National Black Child Development Institute (NBCDI) • Dr Leah Austin, President

BCDI Philadelphia & Vicinity • Lola M Rooney, President

BCDI & Current Events

July 4 2023


How do these rulings impact you, your family, and/or the families you serve?

National Black Child Development Institute President Leah Austin, EdD., released this statement in response to the Supreme Court ruling to tear down affirmative action in the following cases: a 6-2 vote in Students for Fair Admissions Inc. v. President, and  Fellows of Harvard College, alongside a 6-3 ruling in Students for Fair Admissions Inc. v. University of N.C. at Chapel Hill.

OFFICIAL STATEMENT — In this country, where no policy is race-neutral, we are responsible for ensuring opportunity for people who have been historically blocked from accessing resources. These/This ruling(s) will have a devastating impact on the lives of millions of Black families across the country. Black children deserve joy and justice. They deserve every chance to achieve their fullest potential. History has its eyes on us, all of us. We must ensure the challenges we face today aren’t the obstacles holding children back tomorrow.

Eliminating affirmative action will do irreparable damage to Black children by limiting access to vital resources to which every American child has a right. History and research show who stands to lose the most when we restrict our environments to only allow some to thrive. There is no assurance that access to higher education will be equitable for black children and families, furthering disenfranchisement from access to fundamental needs and to society. Dismantling affirmative action will weaken some of our most vital resources—equitable healthcare, access to education, upward economic mobility—these things add up. And Black children will bear the brunt of the cost.

Student loan forgiveness allows Black families to give their children brighter futures and further academic achievement. The evidence is clear; the impact of student loan debt reaches far beyond just the borrower—it robs Black children of their futures by eliminating access to resources that can ensure a thriving family unit.

Anti-discrimination laws are a necessary safeguard for equality. The LGBTQ+ community and any marginalized community deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Black children deserve a future where they can express themselves as they are, not as the world sees them. The recent Supreme Court ruling on LGBTQ+ protections has left Black LGBTQ+ people, especially Black children, vulnerable to physical harm and cut off from employment opportunities and essential healthcare.

Dear friends: This week a lot of folks will mark the independence of the United States from Great Britain, but for Black and Brown Americans, and those committed to racial justice, we are feeling something less than celebratory this year (and every year, for that matter). A layered, persistent, and consistent sense of being shackled to our past pervades our communities.   

Last week’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that the admissions programs of Harvard University and the University of North Carolina violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment is essentially the death knell for race conscious admissions programs and presents an existential threat to a host of other work to bring greater racial diversity, representation, equity, and overall fairness to public life.  

Affirmative action and other racial and ethnic preferences in college admissions have been an essential mechanism for historically disadvantaged groups to gain entry to highly selective universities—what is an overwhelmingly white-contructed and fervently vigilantly and vigorously maintained world. Predominantly white institutions with selective admissions programs, even with these preferences, admit Black and Brown students at far lower rates than their white peer as a proportion of their overall population.  Somewhere on the order of 5% of students in selective PWIs are Black—a proportion less than half of the national population breakdown. 

That under-representation is driven by a host of causes, structural barriers to the success of Black students and communities, and pernicious iterations of stemic racism across the lives of Black and Brown people generally and students specifically.  Add to that the significant and blatantly racist application of so-called “legacy” preferences, where as Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez noted 70% of Harvard’s legacy applicants are white, and we see what’s behind the crushingly low rates of admissions rates for Black and Brown students.  

But as Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson wrote in her laudatory dissent, the Court’s majority seems to be as gleefully, persistently, and obtusely blind to that reality as the “race-blind” policies they seek to advance.

As Justice Jackson observed:
With Let-them-eat-cake obliviousness, today, the Majority pulls the ripcord and announces 'colorblindness for all' by legal fiat. But deeming race irrelevant in law does not make it so in life.

The Supreme Court majority does not choose to see, know, or understand that being Black or Brown in America is not an attribute or a trait of a person, rather it is foundational, essential, and core to the very being of Black and Brown Americans. Our Blackness is inseverable from our person, the challenges of such, as a consequence of centuries of intentional racial injustice and, conversely, by virtue of the beautiful strength, creativity, and brilliance of the Blackness of our ancestors.

But the Supreme Court majority is once again blind to this. Chief Justice John Roberts outed himself fully on this point when he wrote, “In other words, the student must be treated based on his or her experiences as an individual — not on the basis of race,” he wrote. “Many universities have for too long done just the opposite.”

Affirmative action policies were never about looking beyond or outside of the individual, rather they were intended to fully account for the true breadth of human experience, the expansive way that race shapes reality for individuals in this society.  

This is a moment that requires action from each of us. We must raise our voices and leverage our platforms to speak truth in light of these lies and mistruths. We have to continue to fight and advocate for a fair and just education system.

At the Center for Black Educator Development we know that the purest form of activism is teaching Black children well. Join our movement to continue to provide opportunities for young people to learn and grow.

In solidarity, 

Sharif El-Mekki