The two cases were the latest skirmishes in the broader conservative war to reframe the way Americans view the issue of race. As many conservatives see it, we’re living in a chastened, post-racial America in which discrimination has been largely dismantled, Jim Crow is dead and gaps are being narrowed. With a growing black and Latino middle class — not to mention a “beiging” of America thanks to intermarriage — it’s time to end our obsession with righting the wrongs of the past. More specifically, we should do away with morally troublesome policies such as affirmative action, minority set-asides and “pre-clearance” that aid minority groups at the expense of the majority, and revert, instead, to the sounder principle of colorblind justice for all.Are they right? This page agrees that race-conscious policies such as affirmative action should be temporary — existing only until they are no longer necessary because society’s inequities have been addressed. But it is naive to think we have arrived at that moment. Despite the enormously significant changes since the civil rights movement, the simple fact is that the great American race problem has not been resolved. To be sure, it’s different today than it was when 14-year-old Emmett Till was beaten, shot and thrown into the Tallahatchie River for whistling at a white woman in 1955, or when Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner were murdered by the Klan in 1964 for trying to register black voters in Mississippi. That doesn’t mean it’s gone.
Although more blacks go to college today, and although they have more opportunity to compete for middle-class jobs, the black poverty rate in 2007 was still triple that of whites, and the black male unemployment rate today is still almost double the white male rate. Obama’s election notwithstanding, the only African American currently in the U.S. Senate is the controversial (and non-elected) Roland Burris of Illinois.
There doesn’t seem to be any question that this op-ed is being offered in defense of the overtly racism tacitics of Sonya Sotomayor, which were overturned in the New Haven case. The timing of the op-ed’s appearence is key, given she comes up for confirmation this week.
The argument is troubling on several fronts. For one thing, we’re never going to get rid of racism, totally. Sorry, that’s just not going to happen, unless we’re getting into the realm of thought control. The issue was to remove it from government, which clearly has happened over the last few decades. The progress on that front is remarkable.
So, with that issue tackled, then, what is left? Outcome. Here’s the problem; those pushing the continuance of affirmative action programs… at least morally troubling in themselves… are not judging the merits of all this on the grounds of the actions of government toward equal opportunity, but on the grounds of equal outcome. That’s a measurement that’s never valid in a free society. Then again, a free society doesn’t seem to be what the Democrats have in mind for America, does it?