Friday, July 6, 2007

The Beginning of the End for Conservative Race Theory

One of the truisms of our time is that conservatives rule American politics because they have won the battle of ideas. Although The Supreme Court’s new rejection of the use of race in diversity programs in the Louisville and Seattle school districts (No. 05-908) seems like redundant confirmation, the real story of the case is Justice Breyer’s astonishing 77-page dissent.

Breyer dismantles every moving part of the conservative case, one piece at a time. The case will not be remembered for its plurality opinion but for Breyer’ dissent, which reassembles a democratic theory of racial integration.

In the Seattle decision, Chief Justice John Roberts bases the plurality opinion on the standard, three-part conservative argument. First, racial classification is always and intrinsically bad, not just when it is used to subordinate or stigmatize a group. Second, with very rare exceptions, racial classification can only be used to reverse an institution’s own prior, state-sanctioned segregation: voluntary improvements are not allowed. Third, racial diversity is almost always a cover for numerical quotas that try to make institutions conform to the racial mixtures that prevail in society at large. Diversity’s secret goal is what the Chief Justice calls “racial balancing,” and it is unconstitutional.

As is equally standard in such contexts, racial consciousness is presented as a central threat to individual rights and personal choice. Finally, the icing on the conservative cake is that the color-blind scheme turns out to be, in this view, the only effective form of anti-racism: to cite Roberts’ media tag-line, fully pre-tested by conservative think tanks: “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” The real causes and effects that shape American society are replaced by a series of scholastic equations, in which race blindness equals race legality equals race justice, and the package is held together by a tone of superior moral rectitude toward the race conscious authorities who impair the freedom to choose.

Breyer systematically rejects each of these claims. First, his lengthy examination of precedent shows that the Court has repeatedly endorsed racial classification when it includes rather than excludes. The whole point of applying “strict scrutiny” standards to racial classifications is precisely to “take relevant differences” between “fundamentally different situations . . . into account.” The Roberts plurality, Breyer writes, is in fact breaking with Court precedent in order to make strict scrutiny “fatal in fact” to all racial classification across the board. The power of Breyer’s opinion comes from his relentless evisceration of the taboo against race-consciousness based on the Court’s own decisions. The conclusion is that the cornerstone of conservative race theory has no basis in the Court’s own opinions on race.

Second, Breyer shows that court-sanctioned de jure discrimination (“segregation by state action”) is not the only kind that can be addressed with race-conscious programs: de facto discrimination, like the educational effects of housing segregation, is also a legitimate target. The stakes here are whether schools, with public support, have the right to seek to increase racial mixing in communities where larger housing and income patterns make that mixing unlikely. Conservatives have said no, race-conscious remedies can be used only in cases of extreme previous racism, which is like saying that pesticide bans should apply only to former toxic waste sites and not to the landscape at large. Breyer's argument is a fundamental rejection of the conservative restriction.

Third, Breyer argues that the goal of diversity practices is to keep racial integration from moving full speed into reverse. The gains of the period between 1968 and 1980 have been almost entirely lost, as nicely articulated by Breyer’s description of the empirical evidence of resegregation. Does the desire of white parents to send their children to whatever school they want always trump the goal of keeping residentially segregated racial groups in communication with each other? Breyer argues that the state has a compelling interest in the use of education to create the powers of understanding that underwrite a multi-racial democracy. He also argues that the districts have bent over backwards to protect individual choice, thus rejecting the Right’s assertion that choice and racial diversity are contradictory.

The effect of Breyer’s opinion is to hold conservative race theory to account. It has dominated the courts during the same period in which school segregation has increased, when administrators and teachers have had to jump through new legal hoops every year, when educational disparity - like the economic kind - has increased all over the country. Advocates of color-blindness has made all of this worse, attacking nearly all programs of racial inclusion as assaults on liberty, painting as dire threats the integrationist remedies that thirty years ago were considered the least society could do.

Color-blindness has also allowed many white parents to dodge the question of whether they are willing to fix the multi-racial schools their children are assigned to rather than fighting endlessly to keep them from going there in the first place. Conservatives have used racial resentment to blind whites to the general benefit of high-quality public provisions for all students, including the benefit to themselves of Latinos and African Americans receiving equally good educations.

