Bakke Wins, Quotas Lose

But the divided Supreme Court endorses affirmative action based on race

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Appropriately, Bakke Attorney Colvin is already anticipating such cases. "What about Bakke Junior?" he asks. "What about the student who comes along and questions the application of the program?

If they can assign 50 points to minority status for admission, why can't they assign 500 points?"

This prospect of endless litigation is not appealing. "Litigation is a terrible way of solving complicated social issues," says David Riesman, Harvard professor of social sciences. "What I fear we are facing now is full employment for lawyers, as the rising sense of entitlement among groups and individuals takes hold with more bitterness at all levels." On the other hand, it can be said that this argument and redefinition is essential to the gradual resolution of race relations in America. It is a process that demands of both whites and blacks that they fight for their interests, individually as well as collectively, in the courtroom as well as the marketplace and the voting booth.

In some ways, perhaps, the Bakke case failed to live up to its advance billing. It did not provide a decisive answer to a burning question. It did not say: thus far and no further. For some, such caution is a sign of indecisiveness, a reluctance to confront major problems. But diffidence on the part of the courts is often well advised. The Supreme Court may not be following the election returns, as is often charged, but it is attentive to political reality, the art of the possible in a society of great numbers of competing and often conflicting groups. Blacks remain free to continue to press for greater representation in schools and jobs; the minorities that make up the white majority are free to continue to assert their needs as well.

Many more Bakke-like cases are sure to follow, and none of them is likely to be final. In an evolving democratic society, there are, inevitably, no final answers.

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