[ARCHIVAL CLIP, Supreme Court: The honorable chief justices and associate chief justices of the Supreme Court of the United States.]
[ARCHIVAL CLIP, Supreme Court: Oyez, oyez, oyez. All persons having business before the honorable Supreme Court of the United States are admonished to draw near…]
[ARCHIVAL CLIP, Supreme Court: Oyez, oyez, oyez.]
[ARCHIVAL CLIP, Supreme Court: The Supreme Court is now sitting.]
[ARCHIVAL CLIP, Supreme Court: Oyez, oyez, oyez.]
[ARCHIVAL CLIP, Supreme Court: God save the United States and this honorable court.]
JAD ABUMRAD: This is More Perfect, I’m Jad Abumrad. So, last season we profiled a guy named Edward Bloom. This was a guy who, according to his critics, had almost single-handedly rolled back decades of civil rights law, basically by himself. Wasn’t a lawyer, wasn’t a politician, but somehow he sort of found this way to play the courts, to cook up just the right case, find just the right plaintiff, to target voting rights, affirmative action, all kinds of different laws that take race into account. Seemed to us at the time that he was sort of this hidden architect. Not too much was known about him. In fact, at the time that we did this story, there was a big case of his targeting affirmative action that was coming before the Supreme Court. And there were these moments where his plaintiff, plaintiff he had found, this young white woman, Abby Fisher, was on the steps of the Supreme Court giving an interview and he would literally be behind her in the shadows. Like almost at the edge of the frame. We just wanted to know like, who is this guy? What’s his story? So we produced a profile and what I’d like to do in this podcast is update that profile because recently I talked to Ed Bloom again about what he’s up to now and it’s really interesting. Maybe troubling, depending on where you stand. So, gonna play a chunk of the original just to sort of set the context and then follow it with the new interview. Now, if you’d rather not hear the original, skip to about minute 17, otherwise producer Katherine Wells starts us off. Again we wanted to know who is this guy? So she paid him a visit.
KATHERINE WELLS: Yeah, so I went to Tallahassee. That’s where he lives. Or he winters in Tallahassee.
KATHERINE: Oh man!
LARK BLOOM: Golden retriever mom.
JAD: You walk in and what initially struck you?
KATHERINE: His golden retriever is what initially struck me. Literally, physically.
EDWARD BLOOM: Nice meeting you.
KATHERINE: Thanks for having me.
LARK BLOOM: Of course!
KATHERINE: And I don’t know what I was expecting, but when you hear about these cases, you know, they’re — I mean critics are really — people are mad about these cases.
[ARCHIVAL CLIP, Critics: It is deeply disturbing.]
[ARCHIVAL CLIP, Critics: Truly outrageous.]
[ARCHIVAL CLIP, Critics: A betrayal of the American people.]
KATHERINE: So I go to meet him and…
EDWARD BLOOM: Your flight from Austin to Dallas to Tallahassee, uneventful and on time and good? Yeah?
KATHERINE: Easy, yeah.
EDWARD BLOOM: Good!
KATHERINE: He’s like a totally nice guy. A regular guy.
JAD: What does he look like?
KATHERINE: Like a dad.
EDWARD BLOOM: there is something in me that just loves tradition and custom.
KATHERINE: He loves listening to the Great American Songbook.
EDWARD BLOOM: Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. I love art and museums. Independent films, golf.
JAD: What’s this guy’s backstory?
KATHERINE: Well, he’s 64.
EDWARD BLOOM: I was born in a small town in Michigan. My dad owned a shoe store there. My mom worked with him in the shoe store.
KATHERINE: What had been your kind of political leanings up till this point?
EDWARD BLOOM: Well I’m the first republican my mother ever met. Hate to use the word typical, but it really was a typical, liberal, Jewish household. My mother and father were Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman democrats. Always voted democrat.
KATHERINE: And he says he was that way too all the way through college.
EDWARD BLOOM: The University of Texas.
KATHERINE: Grad school.
EDWARD BLOOM: State University of New York where I spent a year studying, of all things, African literature.
KATHERINE: But he says, somewhere along the way, his political leanings sort of started to shift.
EDWARD BLOOM: I spent a summer in Israel living on a kibbutz.
