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December 31, 2006
6:18am EST




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BY JAMES TARANTO
Tuesday, December 5, 2006 2:42 p.m. EST

How 'Integration' Became Discrimination
The New York Times reports on an important case the Supreme Court heard yesterday:

By the time the Supreme Court finished hearing arguments on Monday on the student-assignment plans that two urban school systems use to maintain racial integration, the only question was how far the court would go in ruling such plans unconstitutional.

There seemed little prospect that either the Louisville, Ky., or Seattle plans would survive the hostile scrutiny of the court's new majority. In each system, students are offered a choice of schools but can be denied admission based on their race if enrolling at a particular school would upset the racial balance.

At its most profound, the debate among the justices was over whether measures designed to maintain or achieve integration should be subjected to the same harsh scrutiny to which Brown v. Board of Education subjected the regime of official segregation. In the view of the conservative majority, the answer was yes.

But liberal justices disagreed:

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg tried unsuccessfully to turn the chief justice's colloquy with [Seattle lawyer Michael] Madden in a different direction. The question of whether "using racial integration is the same as segregation," she said, was "pretty far from the kind of headlines that attended the Brown decision."

Bringing "white and black children together on the same school bench," Justice Ginsburg continued, "seems to be worlds apart from saying we'll separate them."

The fundamental dispute is whether antidiscrimination laws--the 14th Amendment and, by implication, the Civil Rights Act of 1964--ban discrimination altogether, or only in the pursuit of invidious ends. Broadly stated, the "conservative" position is that these laws protect individuals from discrimination, whereas the "liberal" position is that discrimination is fine in the pursuit of "diversity" or integration but not of white supremacy.

Liberals, in other words, are much more apt to say that the ends justify the means. As Justice Harry Blackmun wrote in University of California v. Bakke, "In order to get beyond racism, we must first take account of race. . . . And in order to treat some persons equally, we must treat them differently."

That was in 1978. Twenty-five years later, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, in Grutter v. Bollinger, upheld some racial discrimination in higher education, but wrote that she expects the need for them to have passed in another 25 years. Justice Ginsburg made a point of disagreeing, saying that one may only "hope" that it will be "safe to sunset affirmative action."

There is a curious disconnect here. "Affirmative action" is politically unpopular, having been banned by initiative in three liberal states (California, Michigan and Washington). With Justice Samuel Alito having replaced O'Connor, its legal status is shaky.

In any case, it has always been presented as only a temporary measure--a way, as Justice Blackmun put it, "to get beyond racism." Yet affirmative action's advocates act as if it is here to stay. For them, discrimination is no longer a means to an end but an end in itself. The Seattle Public Schools Web site has a statement that expressly disavows the goal of getting beyond racism:

The intended purpose of our work in the area of race and social justice is to bring communities together through open dialogue and honest reflection around what is meant by racism and the impact is [sic] has on our society, and more specifically, our students. Our intention is not to put up additional barriers or develop an "us against them" mindset; nor is it to continue to hold onto unsuccessful concepts such as a melting pot or colorblind mentality.

As George Will notes, this statement replaced one that was much worse:

Until June, the school district's Web site declared that "cultural racism'' includes "emphasizing individualism as opposed to a more collective ideology,'' "having a future time orientation'' (planning ahead) and "defining one form of English as standard.'' The site also asserted that only whites can be racists, and disparaged assimilation as the "giving up'' of one's culture.

This is in fact baldly racist. In concept it is distinguishable from white supremacy only in its refusal to condone value judgments. But the real world imposes its own "value judgments," and in practice it seems obviously pernicious to inculcate black children with the idea that because of the color of their skin, they cannot learn to plan ahead or to speak standard English.

Advocates of affirmative action, thus, have abandoned the goal of "getting beyond racism," upon which it was originally imposed on the public. Affirmative action has become a way of perpetuating discrimination rather than overcoming it. It is, at best, an experiment that has failed.

Discriminating Against the Thin
"Proposed UW System Admissions Policy Would Add Weight to Race, Income"--headline, La Crosse (Wis.) Tribune, Dec. 5

The Era of His Ways
Paul Morin, national commander of the American Legion, describes himself as a Vietnam veteran, though he never actually served in Vietnam, the Boston Globe reports:

The only place Morin ever returned from was Fort Dix, N.J. According to his military records, Morin spent his entire two years of Army service, from 1972 to 1974, at that Army training base . In fact, before he sought the coveted one-year term as national president of the country's largest veterans' organization, Morin was content to be known as a "Vietnam-era" veteran--a signal to other veterans that he did not serve in Vietnam.

The Globe notes that "neither the US government nor the Legion itself makes a formal distinction between veterans who served in Vietnam and those, like [Morin], who did not." But that doesn't satisfy one great patriot:

Former US Senator Max Cleland of Georgia, who lost both legs and an arm in Vietnam, and who has been a Legion member since 1969, expressed concern in an interview on Friday that by inflating his résumé, Morin has undercut the credibility of veterans' groups as they seek congressional support for underfunded veterans' programs.

"For the national commander of the American Legion, who never even served in the Vietnam theater, to call himself a Vietnam veteran is a lie," Cleland said.

