The 1986 and 1987 Affirmative Action Cases: It’s All Over but the Shouting

For the moment, the affirmative action wars are over. In a ten-year set of decisions, culminating in five during the last two terms, the Court has now legitimated almost all types of race and gender preferences, even if they benefit nonvictims, including voluntarily adopted preferences in hiring, promotion, university admissions, and government contracting; hiring and promotion preferences in consent decrees; and court-ordered hiring and promotions. It has approved preferences by both public and private bodies, and for both racial-ethnic minorities and women. It has barred only layoffs of white (and presumably male) employees who have more seniority than employees hired under an affirmative action plan.