PENNumbra publishes responses to The River Runs Dry: When Title VI Trumps State Anti–Affirmative Action Laws
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This issue contains responses to The River Runs Dry: When Title VI Trumps State Anti–Affirmative Action Laws by Kimberly West-Faulcon.
In The River Runs Dry: When Title VI Trumps State Anti–Affirmative Action Laws, Professor Kimberly West-Faulcon considers whether universities that completely abolish affirmative action to comply with state anti–affirmative action initiatives may actually be breaking the law with respect to Title VI. Using statistical tests for identifying Title VI disparate impact, she analyzes selective California and Washington public university admissions cycles after the enactment of anti–affirmative action laws and finds racial disparities in admissions to affirmative action–less universities of sufficient magnitude that, if unjustified, could establish that an institution has a compelling interest in considering race to comply with federal antidiscrimination law. Based on this analysis, she concludes that state anti–affirmative action laws may permit the consideration of race if undertaken to remedy federal “racial effect discrimination.”
In Do We Care Enough About Racial Inequality? Reflections on The River Runs Dry, Professor Guy-Uriel Charles asserts that while West-Faulcon has provided an apt legal tool to address racial inequality in education, the problem is not a lack of legal tools but the failure of the legal system to recognize the dignity of people of color in constitutional analysis. Charles argues that legal academics need to make not just legal arguments but a renewed case why we ought to care about racial inequality.
In Doctrinal Dilemma, Professor Girardeau Spann describes West-Faulcon’s argument as both analytically sound and enticingly clever but demonstrates that doctrinal arguments can likewise be developed by socially powerful opponents that are cogent enough to evade West-Faulcon’s conclusions. Consequently, Spann argues that legal scholars seeking to promote racial justice confront a serious dilemma: continue to make doctrinal arguments and reinforce the legitimacy of a social system that uses law as a tool for the continued oppression of racial minorities; or stop participating and risk losing those sporadic concession that even an oppressive social system must occasionally make to prevent bottled-up frustrations from ripening into serious threats of destabilizing change.