by Ron Kenner
American Reporter Correspondent
June 30, 2007
SUPREME COURT SIDE-STEPS PAINFUL LESSONS ON RACE
HOLLYWOOD, Calif. -- If we can't face our own history, have no sense of responsibility or compassion for our minorities, no sense of fairness or of the value of civil and human rights, one would think that we would at least have learned the terrible injustice of segregation. But the United States Supreme Court has not.
We need merely recall, from one time or another, the likes of segregation in Germany, South Africa, Congo, Vietnam, Rwanda, Darfur, Bosnia, Lebanon, Iraq. and, yes, the United States of America.
You'd think that after decades of civil rights efforts in the U.S. there'd be greater understanding in the highest court of our land of the problems and immense costs emanating from the cruel segregation of minorities and from ignoring their needs and rights. The near abandonment of our cities during literally decades of "white flight" is merely the most costly example.
You'd think we'd have learned something! But the Supreme Court ended its 2006-07 term Thursday - "saving the worst for last," as The Los Angeles Times lead editorial put it - rejecting efforts by schools in Louisville, Ky., and Seattle to seek a modicum of racial balance. The latest decision, called 'Resegregation Now' in The New York Times editorial Friday, though a somewhat ambiguous ruling, still overturns more than half a century of Supreme Court precedent in support of Civil Rights . Sad!
Curiously, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. asserted that school officials in Louisville and Seattle violated the constitution in their efforts to seek racial balance. To make his argument, he invoked the 1954 landmark Brown vs. Board of Education ruling, yet gutted the same ruling that has, for all these decades, served as the hallmark of America's progress against instituionalized racism.
Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, voting in the minority with Justice Stephen G. Breyer, bitterly called the majority ruling a "cruel irony," especially since the original spirit of the Brown vs. Board of Education decision held that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal." It was not likely lost on Stevens or Breyer (or those in our legislature who readily supported Roberts in his appointment hearings) that the new Chief Justice had promised to give serious heed to court precedent.
A good many promises are not kept these days. But, looking through a glass darkly, the good news for minorities is that the schools, especially the high schools in poor or well-to-do areas, can't likely get much more segregated than they already are.
Several years after the 1965 Watts Riots in Los Angeles, I interviewed the late SCLC leader Rev. Ralph Abernathy for the Los Angeles Times during his visit to the University of Southern California. Abernathy, Dr. Martin Luther King's right-hand man told me then that although some things improved since Watts, schools in Los Angeles - well after the Brown ruling - were more segregated than many schools in the Deep South. We both knew, and it went without saying, that the minority schools in Los Angeles often didn't have money for toilet paper or textbooks, let alone air-conditioning that worked.
During Watergate, Deep Throat advised reporters to "Follow the money." But here we might better "follow the lack of money" to compare schools in white neighborhoods with those in minority neighborhoods to see who's lacking. But do we really have to ask?
There have been some improvements over the years, but as Associate Justice Stephen G. Breyer noted in his 79-page dissent to last week's ruling, the trend has been toward increasing segregation - in 2002, nearly 2.4 million students were in schools with a white population under 1%.
And how do you think theose students re faring? in its lead editorial Friday, the Times asked, "Does the Constitution really prohibit school districts from taking modest steps to combat such racial isolation, whatever its causes?" And the New York Times observed, "More than one in six black children now attend schools that are 99 to 100% minority. This resegregation is likely to get appreciably worse as a result of the court's ruling."
Although few have mentioned it, the latest ruling could ultimately mean bad news for white males. To ignore or reject any search for racial proportion and representation, one can envision - merely by academic records and general accomplishment - a university system that is badly overloaded with Asians. And with their higher grades, all groups can also anticipate a female presence in our universities that greatly outnumbers that of males.
AR Correspondent Ron Kenner, a book editor based in Los Angeles, has edited numerous prize-winning books. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.