The Supreme Court left Washington the other day for its summer vacation. The court’s vacations are getting longer as, year after year, the justices take fewer cases.
They use the extra time to make money from part-time jobs. Chief Justice Roberts picked up 15 grand for a week’s worth of teaching at Penn State last year. The other justices have similar gigs. This may be just as well considering the damage they do on those occasions when they do show up for work at their day job.
Before they went off this time, they lingered long enough in Washington to deal the civil rights people a punishing blow to the solar plexus. They let go with a ruling forbidding school assignment on the basis of race. Henceforth, placing children by race even to achieve integration or diversity is no longer legal. It would appear that the famous 1954 Brown v. Board decision is now a dead letter, at least as a tool to promote integration, though it still stands as a bar prohibiting deliberate racial segregation.
One of the cases on which the court based its decision was brought by a white Seattle woman whose child was denied a place in a qualitatively superior high school solely on the basis of race. The school authorities were trying to maintain an ethnic balance that would have been thrown off had they admitted the woman’s child.
Nothing ticks most of us off more than having a child denied a seat in a school solely because of some kind of plan aiming to achieve integration or diversity. Where, we ask in our fury, does it say in the Constitution that all men (people) are entitled to diversity? It’s so infuriating.
It’s often said that the Constitution is color-blind, but to the contrary, a careful reading shows that it is not. The Constitution is shot full of gimmicks put there to protect and perpetuate slavery. Most of the gimmicks have been canceled out, but not all of them. We still have the Electoral College, a gimmick designed to give slave states an advantage.
The point is that African-Americans have had a special place in our laws and institutions since the very founding of the nation. It is a place that no other minority can occupy. This historical legacy comes into play when talking about integration or affirmative action in conjunction with African-Americans, and when the court fails to recognize that the court is mistaken.
In this case there is no unanimity of opinion among black people about this latest decision. Thus Juan Williams, himself an African-American and an important thinker on this topic, writes “… it is time to acknowledge that Brown’s time has passed.”
Somewhat in line with Mr. Williams is Clarence Thomas, the only black judge on the court, who voted with the majority, saying that, “In reality, it is far from apparent that coerced racial mixing has any educational benefits, much less that integration is necessary to black achievement.”
He is hardly the first African-American to get publicly irritated at the notion that a black child needs to sit next to a white one in school in order to learn something. In effect such people are saying that separate but equal is O.K. if equal is really, really equal, but separately equal has seldom actually been equal in our history.