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Supreme Court Guts Brown vs. Board of Ed

Thursday, June 28, 2007
Pretty shocking news, isn't it? I won't dwell on the specifics. But it does behoove us to consider how the sane people in this country are going to reign in a wacky Supreme Court while overcoming an obstructionist Senate minority. I'll be writing about those subject soon, but first I think I've earned an "I told you so." From a post I wrote after Alito was confirmed:

The second thing we need to think about is what we are going to do about the Courts. For decades now liberals have relied on good judges bailing us out after we lose elections. The Theocons pass prayer in schools requirements or something and the Supreme Court strikes it down. We always had the Court backing us up. That is no longer going to be the case -the other side is going to have control. We'd better figure that out quickly, or we are going to suffer some major surprises. Three more years of Bush is going to give them a chance to consolidate their hold on the federal courts. And what if another Supreme Court Justice dies or retires, like John Paul Stevens? Or what if the Democrats lose in 2008?

We are going to have to come to grips with the reality of conservative domination of the Courts. What do we do when they nullify environmental laws, or eviscerate habeus corpus rights? What do we do when they undermine collective bargaining and the minimum wage? What do we do when they uphold religious indoctrination in public schools? As I have said several times before, when we finally do regain control, we might be forced into a major confrontation with the Courts. Do we pack them like Roosevelt? Do we try a Judge for impeachment just to send a message? Do we strip them of jurisdiction? Or do we just tamely watch them repeal the 20th century?

We need to think hard but fast about these problems, because we don't have much time to come up with solutions. As bad as things are, I have a feeling that they could get considerably worse. We all want to think that the worst is over, that they're bound to get better. A sentiment I'm sure was shared by Germans in 1932.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 4:16 PM
  • This ruling isn't terribly important. I teach many minority students at Lehman College, and they almost universally agree that the issue is no longer about race, per se, but class and economics, especially how many resources minorities have available to them. When Brown was decided there was a high correlation between race and economics - rich white and poor black students. Today, that correlation is very weak. The focus should be on making schools as good as possible, not on making schools as integrated as possible. I would rather teach in, and have my children go to schools that are segregated but produce high quality graduates than schools that are integrated and producing low test scores.

    I'm more worried about the ruling about pacts on pricing, in which the court overturned a 96-year-old rule that treats as an automatic antitrust violation any agreement between a manufacturer and its retailers to adhere to a minimum resale price. This will lead to higher prices for the lower and middle classes and a huge range of products.

    By Blogger Marriah, at 3:13 AM  
  • I think you are completely and outrageously wrong. The Court's ruling undermines the ability of any school to address any form of discrimination. To think that it is a coincidence that the worst schools are ones populated by ethnic minorities is to engage in the most ridiculous sort of wish-fulfillment.

    By the way, the correlation between race and poor education is only weak if one controls for class, but the correlation between class and race is very, very strong. How precisely do you intend to address this relationship if any and all attempts to address such discrimination are banned by the Supreme Court????

    Having said that, the court's other ruling was bad too. It's just hard to get quite so excited about an anti-trust case when the Court has killed the most important judicial decision of the 20th century.

    By Blogger Arbitrista, at 6:37 AM  
  • SOOOOO depressing. I am so disturbed about this ruling that I don't know what to say. I agree with your response to the commenter, though- race & class are weakly correlated? Give me a break!

    By Blogger Addy N., at 7:42 AM  
  • Your response proves exactly why the court was right in their decision. Trying to integrate schools for the sole sake of racial diversity was a good mechanism when Brown was decided. Now there is a strong black middle class, the are top black and Hispanic graduates around the nation. White people constitute the highest racial group in poverty. Yes, class is the important issue, not race.

    Anti-trust issues are what allow the middle class to survive in the face of major corporations. Diversity by itself doesn't accomplish anything. What we need to give black and hispanic people are the tools for success: intellectual capital and social capital. As long as schools are good, I don't care if they are segregated, especially if the segregation is voluntary on the part of the residents. Give me a good education from a good school any day over a bad education from an integrated school. Diversity is nice, but not at the cost of good schools.

    By Blogger Marriah, at 9:51 AM  
  • 1) Whites constitute a majority of the poor in absolute numbers, but a tiny proportion in relative terms. Just because there are middle and upper class blacks does not mean that there is no longer any correlation between race and class. While it is true that privileged members of minority groups don't need integration - that's not who these policies were helping. I'm afraid that you're living in a fantasy land in which racial problems have disappeared. Were you paying any attention to the recent debate on immigration reform?

