ost in the coverage glare of the racist, bigoted words and behavior of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and team owner Donald Sterling was the ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that affirmed the right of states to legally be racist if it was the will of voters.
In an affirmative-action case involving the State of Michigan’s ban against the use of race as a consideration in college admissions, the Court in a 6-2 decision ruled that the law was constitutional.
In 2006, following a 2003 Supreme Court decision that allowed for the use of race in college admissions, conservatives in Michigan got an anti-affirmative-action initiative on the ballot, and it passed, garnering 58 percent of the vote.
On occasion in this column, I’ve said that when blacks are upset or mad, we riot and picket in the streets; white people in the same position do it at the ballot box.
The Michigan law is an example of that, as are all the Republican-controlled states that’ve recently passed stricter voter-registration laws.
Starting in the late-1990s, the University Michigan, which uses a 150-point scale to decide who is and isn’t admitted, began awarding blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans 20 points for being minorities.
Eleven years ago, a couple of white students who were denied admission to the University of Michigan argued that giving minority applicants those 20 points was discrimination against them and other white students who were academically better qualified.
On paper, it may be a good argument for those who believe like the six members of the Supreme Court and the majorities that support getting rid of affirmative-action programs.
But we who live in this society and are affected by such decisions know better.
Why do those who are cry reverse racism always single out the racial portions of such set-asides instead of, say, the extra points given to athletes, students with musical or artistic talents, poor whites from under-represented counties in the state or being the child/stepchild of a graduate of the school?
Even when plaintiffs are able get states to drop or change their admission criteria, they sometimes still aren’t happy.
A few years ago, the State of Texas chose to exclude race as a factor in college admission and go to a policy of accepting a percentage of students who graduated in the top 10 percent of their class. That seems fair, right?
A white student from a academically strong suburban public school filed a discrimination suit, claiming that this method discriminated against students who attended academically tougher schools over those who attended weaker urban schools. Nothing in the suit about less-tougher rural white schools?
With the Court saying that as a judicial body, we have ruled in favor of affirmative action, but should the voters of a state get a measure on the ballot for the “people” to decide the role of race in their state, this is how we will roll on that.
It’s only a matter of time before more Republican-controlled state legislatures join Michigan, Texas, California, Florida, Washington, Nebraska, Arizona, New Hampshire and Oklahoma, and pass similar laws.
Throughout the history of Supreme Court decisions, there have been many cases in which the most powerful poignant and prophetic words were not written or spoken by the majority side, but the dissenting one.
From the Bottom where I see things, what Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote and said in the Michigan case may one day be considered on the same level as the dissents of Benjamin R. Curtis and John McLean in the Dred Scott decision in which the Court ruled that blacks were not citizens of any state in the union;
John Harlan in Plessy vs. Ferguson, which said that blacks and white could be separated as long as things were equal; or Robert Jackson in Korematsu vs. United States, where the idea of the forced internment of Japanese American during World War II was challenged.
In response to the majority decision and Chief Justice John Roberts’ rhetorical answer to the question of how to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discrimination on the basis of race, Justice Sotomayor said this, “Race matters to a young man’s view of society when he spends his teenage years watching others tense up as he passes, no matter the neighborhood where he grows up.
“Race matters to a young woman’s sense of self when she states her hometown, and then is pressed, ‘No, where are you really from,’ regardless of how many generations her family has been in the country.
“Race matters to a young person addressed by a stranger in a foreign language which he does not understand, because only English was spoken at home.
“Race matters because of the slights, the snickers, the silent judgments that reinforce that most crippling of thoughts: ‘I do not belong here.’
“In my colleagues’ view, examining the racial impact of legislation only perpetuates racial discrimination. This refusal to accept the stark reality that race matters is regrettable.
“The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to speak openly and candidly on the subject of race, and to apply the Constitution with eyes open to the unfortunate effects of centuries of racial discrimination.
“As members of the judiciary tasked with intervening to carry out the guarantee of equal protection, we ought not sit back and wish away, rather than confront, the racial inequality that exists in our society.
“It is this view that works harm, by perpetuating the facile notion that what makes race matter is acknowledging the simple truth that race does matter.”
I hope after hearing Sotomayor, someone there in Washington said, “Amen, sister.”
Hi, Momma Lois.
TONY KENDALL of Hazel is a writer, teacher, actor, playwright and sports fanatic. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.
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