BLITZER: Welcome back.
This week the Supreme Court is expected to hand down its decision in the University of Michigan Law School affirmative action case. The decision could come, indeed, as early as 10:00 a.m. Eastern tomorrow morning.
The plaintiff, Jennifer Gratz, says the school's admissions policy discriminated against her because she was white.
Joining us now to debate the case are two special guests. In Chicago, where he is attending the Reverend Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Push Coalition Summit, is the Democratic presidential candidate Al Sharpton. And in New York, Ward Connerly. He's chairman of the American Civil Rights Coalition.
Gentlemen, welcome back to LATE EDITION. We had you on a few months ago to debate this issue, but there's a lot going on.
An enormous amount at stake with the Supreme Court decision tomorrow morning. By all accounts, Reverend Sharpton, it looks like a 4-4 split within the Supreme Court, with Justice Sandra Day O'Connor being the decisive swing justice on this issue.
What do you think she and the 5-4 majority that we're bracing for will come up with?
REV. AL SHARPTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I don't think anyone knows. I hope that she will stand and say that we can still have goals and targets for diversity in higher-education institutions in this country. I think without that, we're going to see a serious drop in the inclusion of groups that have been historically excluded.
So, I hope she would stand up, what, in my judgment, is best for America, and that is to make sure we do not have legal impediments in the way of universities assuring and guaranteeing diversity on campus.
BLITZER: What is wrong with that assessment, Ward Connerly?
WARD CONNERLY, CHAIRMAN, AMERICAN CIVIL RIGHTS COALITION: Well, obviously, we don't know what she or the others are going to say. But I certainly hope the court rules that we are a nation of laws, and we're all entitled and guaranteed equal protection of the laws.
Treating people differently because of race is wrong. It's morally wrong. It's constitutionally wrong.
So I hope the court realizes that it's time to move forward. It's not keep to wallowing in the past about 40 years ago. We have made enormous progress. And I hope the court sees the clarity on how these policies are counterproductive and moves us forward with regard to race.
BLITZER: There are actually two cases, Reverend Sharpton, that are before the Supreme Court tomorrow, an undergraduate issue involving the University of Michigan as well as the law school at the University of Michigan. Let's deal with the undergraduate issue at the University of Michigan.
Right now, if you're an African-American, you automaticallyand I'll put these numbers up on the screenyou automatically get 20 points to help you get to that 150-point system required for admission. You get 10 points if you're a Michigan resident. You get four points if you're a legacyin other words, if you're a child of parents or a child of stepparents who had graduated from the university. Three points if you write an outstanding essay.
Why should an African-American applicant automatically get 20 points to give that applicant an advantage over other students to get admitted?
SHARPTON: Well, Wolf, I think the first thing you must understand: Why did the university set these points up in the first place? They set them up to assure that their campus would be diversified because they didn't have diversity.
What the plaintiffs are asking is that these universities not be allowed to have goals and timetables and targets for diversification. They're saying that it would, therefore, be against the law for a campus to say that we want to consider race as we consider other things.
We have a president of the United States that got points because he was from a certain region of the country. People can say whatever they want. A university should have the right to say, given the makeup of our student body, we should have the right to set targets that we want to assure diversity.
And what the court is being asked to do is to tell universities, "You cannot even consider that." And I think that is un-American, and I think that is certainly not in the best interest of students in this country.
BLITZER: All right, let me let Ward Connerly respond. Go ahead.
CONNERLY: With all due respect to Reverend Sharpton, that's a bunch of baloney. These policies were set up 40 years ago, when America was 87 percent white and 10 percent black, and black people were clearly oppressed.
And every American university now has been trying to right that wrong, bending over backwards, providing policies, legal and illegal, to bring black people in.
And now America is no longer black and white. We're a Technicolor nation, and these policies have outlived their time. They discriminate against people. No one can defend getting somebody 20 points on the basis of their skin color. It's unconstitutional.
SHARPTON: Well, first of all, in all due respect, Mr. Connerly, that is like acting like racism is dead.
And also, what is interesting to me, no one is objecting to people getting points for other things. No one is saying you shouldn't get points if you are a member of a family that went there or if you did a good essay. It seems that we want to only take away points for the consideration of race. There are 80 other points.
Are you objecting to a point system, or are you objecting us to finishing the racial gap in higher education?
CONNERLY: Yes, you're right, there is racism. When the college gives points on the basis of race, yes, sir, there is racism. That is blatant racism.
SHARPTON: Well, suppose on thebut what about on the basis of...
CONNERLY: But let me go. Let me go on.
SHARPTON: ... family?
CONNERLY: No, I think those are wrong. I think that legacy admits are wrong. They're morally wrong, and public institutions should not be engaged in giving points on the basis of who your granddaddy is.
But we have a Constitution that you fought over the years, and I give you credit for it, to give black people legal equality. Declare victory and let's move on and live by the creed that we have put into place.
SHARPTON: I think we can declare victory when we look and see that the universities and that higher-education institutions reflect the very numbers you gave. Those numbers are not reflected in higher education, which is why you need universities that have the legal right so that these campuses look like the America you say. Then we can declare victory.
BLITZER: All right. Let me interrupt and read to you, Ward Connerly, from the Bakke case, the 1978 case. That was the last time the Supreme Court dealt with this issue of affirmative action, rejecting formal quotas.
But the justices did go on to say this, "The state has a substantial interest that legitimately may be served by a properly devised admissions program involving the competitive consideration of race and ethnic origin."
Obviously, they believed, the justices at that time, that universities should do whatever they can to make sure that there is a diverse population on campus.
