Posts Tagged ‘Race’

A Landmark Decision or just an Affirmation?

March 24th, 2014 No comments

By: Morgan Davis
Blog Category: Racial Implications of Recent Supreme Court Decisions

The Supreme Court’s decision in Fisher v. University of Texas was greatly anticipated, but when the 13-page decision was issued, was it really a decision at all? The Court’s 7-1 decision reaffirmed the Court’s position that diversity in higher education is of great importance. However, the Court declined to settle the ongoing dispute of the legality or constitutionality of affirmative action. Ultimately, the case was remanded back to the Fifth Circuit, leaving various interest groups and universities not knowing exactly what to make of the decision. It is a win in some respects, because the decision did not invalidate the essence of affirmative action in an educational environment. Supporters of affirmative action take the Court’s decision as a sign that the Court supports the consideration of race in admission policies to ensure and promote diversity.  However, the remand will force the University of Texas to further defend the legality of its admission procedures.  On remand the “reviewing court must ultimately be satisfied that no workable race-neutral alternatives would produce the educational benefits of diversity.” The decision will ultimately encourage other colleges and universities to be proactive ensuring that their admission policies will withstand the Court’s strict scrutiny test.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race. 


After Fisher v. University of Texas: Implications for Education Research, Theory, and Practice, Fall 2023 Harvard Educational Review,

Joy Resmovits, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin Ruling Leaves Universities in Limbo, Huffington Post (June 24, 2013),

The Hidden Cost of a Raise in the Minimum Wage

February 24th, 2014 No comments

By: Joseph Winning

Blog Category: Minimum Wage & the Economy 

Unemployment rates among black teenagers in the United States have been, and will likely continue to be, on the rise. This is a relatively recent phenomenon, according to a news article by Walter Williams of the Columbia Daily Tribune. Up until the late-1950s, black teenagers played a more prominent role in the labor market than their white counterparts. In fact, as far back as 1910, before implementation of the minimum wage, “71 percent of black males older than 9 were employed, compared with 51 percent for whites.” These numbers are starkly contrasted with unemployment rates today among black teens, which are estimated at roughly 40 percent, with some cities reporting unemployment rates among black teens at over 50 percent. By comparison, the unemployment rate among white teenagers today is reported at about 20 percent.

The explanation, according to Williams, is the establishment of minimum wage law in 1938 and the subsequent increases which have followed. This explanation is especially alarming in light of the Fair Minimum Wage Act and state-level pressures to increase the minimum wage. Based on the evidence above, it may come as a surprise to learn that supporters of this recent push for an increase in the minimum wage include the Congressional Black Caucus, President Barack Obama, and black state and local officials. There is no doubt that these political entities are aware of the impact that the minimum wage has on employment opportunities among black teenagers. An explanation for this support, proffered by Williams, is that political pressures from powerful interest groups like labor unions, environmental groups, and business groups have led to trade-offs that block access to labor markets and condemn many black youths to a higher rate of unemployment. Despite paternalistic arguments which might suggest otherwise, it is conceivable that a raise to the minimum wage would do more harm than good by cutting employment opportunities for the many in order to benefit the few.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.


Walter Williams, Minimum Wage Hikes Costs Blacks Jobs, Columbia Daily Tribune, available at

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Race and Biomedical Research: Not So Black and White

February 17th, 2014 No comments

By: Dr. Robert Gorkin
Blog Category: Race & Healthcare

In a fascinating report, Ken Batai and Rick A. Kittles critically review the use of the notion of race as a variable to categorize participants in biomedical research given the recent advances in human molecular genetics.[1]  They conclude that classifications using skin color, or self-identification with a racial or ethic (SIRE) group do not yield genetically meaningful categories.  Indeed, using such traditional racial classifications can be a confounding variable.

Modern evolutionary genetics, including data from the Human Genome Project, gives strong support to the idea that Homo sapiens originated in Africa and later migrated into the other continents.  Once established, these geographically and genetically isolated populations continued to undergo genetic divergence. However, since DNA tends to be conserved, the genome contains a number of ancestry informative markers (AIM’s).

