La Shawn Barber

Legal challenges to racially exclusive programs and policies seem to be increasing. And it’s about time.

Last year, the Department of Justice threatened to sue Southern Illinois University (SIU) over three fellowships that discriminated against whites, “non-preferred minorities,” and men. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The university begrudgingly settled by opening up the fellowships to all students.

At least one university – the State University of New York – has voluntarily opened up previously discriminatory scholarship programs. As of February, other schools like Pepperdine University and the University of Wisconsin System were in negotiations with the federal government over their race-based financial aid programs.

This fall, the U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear two race-related lawsuits filed by white parents in Seattle, Washington, and Jefferson County, Kentucky, who claim their government school systems are engaged in discrimination by using race to make school assignments, a practice supposedly outlawed by Brown v. Board of Education. (Although based on political considerations and a flawed sociological study, rather than on legal arguments, Brown nevertheless is the law of the land.)

On September 26, 2006, The Center for Individual Rights (CIR), a right-leaning public interest law firm, filed suit on behalf of a white high school student named Emily Smith. She applied for and was accepted to the Urban Journalism Workshop (“urban” is code for black) hosted by Virginia Commonwealth University, and sponsored by the university, the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund, and the Richmond Times Dispatch.

According to CIR, the co-director of the program rescinded the offer after she found out that Smith was white.

Anyone of average intelligence can understand that what the co-director did was illegal. No matter how noble the reasons, it is unconstitutional to discriminate against people because of the color of their skin. But left-leaning journalists and liberals who run universities frame the debate around so-called tolerance and diversity, which is meant to obscure the fact that blatant discrimination is going on.

John Rosenberg, who blogs at Discriminations, made this observation about a story in The Chronicle on Higher Education:

La Shawn Barber

Freelance writer La Shawn Barber blogs at the American Civil Rights Institute blog.