Thursday, June 28, 2007

Supreme Segregation?

Photo of members of the Supreme Court of the United States

If you haven't been following the latest from the U.S. Supreme Court, you might want to check this out. Here's a bit of one article about the rulings:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Students cannot be assigned to public schools because of their race, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Thursday in a significant civil rights decision that casts doubt on integration efforts adopted across the country.
By a 5-4 vote on the last day of its term, the court's conservative majority struck down voluntary programs adopted in Seattle and Louisville, Kentucky, to attain racial diversity in public school classrooms.

The ruling added to a string of decisions this term in which President George W. Bush's two appointees -- Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito -- have shifted the court sharply to the right on divisive social issues like abortion.

"The principle that racial balancing is not permitted is one of substance, not semantics," Roberts wrote for the majority. "The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race."

The court's four liberal members said in a bitter dissent that the ruling threatened the Supreme Court's historic Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954 that outlawed racial segregation in the nation's public schools.

"The last half century has witnessed great strides toward racial equality, but we have not yet realized the promise of Brown," Justice Stephen Breyer wrote. "This is a decision that the court and the nation will come to regret."

Justice John Paul Stevens, in a separate dissent, said, "There is a cruel irony in the chief justice's reliance on our decision in Brown v. Board of Education." (Read the whole article and watch related video here).

If you've been reading this Baha'i thinker for awhile, you know that I believe that race conscious policies are both spiritually and morally consistent with a commitment to racial justice and unity based on the oneness of human kind. Based on what I know at this moment, the decisions handed down by the Court today provide brilliant examples of institutionalized white rage and racial moral relativism. Only in a nation founded on the enslavement of Africans and the ethnic cleansing of indigenous peoples while proclaiming the highest ideals of freedom under law, could educated people in positions of power come to see "color-blindness" as a civic virtue. Last I checked, blindness was not a state of being that one would strive for, much less organize a social order around. Let's be clear, color-blindness is simply a code for "blind to the reality that not everyone is white and color still matters in America". I always find it ironic that those who have suffered the least from the insanity of skin-color privilege are the ones who get to decide when skin-color is no longer a problem and thus we no longer need "race conscious" policies to address the consequences of racism. Of course those who subscribe to racial moral relativism see no irony in this at all as they presume to be the intellectual descendants of the abolitionists and civil rights warriors of the past. In this great reversal, those seeking to uphold race conscious policies that help keep schools integrated are no different than those whom a generation ago formed into mobs in order to keep black children out of these very same schools! Are we really arguing that a half century of allowing a handful of black folk to get a chair or two in a predominately white school is the equivalent of being systematically denied an equal education during 300 years of chattel slavery, 100 years of segregation, and 50 years of still largely segregated, poorly funded schooling in America? Is this the kind of reasoning and policy making of a people who claim to believe in a just and compassionate God, a God of liberation and resurrection?

"If ye stay not the hand of the oppressor, if ye fail to safeguard the rights of the down-trodden, what right have ye then to vaunt yourselves among men? What is it of which ye can rightly boast? Is it on your food and your drink that ye pride yourselves, on the riches ye lay up in your treasuries, on the diversity and the cost of the ornaments with which ye deck yourselves? If true glory were to consist in the possession of such perishable things, then the earth on which ye walk must needs vaunt itself over you, because it supplieth you, and bestoweth upon you, these very things, by the decree of the Almighty. In its bowels are contained, according to what God hath ordained, all that ye possess. From it, as a sign of His mercy, ye derive your riches. Behold then your state, the thing in which ye glory! Would that ye could perceive it! Nay! By Him Who holdeth in His grasp the kingdom of the entire creation! Nowhere doth your true and abiding glory reside except in your firm adherence unto the precepts of God, your wholehearted observance of His laws, your resolution to see that they do not remain unenforced, and to pursue steadfastly the right course."
(Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 252)