Volumes of data belie the idea that molecular genetics provides an underlying biological reality (at the DNA sequence level) that validates the notion of race.  In fact, the genetic variability within racially defined groups is often far greater than that separating the races.  The problem occurs because the term “race” carries substantial cultural and social meanings, but has no clear biological meaning.  The American Sociological Association and the American Association of Anthropologists both concur with this viewpoint.  Furthermore, the sociopolitical meaning of the term can change over time. “For example, the U.S. Bureau of the Census used eight categories of racial groups in 1890, five in 1900, seven in 1950 and by 1990, the list had grown to 16 different choices.”[2]

Nevertheless, certain AIM’s are able to give researchers reliable genetic information about an individual’s continent of origin.  However, SIRE’s for African-Americans do not seem to accurately reflect this genetic information.  For example, one study showed that only 34% of SIRE African-American’s possessed more than 90% West-African AIM’s.

The bottom line here is that SIRE’s are not necessarily good proxies for the genetic makeup of an individual. The authors recommend using AIM’s to accurately assess the individual ancestry of subjects enrolled in biomedical studies to unravel the genetics of disease.  Pharmacogenetic studies of effect of genes on the metabolism and action of drugs are another arena where individual ancestry assessments would be superior to traditional racial classifications.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.  

[1] Ken Batai & Rick A. Kittles, Race, Genetic Ancestry, and Health, 5 Race & Soc. Probs. 81-87 (2013).

[2] Id. at 83 (citation omitted).

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The Consequences of Striking Down § 4: Voter Inequality

February 3rd, 2014 No comments

By: Carla Arias

Blog Category: Racial Implications of Recent Supreme Court Decisions

The United States Supreme Court struck down § 4 of the Voting Rights Act in the summer of 2013.[1] As an integral part of civil rights law, the Voting Rights Act designates which parts of the country must have any voting law changes approved by the federal government.[2]  In a 5-4 decision, the Court held, “[a]t the same time, voting discrimination still exists; no one doubts that. The question is whether the Act’s extraordinary measures, including its disparate treatment of the States, continue to satisfy constitutional requirements. As we put it a short time ago, ‘the Act imposes current burdens and must be justified by current means.’” (emphasis added). [3] Although the decision does not overturn the Act’s ban on discriminatory voting rules, the striking down of § 4 hinders voting equality throughout the country.

Justice Ginsburg dissented stating, “[c]ontinuance would facilitate completion of the impressive gains thus far made; and…, continuance would guard against back sliding.”[4] Section 4 of the Voter Rights Act has proven incredibly successful in “increasing minority registration and access to the ballot.”[5] Section 4 should have remained in place to ensure that the increase in minority registration and access continues.

President Obama was quoted as saying, “[a]s a nation, we’ve made a great deal of progress towards guaranteeing every American the right to vote. But, as the Supreme Court recognized, voting discrimination still exists.”[6] If voter discrimination still exists, as recognized by the Supreme Court, why eliminate an act that has had such success in promoting voting equality. The striking down of § 4 will likely lead to the backsliding Justin Ginsburg noted and undue the progress President Obama emphasized.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race. 

[1] Shelby County, Ala. v. Holder, 133 S.Ct. 2612 (2013).

[2] See 42 U.S.C.A. § 1973b.

[3] Shelby County, Ala. v. Holder, 133 S.Ct. 2612 (2013).

[4]  Id. at 2619.

[5]  Id. at 2632.

[6]  Ryan J. Reilly et al., Voting Rights Act Section 4 Struck Down by Supreme Court, Huffington Post, June 25, 2013,


Why the Racial and Political Divide over the Affordable Care Act?

