July 7, 2023
Dear Friends and Partners:
The Center for Survivor Agency and Justice (CSAJ) is deeply disappointed and outraged by the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 29, 2023, ruling in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard, upending four decades of precedent and outlawing the use of affirmative action in university admission decisions. The decision builds on other recent dangerous rulings rolling back longstanding civil rights and jeopardizes the freedom, safety and agency of individuals from Black, Indigenous, people of color, and other marginalized communities. Our country’s history and ongoing practice of racial subordination makes the recognition of race in college admissions and other gatekeeping decisions a critical tool in advancing equity.
CSAJ works with and on behalf of survivors to create a world where all people have equal access to physical safety, economic security and human dignity. Affirmative action programs have played an important role in redressing inequality stemming from colonization, slavery, and the ongoing violence, biases, discrimination, and structural inequities which are embedded in our educational and other institutions and policies. Decades of precedent have recognized the compelling interests in diversity and academic freedom that, as Justice Sotomayor’s dissent recognized, have “sought to equalize educational opportunity in a society structured by racial segregation.” Although the majority decision is premised on the simplistic assumption that the only way to eliminate race discrimination is never to take race into account, history teaches that eliminating the use of race in college admissions will only increase the racial disparities that exacerbate inequity and contribute to economic insecurity.
The decision has clear economic and safety implications for survivors and the communities of which they are a part. As an organization focusing on advancing economic equity for survivors of gender-based violence, we are acutely aware of the ways that economic and racial inequity disproportionately impacts Black, Indigenous, and other survivors of color. Our Mapping and Advancing Equity Project, for example, builds the capacity of the field to engage in systems advocacy to address the economic and racial inequities facing gender-based violence survivors. Equipped with an equity data dashboard and lived experience, our Survivor Advocate Advisory Board is working to create a National Survivor Equity Platform that will set collective values and priorities needed to dismantle structural barriers to survivor safety. And our Access to Justice for Survivors Project helps on-the-ground advocates build a practice of economic advocacy, so that survivors can access the resources needed to live safely. We know that unless we address the persistent impact of racism both in policy initiatives and in institutional and organizational practices, including our own, we will not truly advance safety, dignity and equity for survivors.
The affirmative action decision combines with 303 Creative v. Elenis, telling business owners they can deny services to people because they are LGBTQ, and Biden v. Nebraska, striking student debt relief, and comes on the heels of last year’s decision gutting abortion rights. It should leave no doubt about the dangerous turn this Court has taken to overturn precedent and eviscerate rights that are foundational for advancing liberty and dignity. We stand with all those who reject this radical turn and recommit to marshaling our collective energies and resources to fight for equality and justice for all.
CSAJ Board of Directors and Staff