Tuesday, June 24, 2003

"Thomas, the only black member of the court and an opponent of affirmative action, said the school's policy in the law school case violated the Constitution's equal protection clause. He quoted from a speech by Frederick Douglass, the famous abolitionist, to deliver what he called "a message lost on today's majority." In the 1865 speech to a group of abolitionists, Douglass said Americans had always been anxious about what to do with black people. "I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us!" he said. "Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us! "If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, if they are worm-eaten at the core, if they are early ripe and disposed to fall, let them fall!" Douglass said. Thomas wrote that he, like Douglass, believes blacks can achieve in "every avenue of American life without the meddling of university administrators." Justices Pen Widely Varied Mich. Opinions

I went back to Nathan Newman's post on the courts and looked again at the comment above mine. Somebody had asked Nathan, since he's so bothered by judicial review, how he feels about school prayer. Nathan had responded to both of us and I responded to him. Then I added a few words without thinking: "Our system was not designed to take hypocrisy into account; that's probably it's biggest flaw."

Strictly speaking, affirmative action is unconstitutional. Strictly speaking, if we had an institutionalized church, religious faith -as opposed to ritual- would be as marginal here as it is in Western Europe. Strictly speaking, girls probably fare better in sexually segregated educational environments, though boys may do less well. Historically black colleges and universities did a pretty good job of educating their students in an atmosphere without racial discrimination, at least when they were on campus, helping to create and maintain over a period of a hundred years an independent black middle class. Affirmative action on the other hand gave us Clarence Thomas, and I'm sure the irony is not lost on him, at least in private.

I don't know what to say to most people. I grew up in a house with 5000 books, though I succeeded in avoiding most of them. I was one of the only white kids in a largely working class black neighborhood. Before 18 I had spent less than 24 hours, in total, in any environment that could be called suburban. Like my friends I lived in fear of white working class thugs. I'm still nervous around cops. The only businessman I met before I was 20 was my father's brother, whom I saw about once every two years. My parent's phone was tapped. My first sexual experimentation in my early teens was with males my age with brown skin. When someone asks me my orientation I say I'm a socialist. If someone asks me my background I say I'm an aristocrat and ask if I can borrow $20.

The tragedy of this country is that is predicated on the lie that we are better creatures than in fact we are. That's the definition of all tragedy but specifically of ours. The comfort of old Europe is it's cynicism and common sense.

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