Taking yet another step to unravel the "judicial activism" of the Warren Court, the Supreme Court today struck down voluntary desegregation plans being implemented in Seattle and Louisville.

A half-century after the Supreme Court outlawed segregated schools, sharply divided justices clamped new limits Thursday on local school efforts to make sure children of different races share classrooms.

The court voted 5-4 to strike down school integration plans in Louisville, Ky., and Seattle, a decision that imperiled similar plans that hundreds of cities and counties use voluntarily to integrate their schools.

The ruling does not affect several hundred other public school districts that remain under federal court order to desegregate [ed. note: yet].

Justices disagreed bluntly with each other in 169 pages of written opinions on whether the decision supports or betrays the landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling that led to the end of state-sponsored school segregation in the United States.

The 5-4 decision, the 24th such split this term, displayed the new dominance of the court's aggressive conservative majority. The four liberal justices dissented.

Chief Justice John Roberts asserted in his majority opinion that by classifying students by race, the school districts are perpetuating the unequal treatment the Brown decision outlawed. ``The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race,'' Roberts said.

Citing Brown to rule against integration was ``a cruel irony,'' responded Justice John Paul Stevens in his dissent.

And Thurgood Marshall wept.

I'm about speechless. This country went through Hell in order to undo the legacy of institutional racism before. Let's hope it doesn't come to that again.

(Memo to Ann Coulter: Even without someone poisoning Justice Stevens as is your fervent wish, you're getting everything you want out of the Roberts court.)

Andy Axel's picture

And while I'm on the topic

And while I'm on the topic of Justice Stevens (and instead of editing the post for the umpteenth time), here's some choice text from his dissent:

While I join JUSTICE BREYER.s eloquent and unanswerable dissent in its entirety, it is appropriate to add these words. There is a cruel irony in THE CHIEF JUSTICE.s reliance on our decision in Brown v. Board of Education, 349 U. S. 294 (1955). 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.. Ante, at 40. 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.2 In this and other ways, THE CHIEF JUSTICE rewrites the history of one of this Court's most important decisions. Compare ante, at 39 (history will be heard.), with Brewer v. Quarterman, 550 U. S. ___,___ (2007) (slip op., at 11) (ROBERTS, C. J., dissenting) (It is a familiar adage that history is written by the victors.)

Emphasis mine.


I'm a guy in a Reagan mask -- and I'm running for President!

R. Neal's picture

Looks to me like the

Looks to me like the right-wing Supreme Court just codified the racism that the right-wing insists doesn't exist any more.

This should be the final nail in the coffin of the neo-conservative movement for anyone paying attention.

The question is, is anyone paying attention any more?

Did anyone notice that the White House today refused to comply with a Congressional subpoena regarding politicization of the Justice Department that is supposed to enforce civil rights and has instead spent the last seven years doing the opposite?

Did anyone notice that the White House claimed executive privilege for no justifiable reason on an entirely political issue that had nothing to do with national security?

While they've got us debating subtle nuances of law and the Constitution, the Bush administration and a tiny minority of right-wing extremist followers and enablers have just about destroyed the America I grew up in.

Did anyone notice?

Rachel's picture

Did anyone notice?

Nah, we're too busy talking about Ann Coulter.

Tamara Shepherd's picture

"Re-thinking the nature of student diversity?"

I've been reading up on this subject over the last few days. Apparently, in recent years the courts have distinguished between what they call "intentional governmental discrimination" and so-called "defacto segregation" (i.e., "white flight"). In general, recent rulings (including this one) suggest that school boards are under little or no compulsion to address "defacto segregation."

However, in this excerpt from a National School Board Association (NSBA) report, below, the NSBA suggests that non-racial factors, including students' socio-economic backgrounds, might be considered in school boards' efforts to create diverse student populations.

Whether it is race or some other factor school boards use to diversify schools, my questions are still these: In the case of "de facto" segregation, whose task is it to correct the problem? If school boards undertake the task of correcting the problem, absent any ability to address
the errant growth plans that created the problem, do they (continually) work against another task understood to be theirs, namely to create "community-based" schools? And finally, at what point should we consider a school "diverse," in terms of some applicable benchmark (I do not know how this "unitary status" the NSBA refers to is defined or measured)?

