Emil Guillermo: The SCOTUS tease on affirmative action

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If you’ve been following the Pro Publica reporting on Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito and their failure to disclose their gifts from billionaire Republican donors, then you know at least one thing. The judges, who make a base pay of around $285,000, believe in affirmative action for Supreme Court justices. At least on the basis of class, not race. Or are the gifts seen akin to a “scholarship” or a “fellowship”? The only ship involved seems to be a yacht on which Thomas and his wife, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, spent nine days cruising Indonesia, a $500,000 vacation paid for by billionaire Harlan Crow.

So I guess the question is, do the justices, after they get theirs, believe in a little affirmative action for everyone else?

This is just one thing that’s come out as the high court plays out its grand finale for the year, a final week of boom-boom-and boom.

Yet to come this week, a decision on the Biden plan to forgive up to $10,000 in federal student loan debt for people with incomes below $125,000 a year.And then there’s an LGBTQ rights case, in which a Christian website designer refused to create wedding websites for same-sex couples. There already have been some surprising decisions that have upheld the Voting Rights Act. The court ordered both Alabama and Louisiana to redraw maps to allow for greater Black voter representation.

But, of course, the decision most Asian Americans are waiting for is the one involving Harvard and the University of North Carolina and their use of race in college admissions. It could mean the end of what we know as affirmative action.

This is a case where anti-civil rights advocates led by Ed Blum gathered up Asian Americans rejected by Harvard and used them to claim the admissions process is discriminatory.

But it’s the same admissions process that also resulted in recent Harvard freshman classes near 30 percent Asian American.

Someone should send the aggrieved a reality check. It’s OK to go to your backup school when your backup is Yale. Or Amherst. Or UCLA.

But to Blum and anti-civil rights activists, the Asian American Aggrieved (the triple A’s) were the perfect victims, providing a yellow face for whites like Blum trying to bring down affirmative action.

If the court bans the use of race, we already know what happens based on the experience of my home state, California.

In the most Asian state in the nation, affirmative action ended in 1996, when California passed a ballot initiative deceptively called “The Civil Rights Initiative.”

The underrepresented minority population in the state has gone up by 7.4 percent. But the college enrollment at the University of California Berkeley has only gone up 1.7 percent, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The Chronicle’s analysis of the ten states that have banned affirmative action shows “five states saw a growing gap between their underrepresented-minority population and in-state underrepresented-minority enrollment at selective institutions. In three states, the gap shrank, and at two the gap stayed the same.”

You might say, the situation is still bad. But it’s not the end of the world.

We’re still going to have to find a better way to assure equity.

Especially when you consider the other result of banning affirmative action in California.

The Asian American numbers went way higher. It’s up to 40 percent Asian American at some of the UC schools.

Now imagine that happens at Harvard, where the freshman class is already nearing 30 percent. What if it goes up to 40 percent Asian?

If whites, currently in the 40 percent range drop to 30 percent, will Ed Blum be trolling for aggrieved whites to sue Harvard for letting in all the Asians that got in during this first prolonged lawsuit?

White supremacy has evolved into white preservation.

It’s not like whites don’t already benefit from affirmative action for legacies and high donors. Trump-in-law Jared Kushner got into Harvard after his father made a multi-million dollar donation to the school.

What about all the poor whites that conservatives keep pining for?You know, the J.D. Vances of the world who must have their hillbilly epiphanies in Harvard Yard!

Let’s face it.

White affirmative action has always been a thing. It just took Asian Americans to crack the process wide open and make us all see the reality.

And now we are left with conservative SCOTUS justices poised this week to be the arbiters on affirmative action.

But as I’ve said. It won’t be the last word.


The New York Times had an op-ed “While We Wait for the Supreme Court.”

I talk about it on Ep. 546 of Emil Amok’s Takeout here.


NOTE: I will talk about this column and other matters on “Emil Amok’s Takeout,” my AAPI micro-talk show. Live @2p Pacific. Livestream on Facebook; my YouTube channel; and Twitter. Catch the recordings on

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Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator. Updates at Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.

The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF’s views or policies.

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