NEW YORK (Jan. 24)
The U.S. Supreme Court’s rejection Monday of the minority set-aside plan in Richmond, Va., viewed by civil rights activists as a sharp blow to affirmative action programs, has the full support of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith.
The ADL disclosed Tuesday that it had filed a friend-of-the-court brief last June in the case of City of Richmond vs. J.A. Croson Co.
The ADL brief opposed the city’s set-aside program, which required construction companies awarded city contracts to subcontract at least 30 percent of the contract’s dollar value to minority business enterprises.
The high court ruled 6-3 against the set-asides. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote the majority opinion. The minority opinion was written by Justice Thurgood Marshall.
Abraham Foxman, national director of the ADL, praised the decision. By invalidating the Richmond ordinance, he said, the court “has reaffirmed that the ultimate goal of affirmative action should be to ensure equality of opportunity, regardless of someone’s race.”
He said O’Connor correctly pointed out that classifications based on race carry a danger of “stigmatic harm.”
The majority opinion said Richmond’s argument that there has been discrimination in the construction industry in the past “cannot justify the use of an unyielding racial quota.”
The ruling held that states, counties and cities cannot impose race-based relief without first establishing specific evidence of discrimination.
In the court’s majority view, the Richmond plan was so broad that it applied to groups such as Hispanics and Orientals for which there was no evidence of discrimination in city contracting.
Marshall, in a stinging dissent, accused the majority of “armchair cynicism” in ignoring “abundant evidence” of “pervasive discrimination in the construction industry.”
He was joined in his dissent by Justices William Brennan and Harry Blackmun.
Foxman said the ADL’s position on affirmative action has always stated that class-based distinctions are antithetical to the concept of civil rights.
He said legitimate affirmative action “must be directed toward all individuals who are prevented from competing equally in today’s job market.”