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Civil rights leaders visit Chapel Hill to speak on Court reforms, affirmative action


Martin Luther King III speaks to a crowd on West Franklin Street on Tuesday, June 13, 2023. King, as well as his wife Arndrea Waters King and the Rev. Al Sharpton, came to Chapel Hill on June 13 as a part of the Just Majority campaign's national bus tour.  

Mayor Pam Hemminger welcomed civil rights leaders the Rev. Al Sharpton and Martin Luther King III to Chapel Hill on June 13 as a part of the Just Majority campaign’s national bus tour.

Just Majority is a coalition of groups that support Supreme Court expansion — including the Rev. Sharpton’s National Action Network. The group spoke outside the Chapel Hill Nine commemorative marker on West Franklin Street.

The speakers discussed Supreme Court reforms and current issues impacting the Court.

The Supreme Court is currently considering Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. University of North Carolina — a case that could potentially end the consideration of race in college admissions. 

At the event, the Rev. Sharpton said that if the Court rules against race being a factor in admissions decisions, it will have consequences elsewhere, including in the private sector. 

“They will have undermined the entire movement of diversity in this country, so it’s not limited to academia,” he said.

“Affirmative action is an attempt to make good on the promise that we won’t have a society built on racial class,” Kermit Roosevelt, a former member of the Biden Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court of the United States, said.

He brought up the case Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, which ended affirmative action in the state of California.

“It was catastrophic what happened in California,” the Rev. Sharpton said.

Roosevelt said the Bakke decision had a negative impact on diversity in University of California System schools and that a Supreme Court decision overturning affirmative action would do the same nationwide.

Arndrea Waters King, president of the Drum Major Institute, said that the Court’s ruling could potentially harm the future of education in the U.S. She also said the Supreme Court has made a number of detrimental decisions recently.

“We are here because the Supreme Court has been in the business of legislating oppression,” she said.

She said that the Court could wreak havoc on minority students’ ability to receive an education on par with their peers through this decision.

“We often went to the Supreme Court for relief over the years,” Martin Luther King III said. “By and large, the Court looked forward.”

He said that with recent Supreme Court decisions regarding reproductive rights, voting rights and affirmative action, the ethics of the Court have declined. He also spoke in favor of expanding the Court.

“When you can see a Court, based on partisanship, may take affirmative action, and may take away other rights — it’s time for us to expand the Court to expand the options of justice,” the Rev. Sharpton said. “And that’s why we in the civil rights community stand with Just Majority. We need to expand the Court.”


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Walker Livingston

Walker Livingston is a 2023-24 assistant city & state editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously served as summer city & state editor. Walker is a sophomore pursuing a double major in journalism and media and American studies, with a minor in data science.  

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