Thursday, December 07, 2006

upside down world

It's interesting to read about the looming Supreme Court decision on school desegregation after having worked my way through Robert Caro's Master of the Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnson.

That entire, massive book is about a Herculean push to pass the tiniest, nearly insignificant civil rights legislation in 1957. I was amazed at how well the system worked against such measures, how the powers that be would invariably interpret laws and procedures such that they'd benefit bigotted whites and oppress everyone else.

This recent deseg stuff is kind of similar. From the NYT:
Justice Stephen G. Breyer let his frustration show in several exchanges with Solicitor General Paul D. Clement, who argued the Bush administration’s position as a “friend of the court” for the challengers and against the school systems in both cases.

“Think, go back to Cooper v. Aaron,” Justice Breyer told the solicitor general, referring during the argument in the Louisville case to the court’s 1958 decision enforcing a desegregation order in Little Rock, Ark. “Go back to the case where this court with paratroopers had to use tremendous means to get those children into the school. That’s because the society was divided.”

He continued: “Here we have a society, black and white, who elect school board members who together have voted to have this form of integration. Why, given that change in society, which is a good one, how can the Constitution be interpreted in a way that would require us, the judges, to go in and make them take the black children out of the school?”

“Well, I understand that, Justice Breyer,” Mr. Clement said. “But I think the answer to that is that the lesson of history in this area is that racial classifications are not ones where we should just let local school board officials do what they think is right.”

There's so much in that little exchange.

Back in LBJ's time, it was the cry for local and state rights that led the conservatives' charge against integration. Now it's the opposite. Now it's conservatives' arguing that the local governments can't be trusted to do what's right, lest they discriminate by integrating.

1 comment:

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