January 20th, 2014 No comments

By: Deanna Watson
Blog Category: Race & Healthcare

The United States is divided racially divided over the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or ObamaCare. In general, research shows that whites are the least supportive of this healthcare reform.[1] Despite not one single Republican voice in Congress, ACA was a major legislative achievement for President Barack Obama.[2] However when Republicans took control of congress in 2010, the Republicans in the House of Representatives symbolically voted unanimously to repeal the law.[3] Among other benefits, ACA extends the age of dependents able to be covered under their parents’ healthcare plan; insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions; and it extends Medicare benefits for the growing populations of our nation’s senior citizens.

With all of these new or expanded benefits, it is unclear why it is so poorly supported by many whites and Republicans. Already, the Affordable Care Act has benefitted the nearly 85% of Americans who already have insurance: 3.1 million young adults have gained coverage through the parents’ plans; 6.6 million seniors are paying less for prescription drugs; 105 million Americans are paying less for preventative care & no longer face lifetime coverage limits; 13.1 million Americans have received rebates from insurance companies; 17 million children with pre-existing conditions no longer denied coverage or charged extra.[4] Women (as well as the general population) have more access to preventative care and treatment.[5] Logically, when there is more access to prevention, the whole country and globe is better for it.

In reference to race, the ACA will level out the inequalities among races’ access to healthcare. Blacks suffer from higher rates of a range of illnesses as compared to the general population.[6] Blacks have the highest mortality rate of any racial and ethnic group for all cancers combined and for most major cancers, including stomach, liver, prostate, and colon cancers.[7]

An especially interesting provision of ACA is that insurers will be held more accountable. Health insurers must justify any rate increase of 10% or more before the increase takes effect.[8] It is clear that the healthcare system is a broken system. With the rising costs of healthcare, it just does not make sense that this issue polarizes the country the way it has.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race. 

[1] Mollyann Brodie et. al., Regional Variations in Public Opinion on the Affordable Care Act, 36 J. Health Pol. Pol’y & L. 1097, 1101 (2011).

[2] Michael Henderson & D. Sunshine Hillygus, The Dynamics of Health Care Opinion, 2008 – 2010: Partisanship, Self-Interest, and Racial Resentment, 36 J. Health Pol. Pol’y & L. 945, 945 (2011).

[3] Id.

[4] U.S. Dep’t of Health & Human Servs., The Affordable Care Act and African Americans, (last visited Oct. 11, 2013) [hereinafter ACA and African Americans].

[5] U.S. Dep’t of Health & Human Servs., The Affordable Care Act and Women, (last visited Oct. 11, 2013).

[6] ACA and African Americans, supra note 4.

[7] Id.

[8] U.S. Dep’t of Health & Human Servs., Rate Review, (last visited Oct. 11, 2013).

Affirmative Action Admission Policies After Fisher

January 6th, 2014 No comments

By: Andrew Patrick
Blog Category: Racial Implications of Recent Supreme Court Decisions

The recent United States Supreme Court decision in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin did little to clear up the issues surrounding affirmative action’s role in the higher education admission process.  The case involved a challenge to the University of Texas at Austin’s (“University”) undergraduate admission process, which considered potential applicant’s race.   The Petitioner, a white female, sued the University after being denied admission alleging that the consideration of race in the admissions process violated the Equal Protection Clause.   The 7-1 decision vacated the judgment of the Court of Appeals holding that the lower court failed to correctly apply the “strict scrutiny standard” consistent with precedent.

The opinion authored by Justice Kennedy indicated that the Fifth Circuit did not make an “independent searching examination,” which was essential in determining whether the University’s affirmative action plan was narrowly tailored.   The University had the burden of showing that there were “no workable race-neutral alternatives [which] would produce the educational benefits of diversity.”  The Court of Appeals mistakenly gave deference to the University’s judgment with respect to the means of achieving the compelling interest of diversity.   The case was remanded to the lower court where the University will be required to demonstrate that their admission process is in fact narrowly tailored to achieving the educational benefits of diversity.

Going forward, this decision imposes a significant evidentiary burden on educational institutions that consider racial classifications in the admissions process. Universities will be required to “demonstrat[e], before turning to racial classification, that available, workable race-neutral alternatives do not suffice.”


Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, 132 S.Ct. 2411 (2013).