Today the Supreme Court of the United States issued its much awaited opinions in two pivotal cases involving affirmative action in higher education.
In light of today’s rulings, President Wente and Provost Gillespie have clearly unscored our institutional commitment to our core values boldly stating, “Wake Forest University will not waver in its commitment to creating and sustaining inclusive, diverse learning communities; our mission and values have not and will not change. We will continue to recruit and enroll academically qualified students of diverse backgrounds who seek an intellectual home at Wake Forest where they belong and thrive, in compliance with the Court’s ruling.”
The issue of affirmative action is not just a matter of law, it is also a matter of values. The late jurist A. Leon Higginbotham reminded us of this critical issue in his 1992 open letter to Justice Clarence Thomas when he wrote, “The tragedy with Plessy v. Ferguson is not that the Justices had the ‘wrong’ education, or that they attended the ‘wrong’ law schools. The tragedy is that the Justices had the wrong values, and that these values poisoned this society for decades.” The legacy of the tragedy of Plessy continues to poison our society today. In an age of a resurgence of white Christian Nationalism, virulent anti-Black racism and anti-Semitism, denial of the reproductive rights of women, denigration of the lives, rights, and dignity of LGBTQ+ citizens, and an open embrace of authoritarianism, today’s ruling reminds us that matters of law cannot be separated from matters of values. And not just the values of individuals, but of a nation.
For our distinctive community, diversity is not simply a conceptual matter. It is a principle of God’s creation. God creates in diversity and not in sameness. As a theological community grounded in “justice, reconciliation, and compassion” we are called to affirm the gift of diversity in humanity and in all of God’s creation. While the use of affirmative action is curtailed by the Court’s ruling, we stand steadfast in our theological commitment to being a community that embodies hospitality in cultivating “a community of learners that celebrates diverse religious, racial, ethnic, cultural, gender, and sexual identities and that fosters accessibility for all its members.”
The Court has ruled, yet the core values of our School of Divinity remain grounded in a capacious vision of our university’s motto Pro Humanitate. And it is in this spirit that we will continue to respond to the call of the prophet Amos to “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.”
God’s peace and blessings always,
Corey D. B. Walker
Interim Dean, School of Divinity
Wake Forest Professor of the Humanities