I’m stunned, simply stunned.
If Americans think the war in Iraq will be George W. Bush’s lingering legacy after he leaves office, I’m here to tell you that Iraq will be small potatoes compared to the impact his Supreme Court appointees will have on the lives of ordinary citizens.
This term, SCOTUS has limited the ability of employment discrimination victims to file lawsuits, reduced the impact jury selection can have on death penalty sentencing, and endorsed the rhetoric of the anti-abortion movement by upholding a ban on an abortion procedure that had no provision for the health of the mother.
That last one should have been enough to cause great anxiety for the state of the republic because the court, for the first time, said that the states had a compelling interest that outweighed those of the women involved.
Of course, just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, they did.
Last Thursday, a landmark school desegregation decision was announced in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District that just defies all manner of logic.
Writing for the 5-4 majority of a bitterly divided panel, Chief Justice John Roberts claimed the mantle of Brown v. Board of Education and rejected school desegregation plans in Seattle and Louisville, Ky., that used race alone in making school assignments.
“Even as to race, the plans here employ only a limited notion of diversity, viewing race exclusively in white/nonwhite terms in Seattle and black/other terms in Jefferson County,” wrote Roberts.
It gets better. “Classifying and assigning schoolchildren according to a binary conception of race is an extreme approach in light of this court’s precedents and the nation’s history of using race in public schools, and requires more than such an amorphous end to justify it.”
My personal favorite of the Roberts’ opinion was this nugget: “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discrimination on the basis of race.”
Who’s he kidding? We are citizens of a country that has self-segregated along not only racial but also economic lines for generations.
Joining Roberts were Scalia, Thomas, Alito, and Kennedy.
Writing for the minority, Justice Stephen Breyer said in a 20-minute summary from the bench that the decision “threatens to substitute for present calm a disruptive round of race-related litigation, and it undermines Brown’s promise of integrated primary and secondary education that local communities have sought to make a reality.”
He went on to say that the case threatens the hope of the Brown decision and, “This is a decision that the court and the nation will come to regret.”
Joining Breyer were Ginsburg, Stevens, and Souter.
Although he sided with the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy did write separately that race could still be used as a component in school diversity plans, “Diversity, depending on its meaning and definition, is a compelling educational goal a school district may pursue.”
This entire deal has been a stinker from the get-go, especially now that there is a base camp for eradicating affirmative action programs.
When you hear “racial balance” from conservative candidates out on the campaign trail, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Many years ago, Mohandas Gandhi said, “Poverty is the worst kind of violence.”
Laws that keep the poor in their place are an especially virulent strain of that violence, and I think that’s what this decision could wreak in our society as words like “racial balance” become the catch phrase for denying educational opportunity to minorities and resegregation along economic boundaries.
We’re better than that, or at least I hope we are.