- Samuel Alito appeared to reference Sen. Elizabeth Warren during the Supreme Court’s affirmative action case.
- Justice asked whether someone who identifies as Aboriginal based on “family knowledge” can include it in a college application.
- The Supreme Court is hearing a case challenging affirmative action in college admissions.
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito appears to refer to Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren in a line of questioning about Native American ancestry as the Supreme Court hears a major case on affirmative action.
Oral arguments began Monday in a case to determine whether colleges can continue to consider race in the admissions process.
Alito asked North Carolina Solicitor General Ryan Park — who is defending the University of North Carolina’s affirmative action policies — what is preventing students from claiming heritage they don’t have.
“It’s family lore that we had an ancestor who was an American Indian,” Alito offered.
Park agreed that in that instance, it wouldn’t make sense for a student to talk about American Indian heritage.
Alito replied: “I identify as an American Indian because I have always been told that in the old days some ancestors were American Indians.”
Park conceded, agreeing that it was unlikely the student was telling the truth.
According to the Washington Post, Alito referred to Warren, who identified herself as an American Indian on her Texas registration card for the State Bar of Texas and in documents from her time working at Harvard.
Warren issued a public apology during her run for president in 2019 after taking a DNA test to prove indigenous ancestry.
Alito challenges affirmative action
During oral arguments in the affirmative action case at the Supreme Court on Monday, Alito pressed Park on the justification for students of similar racial backgrounds to “group together” together by checking a box.
“What is the rationale for combining students whose families are from Afghanistan with those whose families are from China?” Alito asked.
Park responded that he agreed that this would be an “odd rule”, but noted that it was not a rule established and upheld by the Supreme Court.
“Why would you want them to check a box? What would you learn from merely checking a box?” Alito fired back.
Park noted that it gives information about where the student is from and gives context to their lives.
“In the context of what we know about the applicant, it can be important, not always, and no automatic plus factor is given, but it can matter what an applicant’s ethnic background is,” Park explained.
Alito then asked at what point a student falls into an underrepresented community category, pressing Park to give a specific answer on how many relatives a student must have with that background to receive the plus factor in the admissions process.