KATHERINE: And he says he came out of that experience a little less liberal than he was before. And he got married, and in the early ‘80s, he’s living in Houston, working as a stockbroker.
EDWARD BLOOM: And we met our neighbors.
KATHERINE: This particular couple.
EDWARD BLOOM: They were New Yorkers who had moved to Houston. Both grew up as liberals and…
KATHERINE: The guy…
EDWARD BLOOM: He sort of opened my eyes to the world of the neo-cons.
KATHERINE: The guy introduced him to these magazines.
EDWARD BLOOM: Weekly Standard, The National Review, Commentary Magazine.
KATHERINE: Like conservative magazines. And this was around the time that the neo-con movement was really hitting its stride. You had all these New York liberals defecting, is what he says.
EDWARD BLOOM: Thousands of individuals in the 1960’s that started to question the wisdom of these liberal policies.
KATHERINE: And he says, slowly…
EDWARD BLOOM: Slowly.
KATHERINE: Over time.
EDWARD BLOOM: Very gradually.
KATHERINE: He became one of those people. In any case, fast forward a little bit. H
EDWARD BLOOM: Kind of a garden variety existence…
KATHERINE: And something happens that sends him on this entirely new path. Basically, he and his wife move to a new neighborhood. They move from the suburbs into the downtown area. More urban.
EDWARD BLOOM: And in 1990 when we went to vote for the first time in our new neighborhood, I realized that the Republican Party had not fielded a candidate to oppose the Democrat incumbent running for Congress. This is a district that has almost 600,000 people and you don’t have a choice? You’ve only got one person running?
KATHERINE: Bloom decided to run himself.
EDWARD BLOOM: I lost. That was no great surprise to anyone.
KATHERINE: He actually lost by 32 points.
EDWARD BLOOM: But...
KATHERINE: Along the way.
EDWARD BLOOM: Something really unusual happened.
KATHERINE: During that campaign, he and his wife, Lark, you know, they decided they were gonna go meet voters in their district. They got a giant printout of all of the addresses in the 18th Congressional District.
EDWARD BLOOM: What was then called a walking list.
KATHERINE: And they just started going door to door.
EDWARD BLOOM: Meeting people, handing out literature.
KATHERINE: And they’d walk down, say, Oak street.
EDWARD BLOOM: I would take the even side of Oak street and my wife would take the odd-numbered side of Oak street and we would start to walk. And…
KATHERINE: And he says, very quickly they realized that the district’s shape was funny. Some houses on one side of the street would be in the district and then houses on the other side wouldn’t. And sometimes the district would snake down a highway, catch an apartment complex, come back.
LARK BLOOM: It just didn’t make sense.
KATHERINE: This is Lark Bloom, wife of Edward Bloom.
LARK BLOOM: It was peculiar because we had maps we had to follow and it was very odd the way some streets were in the districts and some weren’t. Took a while for it all to really sink in as to how this could happen.
EDWARD BLOOM: After I guess about a week of this, we realized that neighbors had been separated, almost house by house because of their race.
KATHERINE: He comes to believe that the reason this was done was for the explicit purpose to create a majority African American district. This isn’t untrue.
[ARCHIVAL CLIP, Lyndon Johnson: This act flows from a clear and simple wrong.]
KATHERINE: Part of the reason this was done was the Voting Rights Act of 1965
[ARCHIVAL CLIP, Lyndon Johnson: Millions of Americans are denied the right to vote because of their color.]
KATHERINE: This act was a giant step forward in civil rights. You know, one of the primary things it did was eliminate barriers to voting like poll taxes and literacy tests. You know, all these strategies that had been used to keep minorities from voting. And then this other thing it did, sort of in a roundabout way through a series of interpretations is that it encouraged the creation of districts where the majority of voters were minorities. And that’s because, you know, one of the strategies that had been used previously to sort of dilute the minority vote was to take minority communities and — they called it cracking, they sort of split them apart into many different districts, so that they were never in the majority enough to elect a representative.
JAD: Right, right.
KATHERINE: So the Voting Rights Act tried to correct that. The 18th Congressional District was one of these majority minority districts.
