Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Schuette Decision -- This generation's Plessy vs. Ferguson

Justice Sonia Sotomayor: Affirmative Action ‘Opened Doors in My Life'
It's not surprising that the right-wing and conservative ed bloggers in particular, are applauding the Supreme Court's racist Schuette decision. The decision, called "this court's Plessy vs. Ferguson" by Shanta Driver, the attorney who argued the case before the Supreme Court, essentially puts the nail in the coffin of affirmative action plans in states like Michigan, where T-baggers like Gov. Snyder rule the roost.

Among the worst defenders of Schuette is EdWeek blogger Frederick Hess who slammed Justice Sonia Sotomayor for her dissenting vote. He accuses her of "thundering" that judges "ought not sit back and wish away, rather than confront, the racial inequality that exists in our society."

Sotomayor said the court "eviscerates" a key equal-protection guarantee that government should not make it harder for minorities to participate in self-government.
"I cannot ignore the unfortunate outcome of today's decision: Short of amending the state constitution, a Herculean task, racial minorities in Michigan are deprived of even an opportunity to convince Michigan's public colleges and universities to consider race in their admissions plans when other attempts to achieve racial diversity are unnecessarily hobbled in their pursuit of a diverse student body," Sotomayor wrote in dissent.
Thanks for your thunder, Justice Sotomayor.

According to Hess, who doubles as a spokesman for conservative think-tank AEI,
 One way that citizens in a big, diverse country can find its way is to recognize the right of other citizens to live under different rules. Too often of late, in education and elsewhere, the smug and self-impressed have sought to impose their vision of the good on the nation. 
Sorry, Mr. Hess, when it comes to racial equality under the law, the question of "different rules" for different states was supposedly settled by the Civil Rights Act 60 years ago. Civil rights, including the right to overthrow long-standing and embedded white affirmative action in hiring, housing, education, etc... are not just the property of the "smug and self-impressed", they were won both in the courts and in the streets. But it's a battle that will have to continue being fought, as the Schuette decision shows.

I'm hoping for lots more thunder and a louder and more militant opposition voice and mass protests coming from the ranks of students, labor and ed activists. The Schuette decision, which allows states the right to eliminate affirmative action and ban any reference to race in admission decisions is a real blow to black, Latino and low-income families for whom college is growing less and less accessible.

How can we fight racism when we can't name it?

But it wasn't just the far-right who were connecting with Schuette. Some liberals were also enamored with the court's "race neutral" rhetoric. Take Richard Kahlenberg, Senior Fellow at The Century Foundation, for example. While Kahlenberg was critical of the decision as "discouraging for racial diversity", he says there's "good news" as well since, "there are alternative ways to achieve diversity that can also deal with economic inequalities.”
“Fortunately, there are proven race neutral policies that universities can, and have already adopted to deliver more opportunities for minority students to enroll in, and succeed at college."
I'm still not sure what "race-neutral" means, especially in this period when racial gaps in education are growing wider. Is this really the post-racial era as some claim? How can we fight racism and racial discrimination when the word race is banned? And does Kahlenberg really believed that states like Michigan will enact affirmative action plans that "deliver more opportunities to minority students" post-Schuette?

I can't help but thinking back to Arne Duncan's announced opposition to so-called "forced racial integration" and his failure to have the back of Atty. Gen. Eric Holder in suit against the state of Louisiana's "choice" program and wondering if this didn't open the door for the Supremes?

Racist Rand Paul in Chicago
And speaking of smug and self-impressed, there was Tuesday's sponsorship of Rand Paul's appearance at a Chicago private school last week by the Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INCS). Paul calls for rolling back the Civil Rights Act of 1964, saying it impinges on the "freedom" of business owners to serve whomever they choose. Paul used the Chicago speech to promote so-called "school choice" programs as a way of expanding Republican influence in cities like Chicago. No wonder the charter hustlers like him.

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