NEW ORLEANS- Vice President Kamala Harris joined the ESSENCE Festival of Culture in a fireside chat speaking out against the Supreme Court for ending Affirmative Action at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina (UNC) on Thursday.
The decision effectively ends Affirmative Action in higher education and could have ripple effects in the workplace.
“I prepared to have a very long conversation with you about many other matters,” the Vice President opened, hours after the Supreme Court decision. “And then the highest court in our land just made a decision today on Affirmative Action, and I feel compelled to speak about it. And I’m sure that I share the sentiment and the feeling of everyone in this room in terms of deep disappointment.”
The one-day Global Black Economic Forum Summit at the renowned ESSENCE Fest in New Orleans hosted global business and government leaders, including panels on philanthropy, healthcare, and diversifying corporate boards.
Harris’ remarks were part of her fireside chat with Thasunda Brown Duckett, President and CEO of financial services company TIAA.
Before a packed audience, Harris noted that “the court has not fully understood the importance of equal opportunity for the people of our country. And it is in so many ways a denial of opportunity.”
Harris also compelled the audience to read the dissenting opinion of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court.
“With let-them-eat-cake obliviousness, today, the majority pulls the ripcord and announces ‘colorblindness for all’ by legal fiat,” Jackson wrote in the dissent. “But deeming race irrelevant in law does not make it so in life. And having so detached itself from this country’s actual past and present experiences, the Court has now been lured into interfering with the crucial work that UNC and other institutions of higher learning are doing to solve America’s real-world problems.”
Echoing Justice Jackson, Vice President Harris pushed back against conservative calls that the case was about “colorblindness.”
“It is a complete misnomer to suggest this is about colorblind[ness] when in fact it is about being blind to history, being blind to data, being blind to empirical evidence about disparities, being blind to the strength that diversity brings to classrooms, to boardrooms,” she told the audience.
Harris also discussed a bevy of social and political issues, from her work on the continent to mental health, citing her work in California to address PTSD of youth in low-income communities.
“So many children who have grown up in these circumstances have trauma that has been undiagnosed and untreated,” she shared.
She closed out the conversation expressing what gives her joy, highlighting the advocacy of the “Tennessee Three,” the Democratic legislators who protested gun violence and the lack of adequate reform on the floor of the state legislature.
“They organized, and they organized young people. They were not giving up,” she said enthusiastically. “I am joyful about the challenges, because I know we can meet them.”
GBEF programming continues this weekend at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center– including another appearance from the VP with a keynote speech Friday– which can be accessed for FREE with registration.