01/03/2012 05:12:04
Foes of a dream
The United States Supreme Court recently agreed to hear the case of Abigail Noel Fisher, a white applicant who in 2008 filed suit against the University of Texas after having been denied admission.  Fisher’s suit, her grades notwithstanding, claims she was denied admission because she was white, a victim of the university’s diversity-friendly admissions policy...
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The United States Supreme Court recently agreed to hear the case of Abigail Noel Fisher, a white applicant who in 2008 filed suit against the University of Texas after having been denied admission.  Fisher’s suit, her grades notwithstanding, claims she was denied admission because she was white, a victim of the university’s diversity-friendly admissions policy.

Supporters of affirmative action are worried.  And they ought to be worried because the current court hearing this case is significantly different from the court, which in 2003, in Grutter v. Bollinger, upheld race-conscious admissions policies in at the University of Michigan’s law school.

In a 5-4 decision, the majority argued in Grutter v. Bollinger that, “because universities, and in particular, law schools, represent the training ground for a large number of the Nation’s leaders, the path to leadership must be visibly open to talented and qualified individuals of every race and ethnicity. Thus, the Law School has a compelling interest in attaining a diverse student body.”

But, since moderate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s retirement in 2006, the court is unarguably more conservative today than it was in the Grutter v. Bollinger decision.  Justice O’Connor’s replacement was the unapologetically conservative Justice Samuel Alito, a President George W. Bush appointee.

If recent decisions, like the 2010 Citizens United ruling prohibiting the government from restricting political expenditures—protected by the First Amendment—by corporations and unions, reflect the court’s conservative posture, then supporters of affirmative action should be rightfully worried.

Seven years before the Citizens United Ruling, after the court’s 2003 University of Michigan law school decision, current Chief Justice John Roberts said “the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”

Until the court makes a ruling, it is impossible to speculate whether or not they will uphold or reverse the 2003 Grutter v. Bollinger decision.  No one is certain what affirmative action will look like after the case is heard; that is if there would be any affirmative action at all to worry about.  Whatever ruling the court makes, it is bound to affect future generations, at least socio-economically, of the demographics, which have traditionally benefitted from it, women and ethnic minorities.

However, it is the timing of when the case would be heard and the country’s current socio-economic and political mood, which makes supporters of affirmative action, most of them devotees of Dr. Martin Luther King’s ideals and President Lyndon B Johnson’s Great Society, shudder. 

They shudder for good reason, because not only is affirmative action, a cornerstone of the civil rights struggle at the mercy of a conservative court, the politics of racial resentment embedded in the rhetoric of media personalities, GOP presidential contenders and political pundits, has reached levels not seen since the weeks leading up to President Barack Obama’s inauguration. 

Barely before the euphoria of President Obama’s 2008 election had subsided, a movement would sprout out of legends of old America and the deep pockets of libertarian industrialists, to remind the newly elected president what country he would lead. And,  though Glenn Beck might not still be the loudest voice on FOX television scaring ‘middle’ America about an Obama-triggered Armageddon, his followers and fans have not been wanting for the kind of political substance which brought him fame and fortune. 

When his former colleagues at FOX are not spewing epithets at the country’s first African-American or his wife, they along with their allies in the Republican Party have dug their fingers in the dung of demagoguery to sculpt ‘Barack X’, a character MSNBC political analyst, Edward Wyckoff Williams tries to understand in his essay, How the right created ‘Barack X’, published on www.theroot.com.

“According to their dogma, Barack X is raising taxes, destroying the military, apologizing for America, waging war on religion and creating death panels that decide if you live or die,” Williams writes.

The Republican presidential contenders are running out of time and ideas as they outwear each other in a primary none of them seem able to clinch.  Their ideological allies on talk radio and FOX television are frustrated by  an economy that wouldn’t submit to their fatalistic fantasies, thus have now opted to color their now ritual derision of the president with the kind of encoded language, which makes even those [the decent among them] unfamiliar with Jim Crow to worry.

The country is far from the brink but this will be the country’s mood, at least some of it, when the US Supreme court hears Fisher’s suit against the University of Texas.  If it is not, there are those bent on making it so.

KangsenFekaWakai

KangsenFekaWakai is a Boston based writer and journalist.

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