    2) What precisely do you think is going to happen when working class minorities are segregated in schools? How many resources do you think those schools are going to get? Segregation is inherently unequal - which is why Brown was decided in the fashion it was in 1954. The problem is that you won't get good schools for minorities without integration, because the white majority will shift the bulk of resources to "their" kids.

    By Blogger Arbitrista, at 10:22 AM  
  • The problem here is that you think race is a useful proxy for class-based issues, like access to quality education and good jobs. It was useful once, but now we need to focus exclusively on class issues. Instead of integrating schools on the basis of race, we should integrate on the basis of income and net worth. The immigration debate, as you have already noted in previous posts, is a class-based issue.

    If we really want to address the issue of education and class, the best way is to end geographic destiny. Instead of using property taxes to fund local schools, parents should be able to send their children to any school, and receive economic assistance to do so. Better yet, we should have the teachers go to the students. The best teachers should be paid by the state or private organizations to go wherever the demand is the greatest.

    The core issue is that we all want racial harmony, a strong middle class, and a multi-cultural society. Racial integration used to be a good tool to help us accomplish those goals, but it has outlived its usefulness. We need better, more focused tools. The Supreme Court merely said that the crude tool of racial integration is no longer acceptable, and should be replaced by more specific, more effective alternative measures.

    Now we have to be creative in thinking of more effective methods.

    By Blogger Marriah, at 12:01 PM  
  • Uh, no. I am not using race as a proxy for class. You are. I think race and class are 2 separate issues. You are implying that if you fix class, race problems will solve themselves. Of course we need to address issues of class (speaking as a Class Warrior). I'm just saying that singing kumbaya doesn't make racism go away. You seem to have no appreciation of the reality of power. If white and black kids aren't going to the same schools,the black kids are going to get screwed. I have 300 years of history to back up my position. Where's your evidence?

    By Blogger Arbitrista, at 12:18 PM  
  • Oh, and what do you want to bet that the Courts would strike down those "creative measures" too, if they did a thing to address the real and distinct issues faced by racial minorities in this country.

    Maybe it's because I grew up in the South, but I must say that the story you're telling doesn't make a bit of sense.

    By Blogger Arbitrista, at 12:19 PM  
  • I agree, Arbitrista, this ruling is not a good thing. Not at all. I also agree with your comments that this ruling seriosly undermines schools' ability to diversify.

    Yes, some strides have been made since the Brown ruling, but not nearly enough. We have a long way to go in this country before race and class are no longer apart of the decision making process for individuals, entities, and the like. This ruling doesn't help that at all. :(

    By Blogger RageyOne, at 12:52 PM  
  • No, race and class are not two separate issues. Race is a function of class, not vice-versa. When Brown was decided Class was a function of race. (In other words, in 1954 race issues determined class issues. Today, class issues determine race issues.) So yes, if you fix problems of class you automatically fix problems of race. Race is fundamentally about a conflict over the distribution of resources, competition for scarce jobs, and correlations between class-determined behavior and race. A white person is not racist because he hates all black people. A white person is racist because he associates black people with a poor work ethic, drugs, crime, etc. - all elements derived from class. If the associations with class cannot be made, race evaporates as an issue. Back in 1954 the reverse was true: white people literally hated black people or thought they were inherently inferior, and thus deserving of fewer resources. Hence, blacks were forced to occupy a lower economic position in society.

    I think your perception is colored by the South. Nearly everywhere else in the country - the Northeast, the Midwest, the Southwest, the Mountain states - class determines nearly everything. I grew up in the Southwest where racial issues were and still are largely subsumed under class issues. Your analysis may still apply to the South, but it's no longer in force in the rest of the country. 300 years of history can help you understand race in the South, but for the rest of the country the issue has really been dealt with only in the past 50-100 years.

    By Blogger Marriah, at 3:07 PM  
  • Just to clarify: Diversity by itself is meaningless. It cannot be an end in itself. Diversification can only be a means to a pedagogical end: if diversity promotes student tolerance of other cultures and an enhanced ability to engage other people in a world that emphasizes this ability as a valuable skill, then schools should make every effort to diversify. However, if there is no pedagogical purpose for the diversity, then all efforts to diversify are pointless.

    Brown was never intended to promote diversity. It was intended to end segregation of whites and blacks so that both races could have access to equal resources for educational and other purposes. Somehow, in the past 20 years, we have turned diversification into an end in itself instead of a means to an end. The 14th Amendment stipulates that every person shall received equal protection under the law. Diversity, as an end in itself, does not accomplish that. Instead it subverts it by promoting discrimination for the sake of discrimination. If diversification promotes equality under the law, that is what we want. This court ruling argued that the diversification programs were ends in themselves, and thus violated both Brown and the 14th Amendment.

    By Blogger Marriah, at 3:54 PM  
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