CONNERLY: And I think that American universities have driven a Mack truck through that little opening. It's like saying you're a little bit pregnant. If you are going to use raceto empower universities to use race just a little bit as one of many factors, it's disingenuous. Either you use race or you don't.
And in this nation, I think that the '64 Civil Rights Act says that everybody will be treated equally without regard to race. What the University of Michigan is doing is clearly violating the '64 Civil Rights Act and, I believe, the equal protection clause of the Constitution.
SHARPTON: No, what they are doing is they are saying that we have the legal right to make sure that there is equal opportunity. And that the '64 Act not be something that is written but, in fact, enacted and actually used. And I think that is important.
CONNERLY: Oh, jeez, come on.
SHARPTON: That's why universities are defending this.
CONNERLY: The legal right to discriminate. The legal right to discriminate.
SHARPTON: That's not discrimination. That's the legal right to consider the history of discrimination. What you don't want is them to have the right to even consider it.
BLITZER: Reverend Sharpton?
CONNERLY: You're right.
BLITZER: Reverend Sharpton, I want to point out that the plaintiff in this case before the Supreme Court, Jennifer Gratz, she was denied admission into the law school, she says, because she was white, even though her law boards, her grades were higher than the African-Americans who were admitted.
I want you to listen to what she told us here at CNN in March.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENNIFER GRATZ, PLAINTIFF: I think definitely I am not a racist. I am standing up for the exact opposite of racism. I think that people should be treated equally and people shouldn't be treated differently based on skin color. And I think to call me a racist for standing up for that is kind of crazy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What do you say, Reverend Sharpton, to the white students who may have higher SATs, or LSATs, who have higher grades, write a better essay, have better experiences but don't get accepted because, let's say, less qualified, at least academically less qualified, African-Americans, other minorities get their slot?
SHARPTON: First of all, I don't call her a racist. And I don't think anyone would call someone a racist they don't know their personal make-up. I think what I would say to themI went just last week with my own daughter, who is looking to go to college in a year. She's looking at various schools. They said that we have 300 slots we have to fill.
A university has the right to decide how they are going to fill them. There may be some with very good averages, very good SATs that don't make the 300. That does not mean that they have the right to say, "I ought to be accepted because of my scores." They have to accept the standards of a university.
What this Supreme Court decision is based on is they are saying that a university cannot accept the consideration of diversity and the need to have the diversity. I think that undermines America.
BLITZER: Ward Connerly, I've spoken in recent weeks with admissions officers at major university law schools, medical schools, some of the best in the country. Their great fear, if the Supreme Court tomorrow or this week should rule that these affirmative action programs are unconstitutional, they will be hard pressed to find enough black candidates to meet the slots in the universities if they can't use race as a factor.
Would it be acceptable to you if all theor at least most of the African-American doctors or lawyers went to schools like Howard University, predominantly black universities, as opposed to Harvard?
CONNERLY: Well, I am not uncomfortable with the fact that in a meritocracy the outcome ends up being something other than what I might like. We have a nation of laws and black people have every opportunityand this is not just a black problem, by the way. America is faced with a problem of race and ethnicity. And we're giving these benefits to recent immigrants over American citizens.
I don't have a problem with the outcome, as long as the competition is fair. But to say that we're going to somehow give American universities the exclusive right to discriminate, Reverend Sharpton wouldn't have said to George Wallace, "I respect your right to discriminate." He wouldn't say that to Lester Maddox. So why are we now giving these American colleges the right to discriminate?
Racial discrimination is wrong. And we need to accept that fact and not apply different standards on the basis of that.
BLITZER: All right. I'll give...
SHARPTON: Are we trying to say...
BLITZER: ... Reverend Sharpton the lastthis is the last...
SHARPTON: Are we...
BLITZER: Reverend Sharpton, you have the last word.
SHARPTON: Thank you. Are we trying to say that George Wallace and Lester Maddox was trying to achieve diversity? They were trying to achieve supremacy and an exclusionary policy.
CONNERLY: They were discriminating.
SHARPTON: These universities are not saying, "We're going to have an all-black or an all-woman or an all-Latino." They are saying, we must make sure we don't have all one way. And the way to do that, we must have the right to consider...
CONNERLY: George Orwell has returned in the body of Al Sharpton.
SHARPTON: ... that is not what George Wallace did. That was not what Lester Maddox did.
No, who has returned is George Washington, and so we must have one nation...
CONNERLY: Oh, come on, Reverend Al.
SHARPTON: ... that is under God that wants opportunity for everyone.
SHARPTON: And we've got to guarantee that opportunity...
CONNERLY: Indivisible. A nation indivisible.
SHARPTON: ... by having goals that people can achieve.
BLITZER: All right.
SHARPTON: And I think...
CONNERLY: Come on, Reverend Al.
SHARPTON: ... that that's what I hope we do tomorrow.
CONNERLY: You're wrong, sir.
BLITZER: I think both of you will agree that the decision that the Supreme Court probably is going to come out with tomorrow morning, 10:00 a.m. Eastern, could be very, very historic for future race relations here.
CONNERLY: On that we agree.
SHARPTON: I hope it's not hysterics. I hope it's not hysterical.
BLITZER: I hope it's notwell, all of us hope it's not hysterical. Let's hope it's the right decision, of course.
Thanks to both of you, Reverend Al Sharpton, Ward Connerly.
CONNERLY: OK. Take care, Reverend Al.
BLITZER: A good, solid debate previewing the issues at stake tomorrow.
SHARPTON: Thank you.