Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s fierce defense of the affirmative action efforts such as the ones that helped move her from a Bronx housing project to the upper echelons of American law found renewed voice Tuesday in an impassioned dissent that accused colleagues of trying to “wish away” racial inequality — and drew a tart response from Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.
In her most personal moment in 4 1/2 years on the court, Sotomayor read part of her dissent from the bench to emphasize her disagreement with six colleagues who upheld Michigan’s constitutional amendment banning the consideration of race in public university admissions.
It is a 58-page dissent, longer than the combined efforts of four other justices who wrote. The court’s first Latina justice directly took on Roberts’s view that the nation’s continued reliance on racial classifications hinders rather than promotes the goal of a color-blind society.
Sotomayor noted Roberts’s famous statement in a 2007 opinion that “the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”
Too simplistic, she said.