EDWARD BLOOM: The district was drawn by the Texas Legislature to have a slight African American majority. I think about 51% African American.
KATHERINE: But this was the problem, according to Bloom. The way they got to that African American majority was by creating this district that zig-zagged all over the city and cut through neighborhoods.
EDWARD BLOOM: I could not understand. People live close together, they send their kids to the neighborhood. They shopped in the neighborhood shopping centers. They were worried about neighborhood issues. To break these neighborhoods apart by race seemed so wrong to me.
KATHERINE: In his mind, this law was actually not limiting discrimination but actually perpetuating it.
EDWARD BLOOM: Well, yeah.
KATHERINE: And I don’t know what an — what the average person, upon realizing this, would have done.
EDWARD BLOOM: But I decided to file a lawsuit.
KATHERINE: He decided to sue the State of Texas.
EDWARD BLOOM: Called a few friends who lived in the 18th District.
KATHERINE: A racially diverse group of people.
EDWARD BLOOM: An African American, a Hispanic, and an Asian. Kept looking and looking and looking till I found a lawyer that I could afford.
KATHERINE: $7,000 a month.
EDWARD BLOOM: We filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Texas’ redistricting plan.
KATHERINE: The basic charge was, yes, the Voting Rights Act was good in its day but now it was being used as this excuse to segregate people and racially polarize districts.
EDWARD BLOOM: It worked its way through the lower courts and, to my shock and surprise, in 1995…
[ARCHIVAL CLIP, Supreme Court: We’ll hear now argument number 94-805, George W. Bush v.s. Al Vera.
EDWARD BLOOM: The Supreme Court took it up.
KATHERINE: And you went to oral arguments?
EDWARD BLOOM: Yeah, we all did.
[ARCHIVAL CLIP, Supreme Court: Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the court.]
EDWARD BLOOM: So there we all are. Our opponents step to the lectern.
[ARCHIVAL CLIP, Supreme Court: At issue in this direct appeal is the constitutionality of three congressional districts.]
EDWARD BLOOM: They make their arguments.
[ARCHIVAL CLIP, Supreme Court: That the court below erroneously ruled they were racially gerrymandered.]
KATHERINE: Texas basically said, “Y’all, we have to put together by race.”
[ARCHIVAL CLIP, Supreme Court Defense: The Texas Legislature has the obligation to satisfy federal requirements and the Voting Rights Act is a federal requirement.]
KATHERINE: Like, “Remember the Voting Rights Act? We’re trying to make sure there are enough minorities in this district so that they have a chance to elect a representative.”
EDWARD BLOOM: Then our advocate...
[ARCHIVAL CLIP, Supreme Court Plaintiff: Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice. May it please the court.]
EDWARD BLOOM: Made his arguments.
[ARCHIVAL CLIP, Supreme Court Plaintiff: Even if strict scrutiny is applied…]
KATHERINE: Bloom’s lawyer basically said, “But look at the map. The map is bizarre and the only reason it could have gotten this way is because you’re only thinking about race. Only race. Think about it, that seems messed up, isn’t that messed up?]
[ARCHIVAL CLIP, Supreme Court Plaintiff: It doesn’t matter what you’re ultimate goal is, you cannot use certain forbidden tools. Race is forbidden by the 14th Amendment to be used as a tool...]
[ARCHIVAL CLIP, Supreme Court Defense: But in his example, the people of St. Mary’s…]
EDWARD BLOOM: You know, it’s a very tense situation.
[ARCHIVAL CLIP, Supreme Court Defense: I’m not...
[ARCHIVAL CLIP, Supreme Court Plaintiff: Do you know of any other situation in the law in which we allow race to be used as a surrogate for anything?
[ARCHIVAL CLIP, Supreme Court Defense: It’d be unconstitutional.]
[ARCHIVAL CLIP, Supreme Court Justice: Did you concede that or did you say that it would require strict scrutiny?]
[ARCHIVAL CLIP, Supreme Court Plaintiff: You did say that, didn’t you?]
[ARCHIVAL CLIP, Supreme Court Defense: Let me explain.]
[ARCHIVAL CLIP, Supreme Court Justice: Did you say that or not? Did you say that or not?]
