The U.S. Supreme Court this week sent us back in time, with a series of rulings that target hard-fought gains made by minority communities in recent times.
For years, conservatives had an eye on the Supreme Court as a means to roll back progress. They have now succeeded beyond their wildest expectations.
Last year, the court tossed aside generations of precedent established by Roe v. Wade and put women’s health at risk across the land in its Dobbs decision.
We know from our work in Colorado that the decision is at odds with public opinion. According to our 2022 Colorado Latino Policy Agenda (CLPA), nearly 70% of Latino adults support passing laws to protect access to safe abortions, spanning virtually every demographic – Democrats (74%), Republicans (60%), Independents (65%), men (70%), women (67%), and across the religious spectrum, including Catholics (65%).
Then, in the last week, the court continued its backward march.
On Friday, they overturned Colorado’s anti-discrimination law, ruling in favor of a Colorado website designer who said she did not want to build websites for same-sex couples who are getting married.
We must be clear on this point: The impact will be felt by all minority communities because when we allow discrimination of one group, it opens the door for other groups to be targeted.
It’s not long ago when it was common to see businesses with signs that read “No Dogs, No Mexicans Allowed.”
Latinos know too well how it feels when businesses and institutions discriminate against us because of our language, ethnicity or immigration status. This ruling opens up the possibility of businesses and institutions discriminating against people they do not like, all under the guise of religious rights or First Amendment protections. It is deplorable.
But it’s part of a trend.
On Thursday, the court ruled that affirmative action programs used to build diversity and provide equitable access to higher education for minorities at the University of North Carolina and Harvard University were “imponderable” and “opaque.” That decision effectively strikes down race-conscious admissions at colleges and universities across the country.
In the ruling, Chief Justice Roberts said giving Latino and Black applicants an edge over other applicants in striving for diversity violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. It’s as if he — and the other justices writing for the majority — believe that 200+ years of slavery, racism and building of systems that are off-limits to or out of reach of Latino and Black families have somehow suddenly disappeared.
Experts say that following the ruling, employer-run diversity initiatives could be the next to go.
And then, adding insult to injury, the court on Friday struck down President Biden’s student-loan forgiveness plan. The net effect is that it saddles millions of borrowers with crushing debt — which will almost certainly be felt hardest in minority communities.
With these decisions, we are taking steps backward. Higher ed institutions today do not reflect the diversity of the country and these rulings will further exacerbate the racial inequities in this country.
This court, which includes 3 justices appointed by former President Donald Trump, is proof that we must encourage people to show up for every election
We will continue our fight for justice because we know that there are forces actively working against us. We also know that the best way to effect change is by showing up, and by being heard.
Alex Sánchez is President and CEO of Voces Unidas.