A Body Blow to Racial Discrimination

Yes, you read it here: the Supreme Court of the United  States, in a 6-2 decision (Elena Kagan took no part in the case), upheld Michigan’s ban on racial discrimination in college admissions, overturning a lower court’s intervention to reverse a 2006 referendum in which Michigan voters decisively rejected the invidious process.

You’ll be reading a lot about this in the coming weeks, of course, but I suspect that most of the stories you’ll read will use the phrase “affirmative action” in stead of “racial discrimination.”  That is understandable, not least because the SCOTUS decision employs the phrase in the headnote to its decision: “SCHUETTE, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF MICHIGAN v. COALITION TO DEFEND AFFIRMATIVE ACTION, INTEGRATION AND IMMIGRATION RIGHTS AND FIGHT FOR EQUALITY BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY (BAMN) ET AL.”

“By any means necessary,” forsooth.  Where have you heard that before? If I forbear to employ the mendacious phrase “affirmative action” it is because it is a sterling piece of left-wing Newspeak. “Racial discrimination” doesn’t sound nice to our civilized ears. So we rename it “affirmative action” and it makes us feel better about tearing off the blindfold on the figure of Justice on courts of law and doing the same thing in the admissions offices of our colleges and universities.

G.K. Chesterton once described the “false idea of progress” as “changing the test instead of trying to pass the test.” That is so-called "affirmative  action," i.e., discrimination on the basis of race, or sex, or whatever this weeks favored “victim” category may be.

Right on cue, Justice Sotomayor wheeled out the “centuries of racial discrimination” meme. Guess what -- we know there was chattel slavery in this  country (as there was in nearly every other society known to man) and we know, too, that it ended rather late here. But end it did, almost 150 years ago. If you want to know why slavery persisted in parts of the United States, read Gene Dattel’s brilliant Cotton and Race in the Making of America: The Human Costs of Economic Power.  Are you looking for someone to blame for all that misery?  You might try Eli Whitney and his clever invention for carding cotton. Or maybe you should blame the English, who had a greedy appetite for our cotton.

But I digress. There will, as I say, be a lot of ink spilled about this decision. The New York Times has already weighed in with a piece of sanctimonious handwringing  (“ . . . a fractured decision that revealed deep divisions among the justices over what role the government should play in protecting racial and ethnic minorities.”) Expect more of the same tomorrow.