'Simplistic" is how Justice Sonia Sotomayor described the reasoning of a Supreme Court majority that effectively upheld laws in seven states banning affirmative action by colleges and universities.

She's right. The 6-2 decision suggests a nation that no longer needs to directly address the vestiges of past discrimination, which have left minority communities poorer, sicker, and educationally deprived. Beyond that, the ruling suggests the courts need not intervene when a state executes a law that was properly enacted through a viable democratic process.

Concerning affirmative action, Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote, "The Constitution foresees the ballot box, not the courts, as the normal instrument for resolving differences and debates about the merits of these programs." Perhaps Breyer needs to be reminded of the laws states passed after the 1954 Brown v. Board decision.

In 1955, the Louisiana Legislature passed a law saying it would determine the racial makeup of schools. In 1956, it gave the governor the power to close racially mixed schools. In 1960, it gave him the authority to close any school under federal court order. Each time, the Supreme Court voided the state law.

That is not to say America hasn't made progress since that sad period when no black person realistically expected to be treated according to the content of his character rather than his skin color. But as Sotomayor so eloquently put it in urging her fellow justices to reconsider, "We ought not sit back and wish away, rather than confront, the racial inequality that exists in our society."

Colleges give preferences to athletes, children of rich alumni, and others they want on campus. Why not do that for students still struggling to overcome past barriers to opportunity?