Prominent Illinois Leaders React to Supreme Court Decision

The Supreme Court’s landmark decision to strike affirmative action from college admissions drew a flurry of criticism from prominent Illinois democratic leaders. All condemned the ruling by the conservative majority court, pointing out that it effectively rolls back decades of progress and unfairly targets people of color. 

U. S. Representative Danny K. Davis

In his statement, Rep. Davis said the decision will only help to perpetuate “systemic inequalities.”

“While I respect the authority of the Supreme Court, I deeply disagree with their decision on colleges and universities. This ruling undermines our progress in leveling the playing field and promoting diversity in higher education. Education is a transformative tool that should address historical injustices and promote equal opportunity. By restricting the ability of colleges and universities to consider race as a factor in admissions, we risk perpetuating systemic inequalities and hindering the pursuit of a truly inclusive society. We must continue fighting for policies that promote fairness, access, and diversity in our educational institutions, ensuring every student has a chance to thrive and contribute to our nation’s greatness.” 

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois

Senator Durbin stated that the Supreme Court’s decision will only make America “less equal.”

“I’m disappointed in the Supreme Court’s ruling effectively barring the use of race as a factor in college admissions. The Court’s conservative majority just upended nearly 50 years of established precedent in a move that undermines the progress our country has made advancing racial justice.

America’s ever-evolving commitment to the fundamental right to live free from discrimination requires us to acknowledge historical wrongs. Tearing down support for historically marginalized populations makes our country less equal, not more.

The impact of this decision will be felt immediately, as universities struggle to adapt to a troubling new reality that ignores the compelling and valuable interest of diversity in a student body — and students of color will face admissions cycles that devalue their lived experience in America.” 

Gov. JB Pritzker

Gov. Pritzker stated that the ruling will only “set us back.” However, he did write that Illinois, which he referred to as the “Land of Lincoln and Obama,” will “continue to uplift our students of color.” 

“The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Affirmative Action is a travesty — reversing nearly 45 years of precedent that advances equity throughout our country’s higher education institutions.

The damage caused to Black communities by slavery and Jim Crow Laws, to Hispanics and Native Americans by a legacy of discrimination and oppression has not nearly been reversed.

For centuries, students from historically underrepresented and underserved communities were locked out of higher education — preventing upward mobility and stunting economic development for generations to come. Affirmative action admissions practices were a critical step towards creating educational environments that are representative of our diverse nation, while righting the wrongs of our past.

This decision only sets us back.

But here in the Land of Lincoln and Obama, we will continue to uplift our students of color — promoting inclusion and expanding access through record-levels of funding for higher education institutions and our MAP Grant Program, so that every student has the opportunity to earn a degree.

To students of color throughout the Land of Lincoln and the entire United States: you belong in our institutions. And no archaic ruling will ever change that.”

Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton

Castigating the Supreme Court’s ruling as “a step in the wrong direction,” Lt. Gov. Stratton said the move to end affirmative action in college admissions will only hinder “the pursuit of a bright future” for so many students.

“We cannot go back in the journey for justice and opportunity for all. Today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to revoke affirmative action in college admissions is a step in the wrong direction, placing thousands of students at risk of discrimination in the pursuit of a bright future.

This is nothing short of an attempt to resegregate higher education. To succeed in our society, a diverse student body must be a part of our institutions of higher learning. Affirmative action has been an academic lifeline for decades that paved an equitable path into higher education for Black and Brown communities across the country. Diverse voices belong in our future, and they deserve support in overcoming barriers propped up by a history of systemic racism.

In Illinois, we believe in a vision of an education system that is fair, just, and uplifts all. From investing in scholarships for educators from underrepresented communities so students can learn from people who look like them and understand their experiences, to increasing state funding for MAP grants so even more can access an affordable education, our administration will continue to create and expand pathways to academic access.

We are proud of our diversity because we know it makes us stronger. Today’s decision does not represent who we are in Illinois, and we are committed to advocating for our students who are seeking a brighter future across our state. 

U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth

Casting the high court as “ultra-conservative,” Senator Duckworth said the ruling not only dealt a “devastating blow to progress,” but also to “equity and equality for all.” 

“For decades, affirmative action helped chip away at systemic barriers and discrimination against students of color in our education system’s college admissions process. Let’s be clear: colorblindness has never been a true friend of fairness — it ignores our history and perpetuates discrimination. In ending affirmative action, today’s misguided ruling from the far-right, ultra-conservative Supreme Court is a devastating blow to progress, equity and equality for all. In every facet of our society, diversity always makes us stronger — and I’ll continue to do everything I can to help expand opportunities and make sure every American has a fair shot at accessing higher education.” 

