In accepting a Texas case of a white student challenging racial preferences
, the United States Supreme Court is again set to reverse decades of court precedents and impose its own conservative agenda. Since President Obama’s election, the Court has ended decades of campaign finance laws, eliminated damage claims in class action employment discrimination cases, promoted Republican-gerrymandered legislative districts in Texas, and almost consistently ruled for corporate interests. Now it will bring U.S. jurisprudence into the make-believe world where discrimination and racial profiling against African-Americans, Latinos and other racial minorities does not exist, and where our society is now “colorblind.”
The conservative movement is about to lose the presidential popular vote for the fifth time in the last six elections, but that has only emboldened a politicized Republican judiciary to accomplish through legal rulings what it cannot implement through other means. The Court’s revisiting of affirmative action in public schools has only one goal: to kill a practice whose constitutionality has been repeatedly upheld by prior Supreme Courts.
Racism Not Dead
Is racism no longer a problem in the United States? Well, the Republican Party shows the greatest top to bottom strength in the former states of the Confederacy, and Georgia and Alabama have passed some of the strongest laws against Latino immigrants. But racist policies are not confined to the South: Arizona got the anti-immigration ball rolling, and even New York City has a pattern of racially-based police stops that sound like something out of Mississippi in the 1950’s.
New York City prides itself on its mixture of people from across the world, and it’s easy for some to believe that a city with so many racial minorities could not practice racism.
But from 2004 to 2009, the NYPD stopped 2.8 million people
, the largest age group being Latino and African-American males 15 to 19, followed by males ages 20 to 24.
Just 9 percent of the stops resulted in an arrest. And despite the lack of connection between stops and criminal activity, the police made over 600,000 such stops in 2011.
That sure does not look to me like evidence of a colorblind society.
Given the sweep of its recent decisions, the Court may not stop at banning racial preferences in education. Justices Roberts, Alioto, Thomas, Kennedy and Scalia are eager to get rid of affirmative action throughout the public sector; the Texas case is the perfect opportunity to do so.
Race and Class
Some believe that the results of race-based affirmative action can be achieved less controversially by using preferences based on other factors. For example, in 1997, the Texas adopted a plan whereby the University of Texas was told to accept the top 10% of the graduates from all the state’s high schools. But while this plan led to blacks and Latinos becoming 21% of the entering class by 2004, adding racial preferences for underrepresented minorities brought this total to 26%, far more reflective of the state’s demographics.
Since the days of President Bill Clinton many Democrats have argued that policies designed to help racial minorities are better designed to target class, not race. But in a world where low-income African-Americans are far more likely than low-income whites to live an overwhelmingly low-income community, race still matters.
Though not to the Republicans who control the Supreme Court.
Oral arguments in the Texas case are set for October After Obama’s re-election puts the justices in an even angrier mood, affirmative action in public education and perhaps the entire public sector will be gone by 2013.
Randy Shaw is author of The Activist’s Handbook and Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century.