We agree that it's misleading. When we hear the phrase "Vietnam veteran," we think of someone who was actually in Vietnam, even if only for a little while like John Kerry*.

But where was Cleland four years ago, when Rep. Jim McDermott claimed that he and his then colleague David Bonior--both of whom had just returned from Baghdad, where they propagandized on behalf of Saddam Hussein--"were in that war," namely Vietnam? In fact, McDermott was a Navy psychiatrist and Bonior an Air Force cook--both in California.

* 120 days, to be exact.

Great Moments in Higher Education
The Associated Press reports on the education of Carol Shea-Porter, newly elected to Congress from New Hampshire:

Shea-Porter said she also recently attended a conference at Harvard to learn more about national issues.

"We started with the budget," Shea-Porter said Saturday. "Whatever you think--it's worse. We ended with terrorism. Whatever you think--it's worse."

Wow, no wonder Harvard has such a reputation for excellence!

Still Dead
Cuba Democracia y Vida, a Sweden-based exile site, claims that Fidel Castro is dead, attributing the information to, as Google's rough translation puts it, "a source near the Cuban regime of total credibility." Havana has been holding back the announcement, the story says, while awaiting the results of the election in Venezuela, where Hugo Chavez, a younger, less dead version of Castro, is leading his challenger by 62% to 37%.

The Associated Press, however, reports that "Cuba's Communist newspaper on Tuesday published a message reportedly from ailing leader Fidel Castro congratulating Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on his weekend re-election victory":

"The victory was resounding, crushing and without parallel in the history of our America," read the brief message published in the online edition of the Communist Party daily Granma.

Without parallel? Is Castro admitting that his own "elections"--whose results are even more "resounding" by virtue of their 100% victory margins--are a sham?

Zero-Tolerance Watch
" 'In the name of both freedom of speech and common sense,' the American Civil Liberties Union has asked Portsmouth High School principal Robert Littlefield to reconsider a decision to bar a senior yearbook photo showing a student dressed in a coat of mail with a reproduction of a medieval sword over his shoulder," the Providence Journal reports:

Without naming the student, Patrick Agin, Littlefield suggested last week that the photo would violate the school's "zero tolerance" policy banning weaponry.

In a note to Patrick's mother, Heidi Farrington, Littlefield has said Patrick may submit an alternate senior photo, or use the same photo if the family were to take out an ad in the back of the yearbook.

"It is easier for the school to disavow endorsement or approval of a photo when it is included in the advertising section," Littlefield wrote in a note Farrington released yesterday.

So the school is willing to publish the photo if Agin pays for it? That's not exactly zero tolerance. More like tolerance for sale.

How Polite
"Pfizer Opens the Door for Abbott"--headline, Chicago Tribune, Dec. 5

Dog Strip Clubs? Now We've Seen Everything!
"Charges Dog Strip Club Owner"--headline, East Valley Tribune (Mesa, Ariz.), Dec. 4

News You Can Use

Bottom Stories of the Day

  • "UNC Students Object to Proposed Tuition Hike"--headline, Chronicle (Duke University), Dec. 4

  • "Civic Center Not for Sale Yet"--headline, Asheville (N.C.) Citizen-Times, Dec. 5

  • "Actress Tori Spelling to Write Memoir"--headline, Associated Press, Dec. 4

  • "Auto Insurance Rates Stable for Many"--headline, USA Today, Dec. 5

  • "Thompson's Trial Balloon Below Radar: All quiet on ex-governor's presidential aspirations"--headline, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Dec. 3

Unsportsmanlike Conduct
In the New Hampshire, student newspaper at the University of New Hampshire, Melissa DaCosta vents her outrage:

I was appalled at an advertisement I recently saw on the bulletin board in my dorm. . . . The advertisement from Health Services, calling for safe sex, reads, "Whether you're the catcher or the pitcher, always wear a glove!" with a picture of a smiling woman holding a catcher's mitt and a man holding a bat next to her. . . .

To consider the act of sex as a subject/object encounter, as this advertisement does, where a woman's role is to "catch" a man's "pitches," is degrading, disgusting, and completely beyond the type of behavior I expect from an institution of higher learning. To pair this type of advertising alongside messages of "always get consent" seems contradictory and dangerous to the lives of women--on campus and elsewhere. This poster is sending a message that sex is defined as an act done to a woman by a man, rather than a collaborative effort of two people. I am afraid that this is just replicating a system of hierarchy where women are expected to accept what they are given, including situations where they may feel pressured by men to have unprotected sex, and I hope that this type of safe sex awareness is torn down from our walls permanently.

It's all good clean fun, until someone gets offended.

(Carol Muller helps compile Best of the Web Today. Thanks to John Perry, Scot Silverstein, Jay Nerby, Jim Triller, Thomas Dillon, Joe Lima, C.E. Dobkin, Scott Wright, Matthew du Mee, Jim Grodnik, John Neal, Dan O'Shea, Ina Bohannon and David Simon. If you have a tip, write us at opinionjournal@wsj.com, and please include the URL.)

Today on OpinionJournal:

  • Review & Outlook: So-called realists have an unrealistic view of Iran.
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  • Kim Strassel: The seamy underside of asbestos litigation.
  • Steve Moore: Solving the health-care "crisis" means not more government involvement but less.

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