Your Supreme Court Chief Justice, Thinking Like a Ten-Year-Old

From the New Yorker:

In the most famous passage so far of his tenure as Chief Justice, Roberts wrote, “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”

Yup.  Real serious thinking, that.  In case you are thinking “Hey, that sounds reasonable!  What’s the problem?”, the problem is that Roberts is throwing out a few decades of precedent on the basis of his personal opinion (also that segregation is actually still a problem in many places, especially in the context of schools):

Roberts’s opinion drew an incredulous dissent from Stevens, who said that the Chief Justice’s words reminded him of “Anatole France’s observation” that the “majestic equality” of the law forbade “rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal their bread.” For dozens of years, the Court had drawn a clear distinction between laws that kept black students out of white schools (which were forbidden) and laws that directed black and white students to study together (which were allowed); Roberts’s decision sought to eliminate that distinction and, more generally, called into question whether any race-conscious actions by government were still constitutional.

Ugh.  If you have the stomach for it, go read the whole thing.  It is somewhat less than flattering to Roberts.

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3 Comments on “Your Supreme Court Chief Justice, Thinking Like a Ten-Year-Old”

  1. Frieda Says:

    I actually agree with the sentiment, and the constitution is race blind(except for the 2/5 person travesty). I do not believe the remedy to discrimination is to discriminate. Precedent does not mean the remedy is still applicable or even good. For example the forced busing of students in the south actually hurt the education of the minority students(mostly black). Research the predominately black schools who had good results that deteriorated under the forced busing scheme. Read Dr. bell hooks’ book Teaching to Transgress for more information. I think we should punish those who discriminate. This would mean not affirmative action programs and quotas but hiring the best qualified, enrolling the qualified, etc. If a person is not picked and it is proved to not be because of qualifications then the offender should be charged.

    Yes, I realize that embedded racism exists. But again I do not see punishing one person for someone else’s error. The comparison in employment for example is faulty. Well over 50% of all elementary teachers are female. Does that mean there is discrimination against males? No. Males tend not to want to teach at that level. Should there be affirmative action for this? Again no. Think of other places where the choice involves much more than the race or gender of the person.

    It is a slippery slope when you decide to remedy an error by committing another error.

  2. Dennis Says:

    I think Roberts’ language suggests he doesn’t understand the history of discrimination or what works as remedy.

    I also think you seem to have a funny idea of what affirmative action entails: Not hiring the person of color, but making sure AT MOST if the choice is between two people who are equally qualified, one is a person of color AND there is a lack of people of color present, THEN letting race be a factor might be OK. It’s really relatively weak as a standard.

    The other issue with “just hiring the most qualified” is that such a standard ignores how people become the most qualified person in the first place: Often they have relative advantage on questions of schooling, parental wealth, etc – and often those advantages have a racial component (generational wealth transfer, basically). The mentality of “just hiring the best” allows a lopsided, discriminatory system to continue, since advantages get passed on generationally. It’s no surprise to me that Roberts would advocate for that; he’s on top.

  3. Frieda Says:

    Affirmative action does not work that way in practice. For instance in the northeast, I forget which city, but a fire department exam was given to applicants but several non-minorities were not hired in favor of minorities that scored lower on the qualification exam. Just one of many examples. In practice affirmative action discriminates because the consequences of seeming to discriminate costs so much so organizations from governments to educational institutions to private businesses error on the side of what some would call reverse discrimination. Do I think that the educational opportunities is equitable for all? NO. But that is not just a function of race, economics also plays a large role. Rural communities do not have the advantages of affluent communities even with federal funds directed toward rural districts. So the white poor remain poor and do not benefit from the affirmative race action. Appalachia is full of generational families that remain poor.

    I do not believe that the federal government can change this system. Short of changing to a socialistic system, the inequities you cite will always remain. I do not want to take the wealth from those who have it if they get it legally whether through hard work or inheritance. What we need to do is ignore race and other categories. Question Dennis, when you talk of African-American do you really mean black? Racial categories are hard to place. What percentage do you have to be to qualify? It is not as simply as you seem to believe.


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