Issues & Insights: Virginia High School Racial Discrimination Case Deserves Supreme Court Hearing, Too

December 07, 2023 | By WAI WAH CHIN

Wai Wah Chin is the founding president of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance Greater New York and an adjunct fellow of the Manhattan Institute.

An Ivy League name generally gets attention. That certainly happened worldwide with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June of Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard (SFFA). And right now, a Virginia public high school case petitioning to be heard at the Supreme Court merits equal attention, for it centrally addresses how SFFA gets implemented.

In its June SFFA decision, the Supreme Court banned racially discriminatory college admissions schemes. The Court stated that admitting or rejecting students based on their race, rather than the individual applicant’s unique quality or ability — “merit” — violates key constitutional principles of fairness and equal protection.

The progressive establishments and their political backers, including the Biden White House, spurned the SFFA decision and signaled their determination to circumvent it. The trick is to violate the Court’s ruling in the implementation phase via facially race-neutral racial schemes.

The professionalized, multibillion-dollar Diversity-Equity-Inclusion (DEI) complex is diligently hatching such schemes, from crafting essay topics designed to ferret out race to eliminating or impairing truth-revealing standardized tests (in which the frightened College Board itself is complicit, having committed to eliminating items that are perceived to be harder for some races/ethnicities), to dumbing down high school curricula and inflating high school grading (for “equity”), to cherry-picking ersatz “socioeconomic” or geographic factors to reverse-engineer race proxies, to doubling down on subjective, “holistic” evaluations despite Harvard’s fiasco with “personality” scores.

So right after its loss at the Supreme Court, Harvard added a new application essay prompt asking how applicants’ “life experiences” would contribute to Harvard’s goal of a “diverse” student body — an obvious attempt to continue to implement racial preferences in stealth.

That’s just for now. Expect a stream of increasingly devious schemes from the DEI complex in coming years, resulting in expensive, lengthy lawsuits to torment families whose window of relevance in the admissions fight lasts only a year or two. And while endless litigation crawls on, racial discrimination persists — which is the agenda. A Virginia case offers the Supreme Court a most appropriate opportunity to put a definitive end to that agenda.

A short drive from the Supreme Court, in Alexandria, Virginia, sits the nation’s (former) top-ranked public high school, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJ). Like Harvard, TJ felt it had a “TMA problem” — Too Many Asians — resulting from its race-blind meritocratic admissions, so it implemented facially race-neutral racist admissions, with disastrous impact on meritorious Asian students (as well as on its academic rigor). Over the summer, parents of students at TJ appealed to the Supreme Court in their 2021 lawsuit against Fairfax County School Board.

TJ is not unique. From coast to coast, pre-college public schools have attempted to racially balance themselves with facially race-neutral policies, from gifted and talented programs at the youngest levels to screened middle and high school programs, to competitive exam high schools such as the Boston Exam Schools, San Francisco’s Lowell High School, the New York City Specialized High Schools, and TJ of course.

The exam high schools, in particular, are national treasures. For example, New York’s Specialized High Schools produced 14 Nobel Prize science winners. Parents there and at several other programs have brought racial discrimination lawsuits, and several already sit before their respective appellate courts.

Unlike in higher ed (before SFFA), the law has always prohibited K-12 schools from using race-based admissions schemes, so these pre-college cases are all what may be called “phase two” of the litigation: stomping-out of facially race-neutral racist implementations in public education. By agreeing to hear the TJ case, the Supreme Court could make it clear that indirect schemes of racial preferences are just as pernicious and unconstitutional as colleges’ pre-SFFA’s openly racially discriminatory schemes.

It is clear what the DEI complex is up to: they want to play whack-a-mole with the Court and families with progressively devious schemes to bury the tell-tale tracks of illegal race-based admissions schemes deeper and deeper. By doing so, they keep racial discrimination alive and wait for a favorable Court.

A clear decision in TJ that directly confronts the DEI complex’s plan — one proposal for which is to subject it to strict scrutiny — could decisively finish what SFFA started and put the kibosh on the whack-a-mole. Then, the Court would fulfill SFFA’s promise regarding not discriminating through the use of race proxies — “what cannot be done directly cannot be done indirectly.”