Black Pride, White Paternalism

Posted: Jul 02, 2007 12:00 AM
Black Pride, White Paternalism

[B]eware of elites bearing racial theories. – Justice Clarence Thomas

Last week the U.S. Supreme Court held that schools in Jefferson County, Kentucky, and Seattle, Washington, could not use race as a tiebreaker when assigning students.

(I live-blogged the Democratic presidential debate from Howard University last Thursday. When Hillary Clinton mentioned the decision, I applauded without hesitation or embarrassment, even while sitting in a large room of liberals.)

Unfortunately, the court didn’t outlaw the use of race altogether. Racial classifications are permissible in narrow circumstances to remedy “the effects of past intentional discrimination,” which is a “compelling interest under the strict scrutiny test.”

Seattle Public Schools failed to meet this burden because it was never segregated by law, and Jefferson County’s desegregation order was dissolved in 2000.

The court also distinguished the present cases from Grutter v. Bollinger, where it held that diversity in higher education was a compelling enough interest to justify using race as a factor in law school admissions. The court contended that in “the present cases, by contrast, race is not considered as part of a broader effort to achieve, ‘exposure to widely diverse people, cultures, ideas, and viewpoints’…it is the factor.” (Download the 185-page opinion in PDF.)

Justice Clarence Thomas’s concurring opinion stands out for its undercurrent of “black pride” and elegant rejection of white paternalism. As repugnant as it may be to some people, “[r]acial imbalance is not segregation, and the mere incantation of terms like resegregation and remediation cannot make up the difference,” he writes. Remedying the effects of Jim Crow-era segregation “is a one-time process involving the redress of a discrete legal injury inflicted by an identified entity,” not a blank check to assign students to schools by race to achieve an arbitrary racial balance.

By the way, those who cite Brown v. Board of Education to support race preferences for the sake of diversity have got it dead wrong. That case ended government-mandated racial discrimination in schools; it had nothing to do with so-called diversity.

Although vilified by black liberals, Justice Thomas has a keener understanding of “black pride” than they have. Unlike paternalistic white liberals, he believes black children can excel in predominantly black schools and don’t need to mix with whites in order to learn. He points out that Seattle, a party in the case, operates a K-8 school called the African American Academy, which is 99 percent non-white (dig the irony!):

“This racially imbalanced environment has reportedly produced test scores ‘higher across all grade levels in reading, writing and math.’ … Contrary to what the dissent would have

predicted…the children in Seattle’s African American Academy have shown gains when placed in a ‘highly segregated’ environment.”

In the era before government-sanctioned lowered standards (affirmative action to the PC crowd), black Dunbar High School produced graduates who went on to Ivy League colleges, and Dunbar was “by no means an isolated example,” Justice Thomas asserts. His concurring opinion contains some of the most empowering sentiments I’ve ever read, yet black liberals have and will continue to label him an “Uncle Tom.” Liberal commentator Julianne Malveaux went so far as to wish he’d die an early death of heart disease “like many black men do.”

Irrational hatred notwithstanding, black liberals are off the mark. In a country where citizens are supposed to be equal before the law, regardless of color, it’s disingenuous to argue in favor of race preferences of any kind.

I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it: A government with the power to discriminate in favor of blacks can use that same power to discriminate against blacks.