Attorney General Eric Holder took a subtle jab at the right wing of the Supreme Court Wednesday for its decision to uphold a Michigan ban on using affirmative action in college admissions.
During a diversity event at the Justice Department, Holder chided those who see the nation's first black president and attorney general as proof "that this country's long struggle to overcome disparity and discrimination has ended."
Just the day before, the high court ruled that a Michigan voter initiative did not violate the Constitution in prohibiting the state’s public colleges and universities from factoring race into their admissions process. Holder praised Justice Sonia Sotomayor -- who delivered an impassioned defense before the courtroom -- for calling on her colleagues to confront racial inequality rather than sweep it under a rug.
"But as Justice Sonia Sotomayor said just yesterday in her courageous and personal dissent in the Michigan college admissions case, we ought not, 'wish away, rather than confront, the racial inequality that exists in our society. ... The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to speak openly and candidly on the subject of race,'" Holder said.
The 6-2 ruling, though doesn't knock down affirmative action itself, effectively allows states to end racial preferences in college admissions if voters choose.
Holder said the reality is that the U.S. still has a long way to go before the promise of equal justice and opportunity is fully realized, and opening the conversation is just the start.
"Progress will require not just open and honest dialogue, but a willingness to confront these difficult issues through principled action - to address and remediate the lingering impacts of racial discrimination," he said.