In last Tuesday’s decision of the Supreme Court upholding Michigan’s constitutional ban on race-based affirmative action, Justice Sotomayor characterized the view of conservative members of the court as “out of touch with reality.” She chastised the members of the court who “speak high-mindedly of racial equality even as they write off decades-old precedent meant to address the lingering effects of centuries of racial discrimination.” The reality, she wrote, is that “race matters.”
In 2006 Michigan voters approved a constitutional amendment banning affirmative action on the basis of race in admissions to public universities and colleges. Since then, the ban has already resulted in a 25 percent drop in minority representation in Michigan’s public universities and colleges, even as the proportion of college-age African-Americans in the state has gone up.
Part of the record before the Supreme Court ignored in rendering this decision was a finding of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in August 2007, that
”The record and the district court's factual findings indicate that the solicitation and procurement of signatures in support of placing Proposal 2 on the general election ballot was rife with fraud and deception. [Nothing has been ] submitted . . . to rebut this. By all accounts, Proposal 2 found its way on the ballot through methods that undermine the integrity and fairness of our democratic processes.”
In a 2007 opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race,” in a case striking down school integration efforts in Washington and Kentucky. “Things have changed dramatically” in the 50 years since the Voting Rights Act was passed, he wrote last year in another case which struck down a provision of that act. Within months of that decision, various states throughout the south passed laws intended to limit the registration of black voters.
Robert’s quotes represent a distorted vision of racial justice. As Justice Sotomayor puts it, “we ought not sit back and wish away, rather than confront, the racial inequality that exists in our society.”
It is terrible irony that within days of the Michigan decision, the owner of a nearly all-black professional basketball team asks a woman friend why she insists on parading her friendships with blacks, and at one point asks her not to bring “them” to Clippers games. The man chastises her for taking a photograph with Magic Johnson and asks her not to bring Johnson to any more games.
Then, in the same time period there is Cliven Bundy, a cattle rancher, complaining about blacks while at the same time receiving more than $1 million in public grazing time without paying a dime. He claimed that African-Americans were ruined by government subsidies and might be “better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life.” He then explained that his racist remarks were all the “freedom to say what we want. If I call — if I say ‘negro’ or ‘black boy’ or ‘slave,’ I’m — if those people cannot take those kind of words and not be offensive, then Martin Luther King hasn’t got his job done yet.”
I have written about my personal experiences with regard to hearing all-too-frequent racist comments from members of the elite country clubs to which I belong which make me sick. The rhetoric has heated up in the past few days, however, as these various events have coalesced to create an “open season” on the disparagement of people of color, the descendants of slaves who were counted as less than 2/3 of personhood by our U.S. constitution less than 160 years ago.
Racism is alive and well, and we are a work in progress. Unfortunately, the wheels have temporarily come off and the cart is moving backward. That ignorant S.O.B. Cliven Bundy did get one thing right. Martin Luther King hasn’t got [the] job done yet.” Tell that to the Supreme Court.
Just saying . . .