When I applied to University of Michigan in Ann Arbor for admission in 1995, I thought it was my path to medical school. When I received a rejection letter, I ultimately reconsidered my career choice, and pursued a degree in math at another University of Michigan campus. My confidence was shaken.
I thought I was prepared to hear anything during those arguments, but I don’t think anything can prepare you to hear your own name referenced by a Supreme Court justice, as if you are just a policy on paper. If I remember correctly, “Gratz” was referenced in the very first question asked that day.
Each time they mentioned my name, I wanted to jump out of my seat and say, “I’m sitting right here. I’m a real person.”
Just after the oral arguments, I stood on the steps of the court fielding questions from reporters and pointing up at that inscription, “Equal Justice Under Law.” In the days between oral arguments and the decisions in the Gratz and Grutter cases, I hoped the words inscribed in the building – the words enshrined in our Constitution’s 14th amendment – mattered. I hoped that the Court would find that diversity and other equally good intentions did not trump my right, or anyone’s right, to be treated equally and without regard to skin color by public institutions.
Update: Gratz had similar comments in 2013:
During U.S. Supreme Court oral arguments in December 2006, Jennifer Gratz recalls sitting in the courtroom and hearing justices refer to her name. It wasn’t a personal reference — they were alluding to the 2003 case with her name on it.
“Stop talking about me like that,” Gratz remembers thinking. “I’m not a policy. I’m a real person.”
The Southgate native was in the court that day because the case involved race and the 14th Amendment rights of students.