There is no question that John Roberts thinks we live in the post racial America that was supposed to be a reality in the wake of Barack Obama’s election as the nation’s first African-American President.
Over the past year the Chief Justice of the world’s most important court and his colleagues have been working feverishly to undo the gains of the Civil Rights Movement of the 50s and 60s. It started last June when the court voted to strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, setting the stage for deep red states to put into place restrictive voter identification laws that would limit the ability of people of color, women, young people, and the elderly to get to the voting booth. It was only about five minutes after the Supremes handed down their ruling that Texas and North Carolina begin the process of standing in the polling place doors.
In an encore performance on Tuesday the court upheld the state of Michigan’s ban on using race as a factor in college admissions. In addition to placing a smile on the face of every far right conservative in the country, the six justices who voted yes to uphold the ban also made it more difficult for minorities in America to gain access to the quality education it takes to be successful.
The ban itself is just another glaring example of the fact that some things just should not be up for a vote. According to the United States Census the state of Michigan is populated by almost ten million people, a whopping 80% of those individuals identify as being white. Without generalizing how many of those people, even the most liberal among them think that the playing field as it relates to college applications is now even and compare that to those non-white individuals in Michigan who know for a fact that it isn’t. In that regard the residents of Michigan are a microcosm of The United States Supreme Court.
Back in February a Detroit Free Press article noted that the African-American and Latino population at the University of Michigan had dropped by 25% and 30% respectively since 2006. Data like this leads to Affirmative Action opponents like Ward Connerly –who has made it his life’s mission to end race based programs– going on national television and declaring that the black community is not invested in hard work as it relates to getting into college, without mentioning barriers that lead to inequality like underserved public schools and SAT and ACT prep courses that more affluent parents have the opportunity to take advantage of. I’m sure he received a congratulatory phone call from Paul Ryan at some point after his appearance.
Let’s get back to Roberts though who for the longest time has expressed an insatiable desire to end race based programs. Ever since getting his start in the Reagan Administration in 80s Roberts has not been shy about wanting to get rid of race classifications in education, employment, and voting rights. He has given us such memorable soundbites as “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discrimination on the basis of race.” and “Things have changed in the South,” and with allies like Scalia, Alito, Kennedy, Thomas, and surprisingly in this case Breyer those quotes will continue to be put into practice.
Remember when Conservatives had a very public falling out with Roberts over his vote that upheld the constitutionality of The Affordable Care Act in 2012. Michele Bachmann threw out the obligatory “activist court” line, former Bush press secretary and professional liar Ari Fleischer said`”I miss Justice Harriet Miers”, and Conservative columnist Ben Shapiro tweeted “Chief Justice Roberts was the worst part of the Bush legacy.” While the right was either expressing their outrage or wiping their tears or both I remembered turning to a friend of mine and saying that us liberals will now catch hell from this court from this point forward which is what has played out. With the exception of striking down the Defense of Marriage Act, SCOTUS has given us terrible rulings that have set back voting rights and college accessibility for minorities while protecting the ability of billionaires to influence the political process in ways that make the average Joe and Jane irrelevant.
The one silver lining from the week was once again Justice Sonia Sotomayor who delivered a blistering rebuttal to Roberts. Sotomayor who is not embarrassed by and has never shied away from the role Affirmative Action has played in her life and career unlike one of her colleagues on the bench shamefully does–Hi Clarence– threw one of Roberts’ infamous quotes back in his face. “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to speak openly and candidly on the subject of race, and to apply the Constitution with eyes open to the unfortunate effects of centuries of racial discrimination.”
If only the court’s composition had more thinkers like Sotomayor, instead it is made up of middle aged to elderly white men including Breyer who can’t see past their own privilege to understand that everyone isn’t beginning the race at the same starting point, and a black man in Thomas who is so deep in the bowels of self hatred that he stands in stark opposition to anything that would make that race a fair one. You know what fellas, retirement isn’t such a bad thing.