It's racially discriminatory to prohibit racial discrimination. That's the bottom line of a decision issued last Friday, just before the Fourth of July weekend, by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
The case was brought by an organization called By Any Means Necessary to overturn a state constitutional amendment passed by a 58 percent majority of Michigan voters in November 2006.
This was not BAMN's first challenge to the proposition. It staged a mini-riot in the secretary of state's office to try to block submission of the signatures that put the proposition on the ballot.
The ballot proposition, sponsored by the indefatigable Ward Connerly, banned racial discrimination by state colleges and universities and by state government generally. It is consistent with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and in line with the aims of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.
Its chief goal was to ban the racial quotas and preferences long used in admissions by Michigan's state universities. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2003 overturned the explicit quotas used by the University of Michigan's undergraduate college but, in a controlling opinion by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, approved the "holistic" admissions process of U of M's law school.
The Sixth Circuit ruling seems unlikely to stand. Its citation of Supreme Court precedents is unpersuasive. The proposition that a state's voters cannot ban racial discrimination seems palpably absurd.
But it does stand as a monument to the contortions that liberal lawyers and judges will go through to perpetuate the racial quotas and preferences that have become embedded in important parts of American life.
The first step in these contortions is to ignore the fact that any racial quota or preference violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Discriminating by race is racial discrimination, even if your intention is to help black people.
The next step is, as the Sixth Circuit panel did explicitly and Justice O'Connor did more surreptitiously, to close your eyes to the fact that racial quotas and preferences are being employed. The admissions directors and the corporate human relations departments are just being, um, "holistic."
All of which is intellectually dishonest and corrosive to honest discourse.
In my view, the strongest argument against racial quotas and preferences is that they tend to cast a pall of illegitimacy over the achievements of the intended beneficiaries. We see this every time a liberal critic questions the competence of Justice Clarence Thomas.