My friend Steve Hayward is the author of the two-volume Age of Reagan and several other important books. He writes to comment on the Washington Post story on the New Black Panther Party case and John’s related post. The underlying dispute about color-consciousness at the Department of Justice, Steve writes, has been brewing for a long time:
I quote the infamous remarks in my Reagan book of Mary Frances Berry and Blandina Ramirez, two Carter holdovers on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, who wrote in 1985 that “civil rights laws were not passed to give civil rights protections to all Americans, as a majority of this Commission seems to believe. Instead, they were passed out of a recognition that some Americans already had protection because they belonged to a favored group; and others, including blacks, Hispanics, and women of all races, did not because they belonged to disfavored groups.”
This wasn’t an offhand comment; it was in a considered statement they put out: “Statements of Commissioners Blandina Cardinas Ramirez and Mary Frances Berry,” Toward an Understanding of Stotts (U.S. Commission on Civil Rights: Clearinghouse Publications 85, January 1985), p. 63.
Berry and Ramirez were considered on the radical fringe back then. But as we see, their view has gone “mainstream” in DoJ. Notwithstanding that whenever color-blind policy makes it to the ballot (i.e., California’s Prop 209), it rolls up big majorities.
Berry and Ramirez are also wrong as a matter of fact. The great victory of the civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of moral persuasion: King persuaded Americans that it was wrong and deeply un-American to treat people differently based on the color of their skin. That victory of moral persuasion was translated into the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the law that prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, or sex in employment, public accommodations, and federally funded programs (including colleges and universities). The universities have unfortunately been engaged in massive resistance to the rule of equal treatment for years, although their resistance that has been blessed by the Supreme Court so long as it is conducted under cover of the “diversity” shibboleth.