Sunday, July 01, 2007

The Supreme Court is divided not merely over how to interpret the Constitution. It’s divided over the meaning of American history.

As an attorney and as one who believes in equal rights for ALL citizens, I was appaled by the Supreme Court decision last week that struck a blow to allow creeping resegregation of the nation's schools to occur. Having read countless Supreme Court opinions in law school and in private practice since, this decision underscores how important a single justice can be and that their opinions can have huge consequences. Fortunately, Justice Kennedy , while agreeing with some of the majority, stopped the worse of the decision's potential fall out:

Kennedy typically swings more conservative than O’Connor; and, as was expected, he agreed with the conservative majority this time. But he could not accept some of the assumptions in the decision authored by Chief Justice John G. Roberts.

As Kennedy made clear in his own opinion, he was uncomfortable with his conservative colleagues’ acceptance of “de facto resegregation,” as he was with the idea that the state was barred from making racial distinctions in the pursuit of educational equality. Nor was he happy with their approach to the equal-protection clause of the 14th Amendment, which was passed after the Civil War to protect the rights of emancipated slaves. “This Nation has a moral and ethical obligation to fulfill its historic commitment to creating an integrated society that ensures equal opportunity for all of its children,” argued Kennedy. “A compelling interest exists in avoiding racial isolation, an interest that a school district, in its discretion and expertise, may choose to pursue.”
Gary Orfield, codirector of the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, tells NEWSWEEK that the result of resegregation is far from race-neutral. “Blacks and Latinos end up in neighborhood schools that are inferior, with fewer curriculum choices, lower graduation rates and less experienced teachers,” he says. Based on his research, Orfield has no doubt that Louisville’s school system will end up more segregated—and that black students will pay a price—when the desegregation program ends.

The other lesson from the Court's decision is that the far right of the GOP, including the self-proclaimed "Christian" element care little about the rights of minorities. While the GOP has always had an element within it that wanted to preserve the status quo and white privilege and preference, never during the period I was involved in the Party did the dominant element in the party clearly oppose equality under the law and equal rights for all citizens. For more on this issue, see:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Curious, you should raise this issue. It's the core topic to a recent post:

Between "essentialism" on the one hand, and a Court of Divinations on the other, we're lucky anyone know or does anything right.