Breyer’s opinion, though on the losing side, may eventually help refocus the outrage of whites, who have sought to use the courts for the benefit of their own children regardless of the effects on the children of others, refocus them on how the success of their society depends on the equal distribution of quality in education.

1 comment:

John Wallace said...

THE CLASSIFICATION OF AMERICANS BY RACE AND ETHNICITY MUST END

The Racial and Ethnic classification of Americans is nothing more than institutionalized racism and must be ended. The United States of America has been known as a country of rugged individualism based on individual freedom and liberty. Why has America become a country obsessed with classifying its citizens into different racial and ethnic sub-groups?

The only groups that actively support the continued collection of racial and ethnic data are big government bureaucrats and "racial and ethnic special interest groups” that also happen to receive significant funding from the federal government. These organizations argue that identifying people by race and ethnicity is necessary in order to redress some past injustice and that the federal government must continue to collect and use this information in order to set up special racial and ethnic programs, affirmative action quotas and other set-asides for these groups, some of whom consist of new immigrants, illegal aliens and non-citizens. Nothing can be further from the truth. In a country where we can no longer ask people what religion they are, what their party affiliation is or what their sexual orientation is, why are we still asking them about their racial and ethnic background?

Americans are beginning to realize that racial and ethnic identification is more a matter of personal choice than anything else. In the 2000 Census, seven million American citizens refused to place themselves into a single category by refusing to describe themselves as only white, black, Asian, Latino or any one of the other specific categories listed, because they were of mixed race. Attempts by the government to create a “mixed race” box for the 2000 Census was met with resistance by racial and ethnic special interest groups like the NAACP and the National Council of La Raza, because they feared that a mixed-race box could pose a danger to the justification for their existence. The fuzzier such racial and ethnic categories become, the harder it will be for these racial and ethnic special interest groups and the government to traffic in them. If a mixed-race category were to be added, every brown-skinned person of mixed race registered in this category would shrink the government’s official count of Blacks, Latinos, Asians or American Indians, eventually reducing their political influence and ultimately the amount of money these groups receive from the federal government, which amounts to approximately $185 billion a year.

Through the mandated collection and use of racial and ethnic specific information, more and more of American taxpayers’ hard earned money is being routinely distributed to these racial and ethnic special interest groups at the expense of all other Americans who may or may not be members of these groups. Through executive orders, congressional legislation, affirmative action programs, racial set-asides, quotas and other programs based solely on race and ethnicity, our federal government is playing the key role that pits one racial and ethnic group against another, which could eventually lead to our destruction as a country.

Rather than helping a diverse population become assimilated and united as one nation, the Federal government is doing what the Nazi government of Germany did in the 1930’s and 40’s; creating government supported institutionalized racism by the intentional classification of it’s citizens by race and ethnicity.

With the support of racial and ethnic special interest groups, our federal government seems to view our citizens not just as Americans, but rather as “pawns” in some social science experiment to be classified and separated into different racial or ethnic sub-groups for some unknown purpose. By mandating the classification of Americans into specific racial and ethnic sub-groups, the federal government and the advocates of “diversity” are actually perpetuating institutionalized racism and keeping Americans divided. Maybe the real purpose of collecting this data is to justify the continuing flow of government money to these racial and ethnic special interest groups.

If we want to help poor Americans escape poverty, get better health care, find a job or get a good education, why should it matter what their race or ethnic background is? The answer is: It should not! Americans need to come together as members of one country and remember that we are all individual Americans, regardless of race or ethnic background. Martin Luther King, Jr., inspired a nation when he voiced his dream for a color-blind nation, a nation in which people would be judged by the content of their characters, "not the color of their skin." The answer to this government encouraged racism is the concept of Liberty with a limited, constitutional government that is devoted to the protection of individual rights rather than the claims of different racial and ethnic special interest groups. Where Liberty is present, individual achievement and competence are rewarded, not people’s skin color or ethnicity.

I will support legislation barring the federal government from the collection of racial and ethnic information about the American people and/or the classification of American citizens by race and ethnicity, including the collection of census information. Exceptions should be made for law enforcement, hospitals and medical research purposes.

I will also support legislation that bans affirmative action programs, racial set-asides, quotas and any other programs that give special preferences based on race and ethnicity.

By:
JOHN W. WALLACE
Candidate for Congress
New York’s 20th Congressional District
http://www.FreedomCandidate.com