Blum vs. Harvard: Challenging Affirmative Action Before the Supreme Court
In a nation where race-conscious policies have been a topic of contention, Edward Blum emerges as a relentless force challenging affirmative action practices. As the Supreme Court deliberates a pivotal decision that could reshape the landscape of race-conscious admissions in colleges, Blum, the man who ignited the case, sits in his Maine home office, tirelessly searching for the next legal battle.
With a sunny disposition and a polarizing track record, Blum, a slender financial adviser by trade, has spent the past three decades spearheading legal cases aimed at eliminating racial preferences from American life. Despite lacking a law degree, he has successfully orchestrated eight cases argued before the Supreme Court, leaving an indelible mark on legal precedent.
Blum’s latest cases, organized against Harvard College and the University of North Carolina, challenge the four-decade-old legal precedent that has permitted universities to consider race in their admissions process. A decision in his favor would signify a significant curtailment of race-conscious affirmative action.
For some conservatives, Blum is hailed as a patriot, while others on the left denounce him as a racist. The battle lines are drawn, and the stakes are high.
“The 1964 Civil Rights Act clearly forbids treating Americans differently by race, that seems to have been lost over the years,” asserts Blum, describing his commitment to upholding principles of equality and opposing race-based policies.
However, Blum’s opponents argue that the United States still has a long way to go in addressing past and present racial disparities, particularly in the realm of education. They contend that racial segregation and educational inequities persist, leaving many Black, Latino, and economically disadvantaged individuals trapped in under-resourced schools.
Sarah Hinger, a senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, argues, “The path forward is to conscientiously address the historical barriers and inequities in education and to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to access the benefits of education.”
Blum acknowledges the uneven playing field on which students from different racial backgrounds compete but challenges the notion that racism can be eradicated through affirmative action. He believes that legislating equality is a misguided approach and suggests that focusing on improving poorly performing public schools would be a more effective solution.
Blum places great faith in families who hold high academic expectations for their children, considering the family unit as the “most important educational institution in the country.” He shares stories of working-class families from diverse racial backgrounds whose children have excelled academically despite challenging circumstances, emphasizing the power of determination and personal agency.
Blum’s daily routine reflects his unwavering dedication to his cause. Rising at 4:30 a.m., he delves into news stories from across the nation, seeking cases where the law may be leveraged to favor specific racial or ethnic groups over others. He spends the rest of his day contacting potential plaintiffs impacted by such laws, assessing the viability of pursuing legal action.
Blum’s motivation traces back to his own experiences and upbringing. Growing up in a working-class Jewish family, he witnessed the discrimination faced by Jews seeking admission to selective universities. These firsthand encounters with prejudice, combined with the dinner-table conversations he overheard, instilled in him a strong desire for justice and equality.
Blum’s journey towards activism gained momentum when he ran for Congress in Texas as a Republican. It was during this time that he realized the power of racial gerrymandering, as districts were drawn to give political advantage to minority groups, leaving him disillusioned with a system that he believed unjustly favored Black individuals over white individuals.
“You cannot remedy past discrimination with new discrimination,” Blum insists, drawing on his belief that affirmative action perpetuates unfairness rather than rectifying historical injustices.
Throughout his career, Blum has encountered death threats and anti-Semitic attacks due to the controversial nature of his work. However, these challenges have only strengthened his resolve to fight for what he sees as a fundamental issue of civil rights.
As Blum’s latest cases against prestigious universities shine a spotlight on affirmative action, the Supreme Court once again becomes the arena for a battle over race-conscious policies. Blum also questions other discriminatory practices, such as legacy admissions, which disproportionately benefit white students and perpetuate advantages based on lineage.
Regardless of the outcome of these cases, Blum sees them as an opportunity to restore the founding principles of the civil rights movement and believes that a court decision prohibiting any consideration of race would be a significant stride toward achieving true equality.