Bakke Wins, Quotas Lose

But the divided Supreme Court endorses affirmative action based on race

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N.A.A.C.P. Executive Director Benjamin Hooks called the decision "a mixed bag, both a victory and a defeat." Coretta Scott King saw neither defeat nor victory, but warned that "the decision could be misinterpreted by people who want to use it to their own advantage. The people who were against us are going to take this as a signal." Vernon Jordan of the National Urban League denounced the outlawing of the Davis program, but he felt that the court's endorsement of race as an element in university admissions "should constitute a green light to go forward with acceptable affirmative-action programs."

Not all blacks, in fact, are comfortable with quotas, which seem to stigmatize them as second-class citizens in need of special remedies. Says Thomas Sowell, professor of economics at U.C.L.A.: "The message that comes through loud and clear is that minorities are losers who will never have anything unless someone gives it to them."

High Administration officials emphasized the hopeful possibilities, arguing that the court had approved what the Government was already doing, "This is the first time the Supreme Court has upheld affirmative action," said U.S. Attorney General Griffin Bell after briefing President Carter, "and it has done it in about as strong a way as possible." HEW Secretary Joseph Califano was equally emphatic. The decision, he said, "strongly supports this nation's continuing effort to live up to its historic promise—to bring minorities and other disadvantaged groups into the mainstream of American society through admissions policies that recognize the importance of diverse, integrated educational institutions."

Many educational institutions have adopted affirmative-action programs without overt federal pressure, so there is no reason to expect them to abandon their efforts. (President David Saxon of the University of California system, which will now have to admit Bakke, managed to call the court's approval of affirmative action "a great victory for the university.") Stanford Political Scientist Seymour Martin Lipset believes that "racial quotas could become a sort of unwritten condition, like geographic quotas. Then race becomes subjective on the part of admissions directors, and minorities could be either more or less discriminated against. But in this day and age, minorities will probably get the advantage if left to subjective selection." Adds Norman Dorsen, board chairman of the American Civil Liberties Union: "Institutionally and practically, it is the school admissions officers and administrators who will be crucial in determining what the impact of the Bakke decision will be."

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