On Saturday last, the attorney general of the United States spoke at a segregated school. He spoke, without a trace of irony, as the nation celebrated the 60th anniversary of Brown v. The Board of Education, which, to quote the Washington Post, “ended — legally at least — racial segregation in public education.”
Meanwhile, out in Topeka, Kansas — whence the Brown case originated — First Lady Michelle Obama participated in a Brown celebration by lamenting exactly the kind of school at which Holder was speaking. “Many young people in America,” said the first lady, “are going to school with kids who look just like them.” Certainly that was true where Holder spoke: The student body, according to a report in Forbes magazine, being 87 percent black. Just 1.8 percent of the student body is white, with the remainder divided among Latinos, Asians, and Native Americans.
And what was it the attorney general said? Again according to the Post:
Holder warned that recent public episodes of racial bigotry should not obscure the greater damage done by more systemic forms of prejudice and discrimination….The greatest threats are more subtle. They cut deeper. And their terrible impact endures long after the headlines have faded and obvious, ignorant expressions of hatred have been marginalized.
The “public episodes” of course, are references to recent public dust-ups with Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, basketball’s Donald Sterling, and a local official in New Hampshire who used the “n word” in referring to President Obama.
But what about those “more systemic forms of prejudice and discrimination” of which Holder spoke? The “greatest threats” that “are more subtle.” In fact, it is a very curious thing. Mr. Holder, after saying this, quickly — make that reflexively — went to the criminal justice system, a favorite liberal topic.
He was disturbed that the U.S. criminal justice system had “systemic and unwarranted racial disparities.” The tally at the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, a branch of the very Department of Justice of which Mr. Holder is the boss, states that 59.5 percent of its inmates are white, with 37.1 percent black, 1.9 percent Native Americans, and 1.5 percent Asian.
Which is another way of saying that the black percentage at the very school where Holder was speaking — 86.7 percent — was more than 12 points larger than twice the number of blacks in the U.S. federal prison system. Yet Holder, mysteriously, never said a word speaking truth to power at this school. Instead, he ignored the subject of this school’s segregation completely. It was, as it were, the elephant in the room — and the response of the attorney general, not to mention the boatload of mainstream media covering his appearance, was total silence on the subject of the obvious.
So the obvious question: Why?
And the answer is as obvious as it is historical.
Let’s begin with the reason for all this recent celebration — the 1954 Supreme Court decision Brown v. The Board of Education. Why was Brown necessary in the first place? It was needed to overturn an 1896 Court decision, Plessy v. Ferguson.
Mark Levin succinctly summarized the story in his book Men in Black: How the Supreme Court Is Destroying America.
In Plessy, an activist Supreme Court upheld a state law that mandated segregation, and forced a private industry (in this case the railroads) to separate individuals on account of race. By failing to invoke the plain language of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Court inserted its own segregationist version of what was just. Like Dred Scott (the 1857 Court decision that tried to write slavery into the Constitution) the Court’s decision would have terrible consequences. The doctrine of “separate but equal” was the law of the land for the next fifty-eight years, until the Court reversed course in the 1954 decision Brown v. Board of Education.
Notice Mark’s reference to the original source of Plessy — a railroad company in Louisiana. In fact, with the end of Reconstruction, the Democratic Party returned to power in Louisiana. The political party that had made its bones and based its power on the idea of judging and ruling by skin color — specifically that meant slavery — was once again in charge of Louisiana politics. One of the first things the Democrats in the Louisiana legislature did was to pass the Separate Car Bill, which segregated railroad cars. A Republican legislator adamantly opposed the bill, saying it had passed because of the “ranks of Democratic Senators who pandered to the needs of the lower classes.”
Note: This was — and remains — the classic formulation of the American Left. Race plus class warfare equals political power. In this case, Democrats in the Louisiana legislature passed a bill that was all about separating people by skin color — and did it, as a GOP legislator noted in the day — to “pander” to the “needs of the lower classes.”
Unspoken in all the coverage of the 60th anniversary of Brown is why Brown was needed in the first place. Holder wouldn’t touch it, nor would Mrs. Obama. Nor have the President and his mainstream media buddies.
Politically speaking, Holder’s presence epitomized the race-plus-class-warfare formulation that segregated America’s schools for over half a century. And legally? The school at which Holder spoke — had those percentages of race been reversed, with an 86.7 percent white majority and a 1.8 percent black minority — would soon have Eric Holder’s Justice Department swooping down on it to charge it with “disparate treatment.” Meaning, the overwhelming racial imbalance would itself be evidence of the school’s intent to discriminate.
So how does this segregated school get away with such blatant discrimination? Ahhh. Now we get to the serious political problem that neither Holder or any of his liberal allies in the administration or the media want to come close to touching.
Holder spoke at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland. Morgan is what is known in the vernacular as a “historically black college.” Founded in 1867 as a private biblical institute, “Morgan remained a private institution until 1939. That year, the state of Maryland purchased the school in response to a state study that determined that Maryland needed to provide more opportunities for its black citizens.”
In other words? Once upon a time, the idea of what in fact is a “black college” — even though the school is open to all races — was seen as perfectly legitimate. Yet here in the 21st century, there is the first black First Lady of the United States addressing the kids of Topeka — whence the Brown decision originated — and saying: “Many young people in America are going to school with kids who look just like them.” Which, in fact, is a dead-on description of Morgan State University.
But Morgan State isn’t alone in this kind of segregation-which-must-not-be-discussed situation.
Recall the case of Tennessee’s Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen, a white man, who won the seat vacated by the black Congressman Harold Ford, Jr. and whose district is 60 percent black. Cohen, as reported here, thought the obvious. With a majority black district, he should join the Congressional Black Caucus. When word of his intention leaked, Cohen was met with a racial firestorm. The CBC co-founder, Missouri’s William Lacy Clay Sr., “circulated a memo telling members it was ‘critical’ that the group remain ‘exclusively African-American.’”
In other words? The membership rules of the Congressional Black Caucus are based on race — skin color. Period. If you’re not black, you’re out.
In fact, the congressional districts electing all those black members of Congress that make up the CBC are in reality districts that are formed — quite deliberately — by identifying black voters by race, then cramming them all into districts. And what would happen if the state legislatures who are in charge of redistricting simply wiped out these racially created districts — making them fifty-fifty with whites and blacks? There would be hell to pay.
All of which is to say, in point of fact liberals have no intention of working toward a colorblind America, of taking the real Voter ID qualifier out of politics and education or anything else. For a very simple reason. They need race to win elections. Without the ability to divide by race — to pit one group against another — they have no political power. Period.
The time is now to open the serious conversation on race that liberals do not want to have. No, it doesn’t mean putting an end to a school like Morgan State. But if in fact Morgan State is going to continue — to in fact be celebrated by the presence of the top law enforcement officer of the United States as a commencement speaker — then any other institution out there with an incidential predominance of one race over another cannot be considered to be guilty of institutional discrimination.
Which is it? Are liberals really serious about “young people in America are going to school with kids who look just like them” — as Mrs. Obama claims? A perfect description of Morgan State? Are liberals really willing to end “systemic forms of prejudice and discrimination” — a perfect description of the politics that lead to the Congressional Black Caucus?
Don’t hold your breath.