A lightbulb clicks on in the head. Hey, it’s okay to be a bigot. The supreme court says so.
The court’s ruling on affirmative action will have far wider consequences than the justices seem to think, maybe than they intend. Or not.
It’s a narrowly focused and technical decision, typical of the Roberts and Rehnquist courts. And on the surface it’s simple: affirmative action admissions policies at state universities are the business of the state.
The case came from Michigan. But the ruling applies elsewhere and will influence thinking nationwide.
Affirmative action has always seemed nothing more than a codified version of the old whites’ network it seeks to counterbalance.
But like much else that we attempt, it is a good idea badly executed. Or executed too slowly.
Critics call it reverse discrimination. It can be when taken to extremes.
They say it cheapens and taints the accomplishment and ability of minority men and women. That’s a white perception and a forced one at that, although there’s a large and growing group of black conservatives who subscribe to it.
You can find instance after instance of anecdotes that make it seem true, but no real statistics.
Critics say it’s a quota system. In a way it is. A quota system replacing a caste system.
The decision wasn’t one of these party five-to-four votes, also typical of the Roberts and Rehnquist courts.
With only eight of the nine justices voting, the opposition was limited to Sotomayor and Ginsburg.
Sotomayor says she wouldn’t have gotten as far as she has without affirmative action.
Thomas says the same, but he voted with the majority, essentially against himself.
Kagan worked at the Justice Department and recused herself from this case. Had she voted, she likely would have opposed the ruling, which would have made it 6-3 instead of 6-2.
But again, it’s a narrowly focused ruling, though with huge consequences.
It justifies the feelings of every racist, legitimizes them.
It is a license to hate.
Those who think that way -- feel that way -- will soon begin to act that way, something they’ve held at bay for the most part.
Does affirmative action put less competent or able blacks ahead of more competent or able whites? It can, it has. There’s that bad execution again.
Like so much in civil rights, we often push some ahead when what was meant was removing a barricade that never should have been there.
In many cases, those barricades remain.
(Charles Richards contributed reporting to this post.)
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I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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