jeudi, juin 28, 2007

True Colors

WASHINGTON, June 28 — In a decision of sweeping importance to educators, parents and schoolchildren across the country, the Supreme Court today sharply limited the ability of school districts to manage the racial makeup of the student bodies in their schools.

The court voted, 5 to 4, to reject diversity plans from Seattle and Louisville, Ky., declaring that the districts had failed to meet “their heavy burden” of justifying “the extreme means they have chosen — discriminating among individual students based on race by relying upon racial classifications in making school assignments,” as Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the court.

Today’s decision, one of the most important in years on the issue of race and education, need not entirely eliminate race as a factor in assigning students to different schools, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote in a separate opinion. But it will surely prompt many districts to review and perhaps revise programs they already have in place, or go back to the drawing boards in designing plans.

New York Times, June 28

This decision is another illustration of the fact that many conservatives live in another country-one constructed only in their imagination.

It is one where the playing field is level, and opportunity is equal.

There is no need for societal remedies for bigotry and unfairness.

Or let's put it another way...

Everyone needs to seek their own remedy: victory goes to those with enough money to sue and appeal, and appeal, and appeal.

The five-man majority paid lip service to Brown, the landmark case that made integrated schools the law of the nation. But their decision to almost rule out race as a factor in making decisions about where students go to school eviscerates it.

To be fair, the justices have the germ of a point when they criticize a "binary" way of looking at race- as though integration was only about making sure poor black students have a chance to attend school with white students in wealthier districts.

And sometimes individual injustice emerges from an effort to make a societal injustice better.

These are the examples that often seem to produce lawsuits-as seems to have occurred here.

So the "remedy" of integration might not be just for individual kids, who are going to get trapped in the vise of a large institutional remedy for an even bigger social evil.

But it's even less fair not to do it. The fact is that institutional racism thrives. African American kids in poor neighborhoods (all children who live in poverty) deserve the chance to find better lives for themselves-and how are they going to do it if poverty is all they know?

I don't see our bloc of lockstep conservative Justices coming up with another, better way. They are just making it less possible for students who already have to grapple with challenges that seem enormous to overcome them. Where would Clarence Thomas be if he hadn't had affirmative action? Where would Clarence Thomas be if he hadn't had Arlen Specter?

Fortunately, many school districts have leaders who actually care about racial injustice. They may now decide to move to districting according to income, rather than race. Strangely enough, the results may end up being substantially the same.

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