KATHERINE: So in the end, the Supreme Court gives out this very hair-splitting decision that I think gets at this deeper question that, in our society and in our discourse, we just haven’t figured out how to talk about it, in a way. And it basically said this, you know, “Look, if you’re defining race just as the color of someone’s skin, the government cannot use that in any way. That’s against the Constitution. On the other hand, if you take this wider view and you look at race in the context of history, social context, then how can the government address discrimination without taking race into account? They have to, so it’s this difficult balance. You can’t look at race but you have to look at race.” And then Supreme Court says to Texas, “Look, all you’re doing in this case is sorting people based on how they’re labeled on a census. You’re not looking at that wider context. You’re not looking at if these communities live next to each other, if they share common interest, you’re just sorting them based on race alone and that’s not good enough. You can’t do that.”
EDWARD BLOOM: When the opinion came down, the Supreme Court ruled in our favor five to four. That was quite a day. The day that we won that lawsuit I was…
[ARCHIVAL CLIP, Frank Sinatra singing: I’ve got the world on a string...]
EDWARD BLOOM: Hooked forever.
KATHERINE: After that, Edward Bloom decided that this would be his thing.
EDWARD BLOOM: It became a passion.
KATHERINE: He would use the courts to try to strike down every race based policy he could.
EDWARD BLOOM: The legal team was taken on the road. I recruited plaintiffs in New York, in Virginia, South Carolina, to challenge congressional district plans. And we won in each of those states.
KATHERINE: He helped sue school districts in Florida and Texas.
EDWARD BLOOM: to end the use of racial quotas in K-12 magnet schools.
KATHERINE: He went after Affirmative Action in Houston city contracting.
[ARCHIVAL CLIP, News: Today, Houston could be the first city to kill affirmative action.]
KATHERINE: That one was actually a ballot initiative and it failed.
EDWARD BLOOM: But I’ve been the architect of over two dozen lawsuits.
KATHERINE: Six of which…
EDWARD BLOOM: Six.
KATHERINE: Made it to the Supreme Court. Including, in 2013…
[ARCHIVAL CLIP, News: In a five to four vote.]
[ARCHIVAL CLIP, News: Five to four very divided court.]
[ARCHIVAL CLIP, News: The Supreme Court today struck down a very key part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.]
[ARCHIVAL CLIP, News: The Supreme Court today struck down a very important part of the Voting Rights Act.]
[ARCHIVAL CLIP, News: That key 1965 landmark law…]
[ARCHIVAL CLIP, News: It’s considered one of the most important pieces of civil rights legislation ever passed.]
KATHERINE: Shelby County v.s. Holder. This decision gutted the Voting Rights Act. Specifically, there was this part of that said, “States and counties with a history of discrimination have to check with the Federal Government first before they go about changing their voting laws.” Basically the Federal Government was like, “Look, you’ve been up to all this stuff, now we’re watching you.” The Supreme Court said, “You know, times have changed. That list was made a long time ago and it’s outdated.”
[ARCHIVAL CLIP, EDWARD BLOOM: This decision restores an important constitutional order to our system of government.]
KATHERINE: This was Bloom’s biggest victory.
EDWARD BLOOM: When Shelby county came down I burst into tears.
JAD: I think a lot of people burst into tears when that came down.
EDWARD BLOOM: You know, yeah. And I understand it.
[ARCHIVAL CLIP, Critics: It is deeply disturbing.]
[ARCHIVAL CLIP, Critics: I am deeply disappointed. Deeply disappointed with the court’s decision in this matter.]
[ARCHIVAL CLIP, Critics: This decision is a betrayal of the American people.]
[ARCHIVAL CLIP, Critics: It is a game changer.]
[ARCHIVAL CLIP, SHEILA JACKSON LEE: during the civil rights movement people died for the precious right to vote.]
KATHERINE: This is congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of Houston, Texas.
[ARCHIVAL CLIP, SHEILA JACKSON LEE: I would like to have the Supreme Court justices go back in time — go back in time and march with those who marched after Bloody Sunday from Selma to Montgomery. Ed Bloom has a right to his opinion, it doesn’t mean that it has to be the opinion of the United States.]
EDWARD BLOOM: I understand that people were, you know, gravely upset and I also know that there were people who were gravely relieved and gravely gratified.
