Justice Alito claims ‘American Indian’ ancestry to prove point in affirmative action case

The Supreme Court on Monday heard oral arguments in two cases involving the use of race-based affirmative action in the admissions process for colleges and universities, specifically Harvard University and the University of North Carolina, which is alleged to be a discriminatory practice against Asian and White student applicants in favor of those who are Black or Hispanic.

Justice Samuel Alito, perhaps trolling, exposed the absurd hypocrisy of the whole thing when he asserted that he identified as having American Indian ancestry in a hypothetical, the Daily Caller reported.

That asserted racial identity, however, was summarily dismissed as being “nothing special” and bearing no weight by the attorney who represented UNC, North Carolina Solicitor General Ryan Park.

Race-based affirmative action challenged

Reuters reported that both cases were initially filed separately in 2014 against Harvard and UNC by an anti-affirmative action group known as Students for Fair Admissions, which charged that Harvard discriminates against Asian applicants while UNC discriminates against both Asian and White applicants.

Harvard is alleged to have violated Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits institutions that receive federal funds from discriminating based on race. UNC is alleged to have violated the Fourteenth Amendment‘s guarantee of equal protection under the laws.

According to SCOTUSblog, the group hopes to have the Supreme Court overturn two prior court precedents that upheld the use of race-based affirmative action in school admissions processes, namely 1978’s Regents of the University of California v. Bakke and 2003’s Grutter v. Bollinger.

Alito’s claimed identity dismissed

At one point in the proceedings, according to the Daily Caller, Justice Alito said, “It’s family lore that we have an ancestor who was an American Indian.”

In response, North Carolina Solicitor General Park replied, “So I think in that particular circumstance it would be not accurate for them to say …”

He was cut off by Alito, however, who added, “Well, I identify as an American Indian because I have always been told that some ancestor back in the old days was an American Indian.”

Park dismissed that claim, though, and said, “Yeah, so I think in that circumstance it would be very unlikely that that person was telling the truth, and this seems true for — we rely on self-reporting for all the other demographics and characteristics that we asked for and there’s nothing special about the racial identification on that score.”

This was but one of several instances throughout the oral arguments, according to SCOTUSblog, in which the conservative-leaning justices indicated that they simply weren’t buying the pro-affirmative action arguments being put forward, including Justice Clarence Thomas stumping an attorney by asking for a definition of “diversity” and other justices asking where the “endpoint” of the policy would be or why the admissions process couldn’t be “race-neutral.”