I haven’t paid much attention to MSM coverage of the Supreme Court’s decision this week striking down two race-based school assignment systems. My information has come from the opinions of the Justices and from a few law blogs. However, the MSM blurbs I’ve seen seemed more designed to alarm than to inform.
So too with This story in the Washington Post. For one thing, it states that “the court’s four-member conservative wing said the use of race in school assignments always violated the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection.” This is wrong. First, Chief Justice Roberts’ pluarality opinion does not question prior rulings that, if a school system has discriminated in the past, race-based assignments can be used to vindicate the state’s compelling interest in remedying the effects of that discrimination. Second, as I have argued, the plurality doesn’t appear to reach the question of whether racial classifications can be used to avoid racial isolation on a record demonstrating that such use of classifications will bring about educational benefits.
The authors of the Post story also seem unduly alarmist about the likely impact of the ruling of the Court as a whole (here I assume that Justice Kennedy’s opinion most closely embodies that ruling). The Post’s headline is “court ruling likely to further segregate schools, educators say.” The authors rely on a quotation from some Columbia professor, which they use in their opening paragraph. She warns that the effect of the decision will be “a major increase in racial segregation that will cause our children to be less prepared to live in our diverse society.” But other educators and experts say that (for better or for worse) school systems may decide to use socioeconomic status as a race-neutral means of achieving racial diversity. And, towards the end of the article, we learn that this approach supposedly has had success in bringing about diversity and improving minority performance on tests.
Still, the authors sniff that “the most effective way to achieve racial diversity is by taking race into account, most experts agree. . .” Actually, the most effective way to achieve racial diversity in schools is to impose racial diversity in housing. But the law has long been clear that the government must proceed with extreme caution when dealing with racial classifications. Thus, it is well-established that the government must explore alternatives to the use of such classifications even when trying to achieve compelling goals.
The MSM and certain “experts” may find this consitutionally-based doctrine inconvenient, but that’s no excuse for indulging in alarmist speculation.
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