JAD: Yeah but what I think gets a lot of people is that you look at these civil rights videos and you see tens of thousands, 40,000 people in the streets marching. And you hold that and if you make a split screen in your mind. You hold that, thousands, tens of thousands of people on one side, on the other side, you, one guy. It does make you ask basic questions about democracy.
EDWARD BLOOM: That’s a false paradigm. It — it — it’s — that may be your split screen but that’s not really the reality of all of this. Look, in 1964 and 1965 America was held hostage by the legacies of slavery and the choke-hold of Jim Crow. Fast forward to 2006. The re-authorization of the Voting Rights Act. The choke-hold had gone away. African Americans in the Deep South registered to vote in numbers that often exceeded whites, participated in elections in numbers that exceed whites. In terms of electoral opportunities, we have come a 180 degrees from 1965.
JAD: We turned those degrees because the law which you helped to overturn. And we don’t know to what degree that is the psychology of America changing or the fact that we had a law that kept people in line. And now that law is gone and now we see voter ID laws coming back into play, which I think any sane person would admit is — is an attempt, a blatant attempt to disenfranchise people. So it feels a little bit strange. I mean, I completely agree with you, things have gotten better. At the same time I think, well that was because of the law that’s now gone.
EDWARD BLOOM: Look, laws change. Laws evolve and at some point they need to come to an end.
JAD: So after winning the Shelby County case, Ed Bloom turned his attention to affirmative action.
[ARCHIVAL CLIP, News: Should universities be allowed to use racial preferences in college admissions?]
JAD: He found a young white woman name Abigail Fisher.
[ARCHIVAL CLIP, News: Abigail Fisher believed her race may have hurt her chances to attend the University of Texas.]
[ARCHIVAL CLIP, Abigail Fisher: There were people in my class with lower grades, who weren’t in all the activities I was in, who were being accepted to UTE and the only other difference us was the color of our skin.
JAD: Case goes to the Supreme Court. And in that case…
[ARCHIVAL CLIP, News: The Supreme Court has upheld the Affirmative Action Program at the University of Texas.]
[ARCHIVAL CLIP, News: Affirmative action in higher education is constitutional!]
JAD: Ed Bloom lost. But at the end of that original piece, he made it clear to us he wasn’t giving up.
EDWARD BLOOM: I’m a long distance runner. If there’s something emblematic about my personality, I run long distances.
JAD: And even as the court was coming down with its decision against him, he was planning his next move. That’s coming up next, after the break.
JAD: This is More Perfect, I’m Jad Abumrad. Alright so now let’s bring the action up to the present. After Ed Bloom lost that Supreme Court Case against the University of Texas last year, he kept the case going at the state level and he took aim at two more schools.
EDWARD BLOOM: I have retained counsel to litigate Harvard’s admission policies and University of North Carolina’s admission policies.
JAD: He formed an organization called Students for Fair Admissions. And this time the target was perceived discrimination against Asian Americans. Case against Harvard is in the early stages but I recently called him up to just get kind of an update on this crusade.
EDWARD BLOOM: The ultimate goal is to have the Supreme Court revisit its, we think, unfortunate opinion in Fisher and end the use of race and ethnicity once and for all. That’s the goal of this organization and this organization will stay active until that happens.
JAD: Is this a situation where, like with UT, you actively recruited plaintiffs?
EDWARD BLOOM: Yes.
JAD: It is.
EDWARD BLOOM: It is. So I did with Students for Fair Admissions what I did with the University of Texas. And that is working with friends and allies who yearn for the day that race and ethnicity is not a part of university admissions. I set up three new websites. Harvardnotfair.org, UNCnotfair.org, and UWnotfair.org. W being Wisconsin.
EDWARD BLOOM: So it was our hope to find students who had been rejected from those three schools willing to join Students for Fair Admission and let us proceed into federal court. And that’s what we did.
JAD: Ed told me he got hundreds of responses to these websites from students who felt like they’d been discriminated against. He whittled it down to students who he felt had the most merit.
EDWARD BLOOM: I talked to the kids, I talked to their parents. Each of those kids and their parents, who agreed to join and participate sort of as a participating member in a lawsuit. I got on a plane and went to visit with them. Learn about their background, let them ask me questions.
