Thursday, June 28, 2007


It's not often that I read actual Supreme Court Opinions or Dissents. After all, that is what Nina Tottenberg and Jim Lehrer are for, no? They read them so I don't have to.

But today, I was reading a booklet that Daughter D put together in her summer program. It's a hodge-podge of questions on xeroxed paper, tied together with a ribbon. Mostly, it's standard 7 year old kid stuff:

What's your favorite toy? "Playmobil"
What's your favorite food? "Pizza"
What's your favorite thing to do? "Read"

and so on.

But the last page had the question: "Who are your favorite 10 friends?" As I glanced over the page, I realized that D. had only listed 3 Caucasians, the rest were different races.

Our neighborhood is 99.9 white. Her neighborhood friends are all white. But her friends at school are every color under the sun.

I have to think that she is benefiting from that experience. Hell, I KNOW that she is benefiting from that experience. She's color-blind when it comes to skin color, except for a growing fascination with the civil rights movement.

At the library yesterday, I told the kids to pick out a book that I would read to them at the coffee shop next door. They picked out a biography of Jackie Robinson. (baseball and civil rights - all in the same book - can't go wrong.)

Baseball benefited immensely when the leagues weren't segregated by race.

Schools, too, benefit when they aren't segregated by race.

I read most of Roberts and some of Kennedy and I think Kennedy's heart is in the right place - I do think that they are trying to ban ANY kind of racial segregation - ironically, even the kind that leads to diversity.

But the problem with their argument is that neighborhoods are segregated. Our neighborhood is bused to a poorer school - that is the only reason we have such great diversity. (And sadly, the reason that most of our neighbors go to a private school.)

When neighborhoods are segregated - schools will be segregated. And that's not good for anybody.

Breyer's Dissent was brilliant. (When can we see the Dissents on YouTube?, that's what I'd like to know.)

In particular, he said:

Many parents, white and black alike, want their children to attend schools with children of different races. Indeed, the very school districts that once spurned integration now strive for it. The long history of their efforts reveals the complexities and difficulties they have faced. And in light of those challenges, they have asked us not to take from their hands the instruments they have used to rid their schools of racial segregation, instruments that they believe are needed to overcome the problems of cities divided by race and poverty. The plurality would decline their modest request.

The plurality is wrong to do so. The last half-century has witnessed great strides toward racial equality, but we have not yet realized the promise of Brown. To invalidate the plans under review is to threaten the promise of Brown. The plurality's position, I fear, would break that promise. This is a decision that the Court and the Nation will come to regret.

I must dissent.

Me too, Justice Breyer, me too.

Brown vs. Board of Education was unanimous. With this court, it looks like we are in for a long haul of 5/4 decisions.

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