Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Tyranny of the Conservative Majority

Originally posted by Nadir at

Supreme Court Diversity RulingConservative America has scored another resounding victory in its war against racial and economic diversity in the United States. The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling, has turned the promise of 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education on its head.

The conservative majority of the Court - Justices Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, Uncle Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. - rejected diversity plans from Seattle, Washington and Jefferson County, Kentucky - a school district that was once racially segregated by law. Ironically, the majority relied heavily on the landmark Brown v. Board decision that made segregation illegal in U.S. schools, even as they undermined the spirit and principles of that monumental Supreme Court ruling.

The court overturned lower court judgements which had sided in favor of the two school districts. A white woman in Louisville complained that her son was denied a transfer to attend kindergarten in a school that didn’t have enough Black pupils to keep its Black population at the district’s required minimum of 15 percent. A group of Seattle parents had opposed their district’s “tiebreaker” system, which aims to keep the nonwhite proportion of its ten high school student bodies within 15 percentage points of the district’s overall makeup, which is 60 percent nonwhite.

According to The New York Times,

Chief Justice Roberts said the officials in Seattle and in Jefferson County, Ky., which includes Louisville, had failed to show that their plans considered race in the context of a larger educational concept, and therefore did not pass muster.

“In the present cases,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote, recalling words from an earlier Supreme Court ruling, “race is not considered as part of a broader effort to achieve ‘exposure to widely diverse people, cultures, ideas, and viewpoints.’”

“Even as to race,” he went on, “the plans here employ only a limited notion of diversity, viewing race exclusively in white/nonwhite terms in Seattle and Black/other terms in Jefferson County.

“Classifying and assigning schoolchildren according to a binary conception of race is an extreme approach in light of this court’s precedents and the nation’s history of using race in public schools, and requires more than such an amorphous end to justify it.”

Of course, Roberts’ statement ignores America’s history of white privilege and white supremacist control. This is the very reason that there was a need for Brown v. Board of Education and diversity plans in the first place. His effort to place the blame on the districts is disengenuous and violates the essence of Brown v. Board.

The dissenters recognized this, and voiced their disappointment in emotional terms.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer said that today’s result “threatens to substitute for present calm a disruptive round of race-related litigation, and it undermines Brown’s promise of integrated primary and secondary education that local communities have sought to make a reality.”

“This cannot be justified in the name of the Equal Protection Clause,” Justice Breyer went on, alluding to the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which bars states from denying people “the equal protection of the laws.”

Justice Breyer’s dissent was joined by Justices David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John Paul Stevens, the tribunal’s longest-serving member, who wrote a separate dissent that was remarkable for its feeling.

“While I join Justice Breyer’s eloquent and unanswerable dissent in its entirety, it is appropriate to add these words,” Justice Stevens wrote. “There is a cruel irony in the chief justice’s reliance on our decision in Brown vs. Board of Education.”

Today’s ruling breaks faith with the 1954 ruling, Justice Stevens asserted. “It is my firm conviction that no member of the court that I joined in 1975 would have agreed with today’s decision,” he wrote.

The legacy of George W. Bush’s presidency will include many a “cruel irony”, not the least of which is his appointment of Supreme Court Justices who may very well help conservatives reverse all of the gains of the civil rights, women’s rights and environmental movements before they are finished. In an America that remains polarized by race and class, this ruling will cause many school districts to rethink their diversity policies, which, at least on paper, sought to strike a balance between white privilege and nonwhite social ascension.

The systematic dismantling of affirmative action in a nation with vast economic and educational disparities will prove to be a huge mistake as the United States struggles to maintain its status as an elite economic power. The American middle class is disappearing, but instead of working to preserve it, conservatives are using the deprivation of educational opportunities as a weapon to increase the divide.

The New York Times: Use of Race in School Placement Curbed


Blogger Paul Hue said...

Nadir: The necessity of 1954 Brown V Board was not to force all schools to have student bodies comprising the precise city racial proportions. Rather, its necessity was to outlaw school administrators from banning admission based on racial categorization.

Even the 1955 follow up ruling ruling -- famously remembered for its phrase, "all necessary speed" -- which inspired busing does not stipulate what you desire here. Those buses were to transport kids who wished to attend schools some distance from their homes.

What is "tyrannical" about this ruling, any way? When the majority ruled in your favor, they were not "tyrannical", though that majority protected rules that banned some black kids from attending schools a walk from their home and forced them to take a 40 minute bus ride far from their parents' capacity to participate regularly in school activities. Now this same kid can attend his neighborhood school.

