by Fausta Rodriguez Wertz
Yesterday the Supreme Court of the United States ruled 6-2 that states have the right to ban racial preferences, what we call “affirmative action”, which the French refer to “discrimination positive“, or positive discrimination – an oxymoron if there ever was one, but overly optimistic, or the newest euphemism for academic settings, “race-sensitive admission policies” (emphasis added):
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, in the opinion that controlled the outcome, insisted that the Court was saying nothing new on the constitutionality of public policies that take race into account. “This case,” he wrote, “is not about how the debate about racial preferences should be resolved. It is about who may resolve it….The holding in the instant case is simply that the courts may not disempower the voters from choosing which path to follow.”
He added: “There is no authority in the Constitution of the United States or in this Court’s precedents for the Judiciary to set aside Michigan laws that commit this policy determination to the voters.”
Justice Sotomayor dissented, but her dissent was framed in emotional terms, having conceded that the Michigan law itself did not violate equal protection:
Race matters for reasons that really are only skin deep, that cannot be discussed any other way, and that cannot be wished away. Race matters to a young man’s view of society when he spends his teenage years watching others tense up as he passes, no matter the neighborhood where he grew up. Race matters to a young woman’s sense of self when she states her hometown, and then is pressed, “No, where are you really from?”, regardless of how many generations her family has been in the country. Race matters to a young person addressed by a stranger in a foreign language, which he does not understand because only English was spoken at home. Race matters because of the slights, the snickers, the silent judgments that reinforce that most crippling of thoughts: “I do not belong here.”
I was born and raised in Puerto Rico, and, unlike Justice Sotomayor, do not consider myself to be a “wise Latina“:
“I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life,” said Judge Sotomayor
Certainly it wold be ridiculous, if not downright foolish, to assume that accident of birth in the form of ethnicity has made my life experiences “richer” than anyone who hasn’t lived my life. During the decades I’ve lived in the Continental U. S. I have been “addressed by a stranger in a foreign language” – in German, in Italian, and in Spanish – which did not offend me; to the contrary, I see it as a compliment that a person would like to communicate with me in their language.
But I pose to Justice Sotomayor this question, does race matter when Asian (East Asian and Indian) students are denied admission to top colleges because quotas favor a different minority?
The real issue on college admissions is the quality of public school education,
As a practical matter, the fact that non-white students do relatively poorly under race-neutral admissions standards at our public universities is an indictment mainly of our K–12 education system and of the cultural anarchy that has imposed especially high costs on the children of black and Latino families. It is not an indictment of race-neutral standards. Unable or unwilling to do a better job of preparing black and Latino students for college in the public institutions controlled by its most reliable footsoldiers, the Left insists on anathematizing the very standards under which the incompetence and negligence of our government-run schools, the very model of progressivism, are revealed. If that takes a bit of doublespeak — non-discrimination is discrimination — it wouldn’t be the first time the Left has relied on it.
Or, as my colleague Juliette Akinyi Ochieng correctly names it, The Great Indoctrination.
Back when Justice Sotomayor was nominated, I said,
Identity politics is, in a word, wrong.
Elevating ethnic-identity politics over the law doesn’t make it right.
Fausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on US and Latin American culture and politics at Fausta’s Blog.
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