JAD: And who are they? What can you tell me about them?
EDWARD BLOOM: Well, for the Harvard case they are all Asian. Many of them are children of immigrant Chinese.
EDWARD BLOOM: Children of first generation Korean and Vietnamese. And they superlative academic records, I mean just startlingly so. Perfect GPA’s, perfect SAT’s and ACT’s, active in sports, lots of volunteer efforts.
JAD: And how many of them are directly associated with the case?
EDWARD BLOOM: That is something that the judge in the Harvard case has placed under seal, wisely. And…
EDWARD BLOOM: Well, we remember what happened with the harassment of Abigail Fisher.
[ARCHIVAL CLIP, YouTube Video: Bitch! If you don’t take your little ass off somewhere…]
[ARCHIVAL CLIP, YouTube Video: Maybe if your grades didn’t suck, you dumbass, maybe you would have gotten into some good college.]
[ARCHIVAL CLIP, YouTube Video: Becky with the bad grades, really happy you and your racist lawyer got shot down.]
EDWARD BLOOM: Abby was hounded. Abby was threatened. We learned an important lesson, and that is, although there may be students who are brave enough to put their name on a lawsuit, the consequences can be dangerous and frightening. So all of the students involved in those three cases. Harvard, UNC, and the University of Texas, have standing as members of the organization and their names, their addresses, their email, will never be made to the public.
JAD: I mean it’s a funny thing though because — I mean the idea of a plaintiff. Even if it is often, in a way a theatrical construct. It’s strange to have plaintiffs that you can’t examine and that you can’t say, “Well okay, who are these people exactly? What are their circumstances?” And you’re right, Abigail Fisher, I think, was the subject of some very hurtful kind of harassment. At the same time, who she was was a helpful starting point for the conversation about whether this should exist. I mean, affirmative action or whatever your would call this, doesn’t happen in the court, it happens in the world, it happens in society, and this something that affects all of us.
EDWARD BLOOM: Well this is very common in federal lawsuits. The ACLU, which is a membership organization, often sues in the name of the organization, disclosing only to the courts their members who have been directly harmed by this. So what we’re doing is not unusual.
JAD: Gotcha. Okay so you’ve said in interviews on this lawsuit that Asian American students are being penalized for being a high-achieving minority. How do you argue that they are being penalized?
EDWARD BLOOM: Well in litigation like this, we know that the court allows the use of race and ethnicity in admissions. What we also know is that you cannot, as a university, have too heavy of a hand using race and ethnicity. And furthermore, numeric quotas are completely forbidden and how we show that Asians are being targeted in the Harvard case is to look at the number of Asians that have applied to Harvard and what percentage year, after year, after year has Harvard admitted. And what we have found is that from 1992 through 2013, the percentage of Asians that Harvard admits has been remarkably flat. In fact, in 1992, 19% of Harvard’s freshman class was Asian while in 2013 18% were Asian. Now that doesn’t mean much until you realize that the number of Asians applying to Harvard during this period of time better than doubled.
JAD: Just a quick note here. Harvard hasn’t actually released data on ethnicity in admissions for the years that he was talking about so we can’t confirm the numbers he just used. We know that Ed Bloom was drawing, in part, from the National Center for Education statistics, which is a governmental organization. And by the way, when he says 19% of the freshman class, it turns out the number he was using refers to more than just freshman.
EDWARD BLOOM: If those kinds of data points were presented in court in an employment lawsuit against a major corporation like Walmart, Walmart would lose. Any judge would look at that and say, “You’ve got a quota, Walmart. You’re employment practices fall afoul of Title 7.”
JAD: Well let me just push back against that for a second. You know, that idea that you’re expressing and the sort of fight, sort of the spirit of the lawsuit is premised on this idea that if you take away race based filtering in admissions that what we would have is a more meritocratic system that’s based purely on grades. But, I mean, hasn’t the meritocracy — isn’t that just a myth? I mean, especially at a place like Harvard. I mean, If you look at the data at Harvard, you see the people whose parents went to Harvard, who have family members who went to Harvard, they get preferential treatment in the admissions process. And if you take that out just a few rungs, okay, people who have families that can afford to send them to Kaplan prep courses for the standardized tests, well they get a better leg up. And isn’t that just kind of affirmative action for white people?
