Chief Justice John Roberts asked Cameron Norris, the lawyer arguing against Harvard’s affirmative action program, about whether colleges can lawfully consider race if presented in an application essay or in the recommendation for an applicant that discusses the applicant overcoming racial discrimination.

“Do you have any objection to that introduction of race?” Roberts asked. Norris said no, prompting several follows up from justices across the ideological spectrum.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett referenced a quote from Justice Elena Kagan from earlier in the arguments, that by making that distinction, the challengers were “slicing the salami pretty finely.”

She asked how colleges should consider application essays where the applicant talked about the cultural traditions related to race.

“I think culture, tradition and heritage are all not off limits for students to talk about and for universities to consider,” Norris said.

“They can’t consider that they can’t read that —and say, oh, this person is Hispanic or Black or Asian and therefore I’m into credit that they need to credit something unique and individual and what they actually wrote, not race itself,” he added.

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