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John Roberts’s dream of school re-segregation is fulfilled

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John Roberts’s opinion in Parents Involved v. Seattle School District, which struck down a modest integration plan that used racial diversity as a criteria for pupil assignment if there was no other basis for making a selection between students, concluded with one of the most famously cynical and stupid arguments in the U.S. Reports:

What do the racial classifications do in these cases, if not determine admission to a public school on a racial basis?   Before Brown, schoolchildren were told where they could and could not go to school based on the color of their skin. The school districts in these cases have not carried the heavy burden of demonstrating that we should allow this once again—even for very different reasons. For schools that never segregated on the basis of race, such as Seattle, or that have removed the vestiges of past segregation, such as Jefferson County, the way “to achieve a system of determining admission to the public schools on a nonracial basis,” is to stop assigning students on a racial basis. The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.

I’ve quoted this before, but as an addendum to the best dissent of Breyer’s career, John Paul Stevens felt the necessity of putting truth over collegiality:

There is a cruel irony in The Chief Justice’s reliance on our decision in Brown v. Board of Education. The first sentence in the concluding paragraph of his opinion states: “Before Brown, schoolchildren were told where they could and could not go to school based on the color of their skin.” This sentence reminds me of Anatole France’s observation: “[T]he majestic equality of the la[w], forbid[s] rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal their bread.” The Chief Justice fails to note that it was only black schoolchildren who were so ordered; indeed, the history books do not tell stories of white children struggling to attend black schools. In this and other ways, The Chief Justice rewrites the history of one of this Court’s most important decisions.  

The Chief Justice rejects the conclusion that the racial classifications at issue here should be viewed differently than others, because they do not impose burdens on one race alone and do not stigmatize or exclude. The only justification for refusing to acknowledge the obvious importance of that difference is the citation of a few recent opinions—none of which even approached unanimity—grandly proclaiming that all racial classifications must be analyzed under “strict scrutiny.” Even today, two of our wisest federal judges have rejected such a wooden reading of the Equal Protection Clause in the context of school integration. The Court’s misuse of the three-tiered approach to Equal Protection analysis merely reconfirms my own view that there is only one such Clause in the Constitution.

Well, the test of Roberts’s theory that the state using racial classifications to integrate schools is completely indistinguishable from using racial classifications to uphold a caste system has been done, and it turns out that “the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race” is an excellent way of ensuring discrimination on the basis of race:

Within weeks of Engle’s hiring, a group of mostly white families sued over the district’s last attempt at integration: a “racial tiebreaker” that allowed principals with swollen waitlists to use race as a factor in admission. On June 28, 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the parents. Seattle never attempted to integrate again. 

What brought integration to an end had been years in the making. From the time Seattle became the first major city to integrate schools, opposition from white parents followed. The district tried a variety of strategies, then steadily backed away from every one of them, including requiring tens of thousands of students to bus to schools outside of their neighborhoods.

[…]

The first programs to integrate are older than the founding of the Seahawks and Mariners. Some of Seattle’s most notable people were school-aged during the era, including Macklemore, Sir-Mix-A-Lot, Mayor Bruce Harrell and current Superintendent Brent Jones. 

In the years since the district stopped requiring students to bus outside of their neighborhoods, Seattle Public Schools have resegregated. City schools are more segregated now than they were 30 years ago, a Seattle Times analysis has shown. 

Who could have predicted that a lawsuit brought by parents opposed to school integration would lead to school resegregation, your inane tautologies notwithstanding? Of, as John Roberts might put it, “mission accomplished!”

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