June 28, 2007

Racial Imbalance is Not Segregation

Filed under: Education,Politics,Race,Supreme Court — acepundit @ 10:01 am

Wrote Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in his concurring opinion as part of the 185-page decision from the Supreme Court today that ultimately rejected a school’s voluntary integration plan. The decision was 5-4 with the Chief writing for the conservatives plus Justice Kennedy. Thomas’s concurrence is a rebuttal to Justice Breyer’s dissent. I’m still reading through it right now and I can say that Breyer and his liberal colleagues are PISSED. Usually justices end their dissents with “I respectfully dissent.” Breyer, after saying the court will “regret” today’s decision, ends his opinion with “I must dissent.”

UPDATE: More to come as I finish reading the opinions, the final ones for this term. Once again swing-voter Justice Kennedy has proven to be the most powerful judge in the country. While he has more often than not sided with the conservative justices, he today voted with the liberals in a 5-4 decision repealing the death sentence for a “mentally delusional” inmate.

Update II: The Supreme Court got it right, plain and simple. Chief Justice Roberts reminds us that “Seattle has never operated segregated schools – legally separate schools for students of different races.nor has it ever been subject to court-ordered desegregation.”

Because there’s no history of segregation, the majority argued, there’s no compelling interest to divide up the students by race. If as a result one school is prodominatly one color that’s the way it is. As Thomas wrote:

The dissent repeatedly claims that the school districts are threatened with resegregation and that they will
succumb to that threat if these plans are declared unconstitutional. It also argues that these plans can be justified as part of the school boards. attempts to .eradicat[e] earlier school segregation. Contrary to the dissent’s rhetoric, neither of these school districts is threatened with resegregation, and neither is constitutionally compelled or permitted to undertake race-based remediation. Racial imbalance is not segregation, and the mere incantation of terms like resegregation and remediation cannot make up the difference.

Although there is arguably a danger of racial imbalance in schools in Seattle and Louisville, there is no danger of resegregation. No one contends that Seattle has established or that Louisville has reestablished a dual school system that separates students on the basis of race. The statistics cited in Appendix A to the dissent are not to the contrary. See post, at 69.72. At most, those statistics show a national trend toward classroom racial imbalance. However, racial imbalance without intentional state action to separate the races does not amount to segregation. To raise the specter of resegregation to defend these programs is to ignore the meaning of the word and the nature of the cases before us.

It is a noble goal to achieve racial harmony where schools are divided perfectly even by racial demographics and the students hold hangs singing songs of racial diversity. But we shouldn’t get there by socially experimenting with race.



  1. Maybe some sanity in the “racial” arena now? We can hope.

    Comment by jeanie — June 28, 2007 @ 11:59 am | Reply

  2. Justice Kennedy’s concurrence leaves the door open for schools to continue trying to use race as a factor for admission. The verdict in this case is quite narrow in its scope; limited to Seattle and Louisville.

    Comment by acepundit — June 28, 2007 @ 12:07 pm | Reply

  3. Sorry—did not realize that–thanks for explaining.

    Comment by jeanie — June 28, 2007 @ 3:08 pm | Reply

  4. I still do not have any real familiarity with this decision. but the little I do have seems to me to disagree with your “doors open” statement. I got the impression that enforced racial diversity in schools was no longer a must. If the Bill is so narrow in scope, why is there a hue and cry that schools will now become segregated by ethnic make up of the community?(re: the hypothetical at the top of your blog) By the way–I do not have a definite opinion on whether this is good or not but I’ll bet that so many African Americans are middle class now that only the inner cities will be affected in most cases. Here in the middle class burbs we all live together anyway and our schools reflect this. The “monied” class all send their kids to private schools maybe?

    Comment by jeanie — June 29, 2007 @ 8:25 pm | Reply

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