U.S. Rep. Jonathan Jackson

Rep. Jackson argued that affirmative action is “not a special favor but a societal obligation” that serves to “right the scales of justice.” Chillingly he added that the court’s decision sends the following message: “it is acceptable for our young Black and Brown men to be soldiers, yet their path to become CEOs is inexplicably constrained…”

“Today’s Supreme Court decision, by a 6-3 vote, to overturn affirmative action marks a disappointing stride away from the path of progress our nation has been making toward social justice since 1978. This ruling sharply contrasts with the three notable times the Supreme Court has upheld affirmative action, specifically in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978), Grutter v. Bollinger (2003), and Fisher v. University of Texas (2013 and 2016).

These landmark decisions recognized race as a valid consideration in university admissions, serving to counterbalance systemic and institutionalized racism that has restricted opportunities for generations of Americans. Affirmative action is not a special favor but a societal obligation and a direct response to centuries of ‘negative action.’ It reflects the teachings of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., serving to right the scales of justice.

We should not forget that Rev. Dr. King viewed affirmative action as an act of atonement, believing that ‘the moral justification for special measures for Negroes is rooted in the robberies inherent in the institution of slavery.’ As we face the disheartening reality of this ruling, his words still echo through time and hold true. 

It is striking, however, that while the Supreme Court overthrows affirmative action in higher education, it leaves it intact for the military. This sends an unsettling message – it is acceptable for our young Black and Brown men to be soldiers, yet their path to become CEOs is inexplicably constrained…” 

Speaker of The House Emanuel ‘Chris’ Welch 

Illinois Speaker of the House Welch said the decision will only perpetuate racial exclusion, but he also vowed that the work will continue to ensure that everyone in Illinois will have access to “a world-class education.”

“Once again, this Supreme Court has cast aside decades of precedent. Once again, this Supreme Court is targeting marginalized populations. And once again, this Supreme Court is telling a generation of young people that they will have fewer opportunities than generations before them.

“Today’s decision is not only out of touch with the majority of people in this country, but it erodes the very foundation of our democracy. Turning a blind eye to systemic inequities will not end racial exclusion, it will perpetuate it. That’s why, once again, Illinois must resolve to move in a fundamentally better direction. As we evaluate the new framework this Court has imposed, we will work to ensure everyone in our state has access to a world-class education and the opportunity to pursue their dreams.”

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle

Commissioner Preckwinkle was blunt in her assessment of the decision. 

“Today’s ruling is one firmly rooted in racism.

While not a perfect solution, affirmative action has been critical as we promote diversity and inclusion in institutions that had systematically excluded individuals on the basis of race throughout our history. As leaders, we have a duty to rectify the wrongs of this systemic racism.  Now, what was an instrument of hope–that cut through the discrimination that still exists in our country and helped open doors for already qualified students–will be out of reach for those of us who recognize that duty.

Moving forward, we must continue advocating for policies that address systemic inequality and promote diversity. We must continue working toward a society that embraces the contributions of all individuals. The fight for equity, equality and justice continues despite this setback.”

Mayor Brandon Johnson

Mayor Johnson weighed in on the long-range implications of the decision, stating that it “will only further divide communities.” But he also said those inequities will bring “opportunities for organizing and excellence in the face of struggle.”

“Today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that will effectively end affirmative action is devastating for decades of progress toward creating equitable and inclusive education opportunities for students of color. Affirmative action was a means by which generations of children were allowed access to institutions, access to ideas, and access to cultures that a wicked system of discrimination had long excluded them from. This decision will only further divide communities and strain existing inequities in higher education, but through those inequities will come opportunities for organizing and excellence in the face of struggle.” 

U.S. Representative Jesus “Chuy” Garcia

Rep. Garcia said the overturning of affirmative action and returning to colorblind admissions is only “doubling down on a legacy of segregation and exclusion.”

“Today, the Supreme Court issued another ruling that takes away our rights and sets us back decades. To quote Justice Brown Jackson’s dissent, ‘deeming race irrelevant in law does not make it so in life.’ Overturning affirmative action and returning to a mythical ‘colorblind’ admissions policy means doubling down on a legacy of segregation and exclusion. And to be clear, there is nothing colorblind about ending affirmative action while legacy admissions continue. 

“This decision rips away education access from communities already facing disinvestment and inequitable paths to opportunity. It also undermines a diverse workforce, our economy, and our future. This is a devastating ruling from a cruel Supreme Court.”

Former Mayor Lori Lightfoot

Lightfoot decried the Supreme Court’s decision, saying that the conservative majority “is fine rigging the game against those of us who have been victims of systemic racism.”

“Once again taking a wrecking ball to its own precedent, the Supreme Court has, by decree, ignored the terrible history of race in this country and how its use as a cudgel continues to reverberate to the detriment of people of color in this country. Race still matters, and pretending that it does not shows that the Supreme Court majority is fine rigging the game against those of us who have been victims of systemic racism. But I still believe in democracy, and we will ultimately prevail and continue to open up opportunities for all Americans, especially those who have been locked out for far too long.”

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