And if the people who support this ruling have their way, that same black kid will get a voucher to spend at *any* school, having even more freedom.

June 29, 2007 10:52 AM  
Blogger Paul Hue said...

The Asian kids are having no problem "integrating" any schools that they want; the black kids doubtless will have the same success using the same non-mandated mechanisms employed by the Asian kids.

June 29, 2007 10:54 AM  
Blogger Paul Hue said...

Here's the 1955 "implementation" ruling. It does not call for racial quotas. You will find that the 1954 ruling does not either.

I believe that the overturned policies violate both the 1954 and 1955 rulings because they deny and confer enrollment using racial categorization. They especially discriminate against Asian students, since their achievement averages tops the white average, and thus their proportion at the more select K-12 schools usually exceeds their population fraction. We have already started hearing from them, though with the current trend their voices might not have to get any louder as these policies get overturned.

It will be interesting, though, to see if any white parents start calling for racial quotas as Asian kids start "taking over" the better schools. On the college level, US-Berkely is about 50% Asian now, in a state that's only about 10% Asian, if I recall my figures correctly.

June 29, 2007 10:59 AM  
Blogger Paul Hue said...

Is it "tyrannical" to permit Tuskegee, Hampton, and Morehouse to have racial compositions at variance with that of their respective states, or the US overall?

By the way, what is the gold standard racial composition recipe?

And what of our beloved Ben Carson program, which so effectively educated 100% black HS student bodies? What "tyranny" permitted us to merely accept all students willing to follow our instructions, which turned out to be 100% black? Even Detroit ain't 100% black, so once you identify the non-tyranical racial composition recipe and identify the required fraction of white, mestizo, Asian, etc., how to achieve this "diversity"? Did our astounding success with 100% black students and staff (one exception on the staff!) not prove that a "non-diverse" school can thrive? Did your wife suffer academically at Tuskegee, with its (tyrannical?) lack of racial diversity?

June 29, 2007 12:13 PM  
Blogger Nadir said...

You are missing the point. I don't speak in favor of "quotas". The ruling that struck down those diversity plans used the spirit of Brown v. Board to challenge districts that attempt to create diverse student bodies. This is not saying that those plans were perfect. Obviously they weren't perfect for everyone if there were some parents who had problems with their rules.

The tyranny comes from a conservative court whose goals are to preserve values that turn back the tide of progress, and fashion a legal landscape that diminishes opportunity for some Americans.

What I want for all American children is equal educational opportunities. This currently does not exist. You and I agree that students can and must take their education into their own hands if they are faced with failing school institutions. However, it is most unfortunate that poor students, and disproportionate numbers of Black and Latino students are the ones who are locked into those failing institutions.

There aren't that many Asian students who live in those neighborhoods with poor schools. There are large numbers of Blacks, Latinos and poor whites who do.

I agree that strict racial guidelines aren't the best for equalizing schools in all districts. However, in some systems such as the Louisville area, where a history of racism still exists, the abolition of diversity plans should take that history into account.

July 03, 2007 1:30 PM  
Blogger Nadir said...

Paul, you personally have advocated the preservation of historically Black colleges and universities. Are you changing your stance?

July 03, 2007 1:30 PM  
Blogger Paul Hue said...

I support preserving HBCUs, and permitting them to have 100% black enrollment, with no penalties, as long as they don't reject qualified applicants due to racial categorizations. The rules struck down by this "tyrannical" court will eventually force HBCUs to have racial compositions that match those of non-HBCUs.

I think that our all-black Ben Carson program can provide supreme education results without any racial "diversity." During slavery days in the US and England, several all-white organizations concluded that slavery and racial segregation were wrong, proving that racial diversity is not a requirement for any sort of intelligent thought or righteous living.

You and I agree that racial diversity is a good thing, that forced racial segregation is wrong and damaging too all, and that people should have opportunities based on their abilities and records, not racial categorization. Yet somehow you manage to support these laws.

Whereas I believe that these stricken-down laws have actually hurt black folks (the degradation of black public school systems have occurred during the ascendancy of these laws, by the way), the govt mechanism that I foresee providing great assistance is school vouchers, opposed vigorously by the opponents of these racial balancing laws. Let's give that a shot, no? Racial balancing laws and the unraveling of black public schools have occurred simultaneously. Let's try something different; the results could hardly be worse. At least give parents the choice. If vouchers are so horrible for black folks, let's let black parents have the chance to choose against them by declining them for themselves, rather than preventing everyone from having the chance.

July 03, 2007 4:26 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home