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Programs for the Topic ‘Affirmative Action’

Monday, October 4th, 2010

Affirmative Action as Government Speech: A First Amendment Analysis of the Colorblindness Doctrine

William Carter, Professor, Temple University
Beasley School of Law

Monday October 4, 2010, 4:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m.

Arthur W. Fiske Memorial Lecture, sponsored by the Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Supreme Court affirmative action cases can be divided into two categories. First are those cases in which race-conscious government action provides a material benefit or preference to members of a minority group (e.g., Adarand and Grutter). Second are those cases where the government takes race-conscious action without causing any concrete disadvantage to non-minorities (e.g., Shaw v. Reno, Parents Involved). Under the Courts current Equal Protection doctrine, both categories of cases are presumptively unconstitutional because they both violate the principle of colorblindness.

The colorblindness doctrine is best understood as implicitly holding that non-disadvantaging affirmative action constitutes an expressive harm. This article will expand upon the existing scholarship by arguing that functionally, the Court has come to view race-conscious, non-disadvantaging government action as a form of prohibited government speech. In essence, the Court has decided that when the government takes such action, it is sending an unconstitutional message that race still matters in our society. Under the government speech doctrine, however, the government is free to express its own message provided it does not restrict or compel private speech. The fact that members of the Court disagree with this message does not make it unconstitutional.

Continue Reading – Affirmative Action as Government Speech: A First Amendment Analysis of the Colorblindness Doctrine