UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 7: Former First Lady Michelle Obama speaks during the official White House...
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Michelle Obama Reacts To Supreme Court's Affirmative Action Ruling In Powerful Statement

“My heart breaks for any young person out there who’s wondering what their future holds.”

by Jen McGuire

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday to end affirmative action policies at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina in a 6-3 majority, claiming that the policy employed racial stereotyping that is unconstitutional. This ruling will undoubtedly have serious ramifications for students of color from under-privileged and under-resourced schools applying to the elite colleges. Shortly after the ruling was announced, former First Lady Michelle Obama released a powerful statement that expressed her heartbreak for “any young person out there who’s wondering what their future holds.”

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who wrote for the 6-3 majority, argued in a statement that the affirmative action programs at the two colleges “unavoidably employ race in a negative manner” and “involve racial stereotyping,” per The New York Times. Michelle Obama, a graduate of both Harvard and Princeton, responded to the affirmative action ruling by recounting her own college experience.

“Back in college, I was one of the few Black students on my campus, and I was proud of getting into such a respected school. I knew I’d worked hard for it. But still, I sometimes wondered if people thought I got there because of affirmative action,” she wrote in a statement shared on Twitter, adding that affirmative action was a “shadow” that followed her everywhere.

“But the fact is this: I belonged,” Obama continued. “And semester after semester, decade after decade, for more than half a century, countless students like me showed they belonged, too. It wasn’t just the kids of color who benefitted, either. Every student who heard a perspective they might not have encountered, who had an assumption challenged, who had their minds and their hearts opened gained a lot as well.”

The mom of two noted that affirmative action “wasn’t perfect” but added that “it helped offer new ladders of opportunity for those who, throughout our history, have too often been denied a chance to show how fast they can climb.”

Obama pointed out that the world has come to accept that “money, power, and privilege are perfectly justifiable forms of affirmative action, while kids growing up like I did are expected to compete when the ground is anything but level. So today, my heart breaks for any young person out there who’s wondering what their future holds — and what kinds of chances will be open to them.”

The Supreme Court has now effectively given Harvard, the University of North Carolina, and others the green light to take the very real, very present issue of race off the table when it comes to admissions. In his statement, Chief Roberts said that “nothing prohibits universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected the applicant’s life, so long as that discussion is concretely tied to a quality of character or unique ability that the particular applicant can contribute to the university,” per The New York Times. In response, Angie Gabeau, the president of the Harvard Black Students’ Association, told the BBC that students “affected by their race in this country will now feel obligated to trauma-dump in their applications to show how race is affecting their lives.”

Obama concluded her statement by crediting “the strength and grit that lies inside kids who have always had to sweat a little more to climb the same ladders.”

“I hope and I pray that the rest of us are willing to sweat a little, too,” she continued. “Today is a reminder that we’ve got to do the work not just to enact policies that reflect our values of equity and fairness, but to truly make those values real in all of our schools, workplaces, and neighborhoods.”