James J. Kilpatrick

Then came May 1954, and the Supreme Court's unanimous opinion in Brown v. Board of Education. For Southerners both black and white, a world that had been steadily teetering was now a world turned upside down. In the name of "civil rights," every social institution known to my grandfather was about to topple -- hotels, restaurants, buses, trains -- and now our kindergartens!

When something comes along in the news like Monday's argument in the high court, I look back upon those pre-Brown years with shame, embarrassment and something close to disbelief. We defenders of school segregation were so very wrong! Legally wrong. Morally wrong. We should have been devoting our energies not to better white schools and better black schools, but simply to better schools, period.

The more things change, et cetera, et cetera. I read from the petitioners' mind-numbing brief in Case 05-908. Counsel is describing Seattle's "open choice" plan for racial integration of its 10 high schools:

"When a school district is oversubscribed, the district first admits siblings of enrolled students. In an effort to achieve a predetermined racial balance in each school (40 percent white to 60 percent nonwhite, that being the ratio among all students in the district), the district next looks at a school's racial composition and uses race to determine who will be admitted. A student is deemed to be of the race specified in her registration materials. If a parent declines to identify a child's race, the district assigns a race to the child based on a visual inspection of the student or parent. If the ratio of white to nonwhite pupils in an oversubscribed school deviates by more than a set number of percentage points from the desired balance, then a student whose race will move the school closer to the desired racial balance will be admitted, and a student whose race will move the school away from the desired balance will be denied admission. There is no individual consideration of applicants ..."

From the grave, my grandfather asks: Who's "racist" now?

James J. Kilpatrick

James J. Kilpatrick has been reporter, editor, columnist, commentator, and briefly an adjunct professor of journalism.

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