top of page

WOMEN+POWER 2023: Justice Sonia Sotomayor

The United States Supreme Court struck down affirmative action in college admission, blocking higher educational institutions from considering race in admissions decisions.

In a dissenting opinion on the decision spanning nearly 70 pages, Justice Sonia Sotomayor — joined by Justices Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson — argued that the court’s conservative majority was “entrenching racial inequality in education.”

Citing the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, Sotomayor argued that the amendment’s guarantee of racial equality “can be enforced through race-conscious means in a society that is not, and has never been, colorblind.”

In striking down affirmative action, Sotomayor argued, the court is cementing “a superficial rule of colorblindness” in an “endemically segregated society.”

“Today, this Court stands in the way and rolls back decades of precedent and momentous progress. It holds that race can no longer be used in a limited way in college admissions to achieve such critical benefits,” wrote Sotomayor. “In so holding, the Court cements a superficial rule of colorblindness as a constitutional principle in an endemically segregated society where race has always mattered and continues to matter.”

Much of Sotomayor’s dissent details the history of race-conscious policies in America the following the abolition of slavery, ranging from laws enacted immediately after the end of the Civil War to the Court’s 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education.

She goes on to argue that the court’s decision is “grounded in the illusion that racial inequality was a problem of a different generation.”

“Entrenched racial inequality remains a reality today,” wrote Sotomayor. “Ignoring race will not equalize a society that is racially unequal. What was true in the 1860s, and again in 1954, is true today: Equality requires acknowledgment of inequality.”

bottom of page