The vilest things are coming from the mouths of arch-segregationists, including the bunch that sits on the U.S. Supreme Court. Like Donald Trump, they speak from the heart without inhibitions. The ideas don’t come out of nowhere. Trump and the justices feed from the same trough of right wing hate.
That was fully evident Dec. 9 during oral arguments in the case of Fischer v. University of Texas on the university’s affirmative action program. The high court will rule on this issue in June. But if yesterday’s session was any indication, they will strike down affirmative action programs.
This will have enormous implications for diversity on campuses nationwide with wider ramifications in all areas of life.
The remarks of several justices, dripping with white supremacy, should disqualify them from the Court. Instead they will rule on the future of affirmative action in higher education.
Their unabashed comments should alarm democratically minded people. They raise the stakes immensely of the 2016 outcome including electing a president who will probably nominate future justices and U.S. Senate that must confirm them.
As the New York Times wrote, “In a remark that drew muted gasps in the courtroom, Justice Antonin Scalia said that minority students with inferior academic credentials may be better off at “a less advanced school, a slower-track school where they do well.”
“I don’t think it stands to reason that it’s a good thing for the University of Texas to admit as many blacks as possible,” he added.
Or this gem from Chief Justice John Roberts: “What unique perspective does a minority student bring to a physics class?”
Rendering a decision to strike down affirmative action programs would be a giant step backward to the infamous “separate but equal” doctrine of the nation’s highest court in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896. That decision ushered in the Jim Crow era until the Brown v. Board Ruling overthrew it in 1954.
In essence it would legally sanction near total segregation at the nation’s public universities and colleges. It would join other outrages of the court like legally sanctioning voter suppression.
To justify the ruling, the court majority will have to willfully ignore everything happening in the country today, the existence of deeply institutionalized racism and bias embedded in the fabric of economic, government and social life.
UT Austin President Greg Fenves expressed these concerns in an editorial in the Wall Street Journal. He wrote, “In this suddenly charged environment, two things are clear. First, race continues to matter in American life. It affects individuals and communities. Second, educating students in an environment as diverse as the United States is one of the most effective ways to ensure that all students succeed in, and contribute to, the real world when they leave campus.”
Affirmative action measures recognize the fact of institutional racism, the history of bias and its impact on admissions, employment, promotion, housing, health care, education funding and the resulting inferior quality of life for people of color. They are remedial efforts to address these biases.
The consequences of dwindling enrollment of African Americans in higher education resulted in the explosion of student activism at the Mizzou campus in November that forced the resignation of the University of Missouri President Tim Wolf and Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin. The decline in student and faculty diversity was coupled with blindness toward the special problems African American students faced and an increase in racist incidents that went unchallenged.
In response to the protests, the university agreed among other things to put in place a mechanism to ensure greater student and faculty diversity!
Proof that affirmative action is an effective redress to institutionalized racism is not hard to see. The Times showed that in nearly every instance African American student enrollment declined in states that had banned affirmative action programs, sometimes sharply.
“As we’ve seen from tragic events around the country, it’s never been more important for people of different backgrounds to interact and better understand each other,” said Ade Henderson, CEO of the Leadership Conference of Civil and Human Rights.
“Colleges and universities should serve as safe, diverse spaces that help all students appreciate the power in our nation’s diversity,” he said. “The University of Texas at Austin’s carefully crafted admissions policy has already been upheld multiple times, and is designed to create the diverse learning environments that are critical to both the educational success of our students and to our nation’s economic prosperity.”
One can only imagine the shape of the future U.S. Supreme Court were a President Trump, Cruz, Rubio, Bush, or Carson to make nominations, and the kinds of things that will come from their mouths and pens.
Photo: Supreme Court Justices. | Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP