Browsing through the collection of over 70 pro-"diversity" amicus briefs submitted on behalf of the University of Texas in the Fisher case, I am reminded, as I often am, of how eerily the current defense of "taking race into account," i.e., preferential treatment based on race, resembles the old Southern arguments in defense of segregation.
As I have pointed out on my blog a number of times, one of the oddest, saddest things about contemporary liberalism is the degree to which it stands on the shoulders, and repeats the arguments, of dead racists. Anyone, for example, who defends racial preferences must reject Justice John Marshall Harlan's stirring comment in Plessy that "our Constitution is colorblind" and agree with the majority's holding that the 14th Amendment does not require colorblindness and hence that racial discrimination can in many circumstances be reasonable and hence constitutional.
Opposing the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative in 2006 (before he was convicted and sent to prison for fraud and corruption), Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick declared to applause in a speech to the NAACP, "We will affirm to the world that affirmative action will be here today, it will be here tomorrow and there will be affirmative action in the state forever." Kilpatrick unwittingly channeled George Wallace's 1963 acceptance speech as Governor of Alabama: "I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say . . . segregation today . . . segregation tomorrow . . .segregation forever!"
One of the most famous documents in the South's massive resistance to school integration was the "Southern Manifesto" of 1956, signed by 19 Senators and 77 Representatives, defending states' rights and criticizing the Supreme Court for overturning settled law. To demonstrate how closely its arguments resemble current defenses of preferential admissions I once posted a version of that document substituting "diversity" or "racial preferences" for "segregation." It is an uncanny fit. The Southerners argued, for example, that "the 'separate but equal' principle [substitute: the amount of diversity and the means of achieving it] is within the discretion of the state in regulating its public schools and does not conflict with the Fourteenth Amendment."
The Jackson Clarion Ledger quoted a spokesman for the Mississippi Attorney General's office explaining that representatives from that state had "signed on ... in the interest of fighting to allow our universities to set their own admission policies without unnecessary interference or second-guessing by federal courts." In a closely related legal document Mississippi joined several other states in asserting that "states must have the freedom and flexibility to create strong institutions tailored to the needs of each particular State and its citizens" and urging the Court "to reject petitioner's invitation to ... destabilize the careful judgments that each State has made in light of the conditions and needs facing its own particular institutions of higher learning."
The petitioner referred to above is actually Abigail Fisher, and the attorney general's spokesman is actually referring to the amicus brief Mississippi joined with New York, North Carolina and several other states defending the University of Texas's admitting some applicants and rejecting others based on their race and ethnicity.
Mississippi, still defending racial discrimination. The more things change....