George Will

Although Seattle never had segregated schools, the district discusses its racial preferences with reference to ``segregation'' and ``integration.'' But a statement by the district reveals that racial preferences are supposed to serve social engineering: ``Diversity in the classroom increases the likelihood that children will discuss racial or ethnic issues and be more likely to socialize with people of different races.'' Or different skin tones. Is that a ``compelling government interest,'' sufficient to justify race-based school assignments? The 9th Circuit, siding with the district, argued two propositions, both of which conflict with Supreme Court precedents.

One was that racial preferences are benign if they do not ``unduly harm any students'' or ``uniformly benefit any race or group of individuals to the detriment of another'' (emphases added). But the Supreme Court has rejected this idea that the equal protection clause protects group rights rather than individual rights.

Second, the 9th Circuit said broad deference is owed to the judgments of local school districts. But no line of cases has established that high schools enjoy even the limited latitude that universities have in treating race as a factor when deciding who may be admitted. Rather, the Supreme Court has held that public secondary education ``must be available to all on equal terms.'' And here are samples of the Seattle district's judgments which the 9th Circuit thinks deserve deference:

Until June, the school district's Web site declared that ``cultural racism'' includes ``emphasizing individualism as opposed to a more collective ideology,'' ``having a future time orientation'' (planning ahead) and ``defining one form of English as standard.'' The site also asserted that only whites can be racists, and disparaged assimilation as the ``giving up'' of one's culture. After this propaganda provoked outrage, the district, saying it needed to ``provide more context to readers'' about ``institutional racism,'' put up a page saying that the district's intention is to avoid `` unsuccessful concepts such as a melting pot or colorblind mentality.''

The Supreme Court has said that all racial classifications by government are ``presumptively invalid'' unless narrowly tailored to serve a compelling government interest. The district's repellent Web site revealed the interest that the district considers so compelling that it justifies racial preferences. Supreme Court deference to such race-mongering would make a mockery of the equal protection guarantee.


George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
 
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