access to a good education and an equal opportunity to succeed. A growing achievement gap affecting students of color threatens our communities, and we're still looking for solutions to close that gap. The Supreme Court closed the door on universities to consider this fact during the admissions process.
As Martin Luther King Jr. put it, "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." Until that day, we must remember that his struggle to create equal opportunity for all people has been passed on to us - and fight to lift up people that need a helping hand on the ladder toward success. The Supreme Court just made this fight harder, but we shall overcome.