The Supreme Court on Thursday rolled back affirmative action at U.S. colleges and universities, ruling they can no longer take race into consideration when admitting new students.
The court held, in a 6-3 opinion for the conservative majority written by Chief Justice John Roberts, that Harvard and the University of North Carolina's admissions programs violate the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.
The controversial ruling was both publicly praised and criticized, largely along party lines. Several GOP presidential hopefuls spoke out in support, including entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, who spoke to ABC News’ Linsey Davis about why he believes the Supreme Court made the right decision.
LINSEY DAVIS: All right. So I want to start out with something that you posted on Twitter saying, “Affirmative action is the single greatest form of institutional racism in America today.” Why do you feel that way?
RAMASWAMY: I think by definition, there are institutions that regularly take race into account as a factor on whether or not someone gets a job or whether or not someone gets a seat in college. By definition, that's institutionalized racism. And I think the Supreme Court made the right decision today to vote on the side of meritocracy over race-based preferences. I think that's a step forward. It's not a destination.
As the next U.S. president, If I'm elected, I would eliminate race-based affirmative action in every other sphere of American life as well, including in the economy, where it runs rampant today.
DAVIS: So I want to just throw some numbers out there, right? The University of California system banned the use of race in admissions in 1996. In 1996, 7% of the students there were Black. Today, that number is 2%. If you look at University of Michigan, before they passed similar laws in 2006, Black enrollment was 7%. By 2021, it was just 4%. So we see clearly what happens. There's a downward trend when it comes to diversity. Is that a good thing?
RAMASWAMY: Well, look, I think what's not a good thing is putting people into positions that they're actually not qualified to have. What this actually should wake us up to is the reality of the failures of early education, K-12 education, starting at a young age. That's evidence of the fact that many poor Americans and Black Americans do tend to be poorer than white Americans, for example, do not have access to good public education, starting even in kindergarten or first grade.
That's where we need to focus. I know that's not an easy solution. I know that everyone's looking for a Band-Aid, but a Band-Aid at the end of the process does not solve the failures early on. So we should worry less about diversity, visually speaking, and more about lifting up everyone to give them equality of opportunity. That's the way I’ll lead the country.
DAVIS: But how do you go about giving equality of opportunity, when you're saying basically for some people, as you just said, there can be, whether it's socioeconomic, whether it's by race, that we're saying – “You know what? We're not going to even consider that in our admissions process” – when you're talking about there have been decades, centuries of discrimination that has caused that disparity in our education system.
RAMASWAMY: So the reality is – and by the way, I went to public schools through eighth grade, it was racially diverse, majority black or something close to it. There wasn't a single one of those Black kids that could not have achieved everything that I have in my life – I've lived the American dream, I'm now running for U.S. president – if they had also been given the same privilege that I had, which was two parents in the house and a focus on education.
There's a crisis of fatherlessness, not just in the Black community, but across America, across multiple races. There's good evidence that people are more likely to end up in poverty, more likely to drop out of high school. Let's address the family structure. Let's deliver school choice. I think that's something that actually does give a lot of Americans, including, it's lifted up a lot of Black Americans in the states that have adopted it, allowing families to choose to send their kids to the best possible school they can. That's how we deliver solutions.
DAVIS: Want to read Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson's very strong dissent, which I'm sure you've heard at this point, but she said, “With let-them-eat-cake obliviousness, today, the majority pulls the ripcord and announces ‘colorblindness for all’ by legal fiat. But deeming race irrelevant in law does not make it so in life.” What's your reaction to her response?
RAMASWAMY: I understand the criticism. However, I think the right way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to actually stop discriminating on the basis of race. To quote Justice Roberts from an earlier case in the affirmative action saga, I think that we have to at least start behaving in a way that puts meritocracy first. I believe that every child in this country can realize their maximum potential if they're given that equality of opportunity.
And it is striking to me that the very opponents of this ruling today, the very proponents of affirmative action, are also some of the most rabid opponents of school choice. That's bad for teachers unions, yes, but it is good for Americans, including those who grew up in impoverished circumstances. So I think there's a lot of hypocrisy to go around here.
DAVIS: OK, so last question for you, playing devil's advocate here a bit. If we can agree that diversity is better for all of us, whether it's in the classroom, whether it's in the conference room, but we can also agree that with this decision today, we're going to have less diversity, how do you get from one to the other and say that this is a positive step for us? When your answer sounds like you're saying, well, if you had two parents in the home. I mean, you can't have any kind of legislation that's going to put two parents in the home.
RAMASWAMY: Well, I think I'll actually push back on you on that. Right now, we're paying many single mothers more money not to have the man in the house, then to have the man in the house. And affirmative action, as well as those policies, they were part of the same vision from Lyndon Johnson. You want to blame a white man for this? He's a good one to start. Passed the Great Society legislation, affirmative action into law. Actually, the payment programs that I'm talking about.
So instead of actually giving incentives that run against family formation, let's instead at least remove those government incentives. And to your point, yes, is there going to be a tradeoff in the short run, that's all else equal regrettable? Yes, there is. But is it in service of a deeper value of meritocracy? And we're going to solve that problem in a different way by starting with early childhood education and family formation.
DAVIS: Vivek Ramaswamy, I really appreciate you coming on the show.
RAMASWAMY: Thank you. I appreciate it.