EDWARD BLOOM: So there’s two ways I want to answer that question. The first is that it is not up to me, it is not up to this organization to dictate how Harvard, or Texas, or the University of North Carolina fashion their admissions policy. The only thing legally that we are advocating for is the end of racial distinctions in the admissions process. Number two, I agree that colleges and universities cannot use, just strictly, grades and SAT scores as an admissions criteria. I believe legacy preferences should have been ended at Harvard and throughout the country decades ago. I think people who write big checks to universities, whose children then get a leg up in the admissions process, I think that ought to end. I think the colleges and universities have an obligation to reach out to kids from disadvantaged backgrounds. Kids whose family income is small and below average, whose parents didn’t go to college, who maybe grew up in a tough neighborhood. Colleges should use that and not race if they’re going to give a leg up in helping kids from these disadvantaged backgrounds. And that means that there will be lots of African American kids, lots of Hispanics, but also lots of Asians and lots of white kids that get, you know, a helping hand from Harvard, and Princeton, Yale, and Stanford. There is no reason why an Asian applicant to Harvard, whose parents are laborers, mom works as a maid at a hotel in New York, and dad works as a kitchen worker at a Chinese restaurant, there is no reason why that kid should be penalized and white kids, African American kids, and Hispanic kids who come from a professional background should be elevated. Ending racial classifications and preferences and instead substituting socioeconomic preferences is something that both the left and the right can agree on.
JAD: But it’s interesting to think about what might happen in the transitional space between, say, an Ed Bloom victory and that remedied admission system. ‘Cause I was just thinking in my mind, “Let’s take someone like Abigail Fisher and let’s hold her in the right side of our mind. And in the left side of our mind, let’s say you get the Harvard case to SCOTUS and you win, and the court agrees that there’s some kind of quota in place and they no longer support that. There should not be any kind of limit on how many high-achieving Asian American students get into Harvard or any university. It’s interesting to think of the effect that might have on white applicants like Abigail Fisher.
EDWARD BLOOM: Well, we make this argument in our lawsuit. The argument is that African Americans, Hispanics and whites are getting a preference over better qualified Asian applicants. So it is very likely...
JAD: And whites, interesting.
EDWARD BLOOM: And whites.
JAD: So you…
EDWARD BLOOM: We asserted that in our lawsuit. So this is not an attempt to, I don’t know, reinvigorate, protect white applicants. At all of the Ivy League and at schools like Duke and Stanford outside of the Ivy League, the number of whites is likely to go down. The number of Asians is likely to go up.
EDWARD BLOOM: That’s why we don’t have any whites as plaintiffs in our Harvard lawsuit. That’s why none of the kids that joined Students for Fair Admissions to challenge Harvard were white. It’s because they’re benefiting from the discrimination that Asians are suffering there.
JAD: That’s Edward Bloom. Harvard sent us a statement which didn’t directly respond to Ed Bloom’s specific allegations but they did say that they do make an effort to create diversity in their student body because when a student encounters diverse types of people with diverse experiences, that student grows. And you can read their statement on our website, where we’ll also have some additional information about the lawsuits we talked about, which again, are in the early stages. That’s at radiolab.org/moreperfect.
[ARCHIVAL CLIP, Supreme Court: Oyez, oyez, oyez…]
JAD: More Perfect is produced by me, Jad Abumrad, Suzie Lechtenberg, Jenny Laughton, Julia Longoria, Kelly Prime, Alex Overington and Sarah Qari. With Elie Mystal, Christian Farius, Linda Hirshman, David Gebel and Michelle Harris. Special thanks to Katherine Wells, who produced our episode called the Imperfect Plaintiffs. Go back and listen to the whole thing if you haven’t, it’s pretty good! Supreme Court audio is from Oyez, a free law project in collaboration with the Legal Information Institute at Cornell. Leadership support for More Perfect is provided by the Joyce Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the Charles Evans Hughes Memorial Foundation.
New York Public Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline, often by contractors. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of programming is the audio record.