Link to article:

Conclusion: Making Policies Fit The Law

"The trend in recent cases is to strike down programs that rely solely on race, unless the program is necessary to remedy intentional governmental discrimination. A few jurisdictions recognize other compelling interests
that may justify narrowly tailored race-based programs: the Ninth Circuit (the federal jurisdiction that includes the Pacific states, plus Montana, Idaho, Nevada, and New Mexico) recognizes educational diversity as such an
interest, while the Second Circuit (New York, Connecticut, and Vermont) recognizes a district's interest in preventing de facto segregation. Districts that gear their policies toward the goal of diversity should understand the different legal meanings of that term, and should avoid using race as a proxy for a broader sense of diversity: despite the contrary decisions of a few courts, pure racial balancing is highly unlikely to survive strict scrutiny unless it is necessary to remedy specific constitutional violations. Whatever the rationale for a race-conscious
policy, a district should be prepared to defend it with hard facts. Even districts still operating under desegregation orders should not assume that they have free rein to assign students on the basis of race, but should
consider whether they now meet the conditions for unitary status. Finally, no matter what policy a district puts in place, it should tailor that program narrowly to its stated end and should specifically delineate guidelines and objectives.

A district considering whether to use race in admissions and assignments must at least consider alternative, non-racial criteria that might serve just as well. Apart from passing strict scrutiny, there is another excellent reason for giving non-racial alternatives serious consideration.
If the goal of diversity can be achieved without the use of race, then an admissions or assignment plan can in all probability avoid strict scrutiny and perhaps even prevent litigation over the issue altogether.
Recommendations dealing with higher-education admissions processes may be difficult or impossible for K-12 officials to implement. Yet there are several non-racial factors that could be used to create a meaningfully diverse learning environment. A district might consider such things as a student's socio-economic background, family pattern (raised by grandparents, single parent, and so forth), parents' educational history, English proficiency, free-lunch qualifying status, or neighborhood, for example.
These factors should not be used as proxies for race: although a district that uses them is likely to achieve some measure of racial balance, a policy whose secret intent was race-oriented might receive strict scrutiny even if it did not overtly rely on race. Given recent trends in the courts, many districts may find the next piece of the legal puzzle by re-thinking the nature of student diversity."

Andy Axel's picture

Whether it is race or some

Whether it is race or some other factor school boards use to diversify schools, my questions are still these: In the case of "de facto" segregation, whose task is it to correct the problem?

That was the issue before the court, as I understand it.

I would assume that this was an issue left up to the states and/or respective localities, but now, the Court has so much as stated that for a local jurisdiction to provide such relief is counter to a plurality of prevailing judicial opinion. That makes the practice illegal, as a matter of course.

There is a reason that Roberts specifically called out Brown in his opinion. Brown was the decision which rendered de jure segregation illegal.

This Court is taking a hard swing at Brown. My suspicion is that this will be a precedent used later to undermine any de jure remedies to de facto discrimination practices.

I wouldn't be surprised if red-lining is upheld by this court.


I'm a guy in a Reagan mask -- and I'm running for President!

KC's picture

To the point

Juan Williams has an excellent column in today's NYT.


Its discrimination whether you believe blacks shouldn't be among whites because it will have negative effects, or because you believe the only way to help black kids is to put them among white kids. To me, both ideas are racist.

Andy Axel's picture

Juan Williams is a bought

Juan Williams is a bought and paid for Fox News commentator. I expect nothing less from him.

To me, both ideas are racist.

The operative phrase: "To me."

Read Stevens dissent again.


I'm a guy in a Reagan mask -- and I'm running for President!

Andy Axel's picture

I think we now understand

I think we now understand what Alito meant when he said that stare decisis is "not an inexorable command."

Translation: Judicial tradition is important to me so long as it doesn't interfere with the radical agenda of the Federalist Society.


I'm a guy in a Reagan mask -- and I'm running for President!

Sven's picture

Oooh. Recognizing that


Recognizing that George Wallace and Strom Thurmond are the true heirs to Martin Luther King, Justice Roberts and his allies feel the need to direct lectures on Brown to the “bad” civil rights movement in the hope that we may be converted.

There is, of course, something deeply hypocritical about persons who, at best can be called conscientious objectors during the Civil Rights movement, lecturing the actual participants on the true meaning of their cause. But if one remembers that Roberts and Alito were probably hand picked by Dick Cheney, hypocrisy is exactly what we should expect of them.

KC's picture

Andy answers it all

So Andy, who's Bill Cosby and Oprah Winfrey bought and paid for?

If over fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, all you can show for it is the fifty per cent drop out rate and a continual abysmal achievement rate, it doesn't take a lot to make you happy.

But then again, if you're another white man who sleeps better at night because you have another govt. program "to help those less fortunate than us," rather than offering REAL solutions to REAL problems, I guess it wouldn't take much.

Andy Axel's picture

...if you're another white

...if you're another white man who sleeps better at night because you have another govt. program "to help those less fortunate than us," rather than offering REAL solutions to REAL problems, I guess it wouldn't take much.

You presume a lot. No surprise there.

Still, riddle me this: what kind of white man are you? Hm?

What's your solution? Or do I assume from your tone that the underlying problems being addressed by Seattle and Louisville are simply "imagined?"


I'm a guy in a Reagan mask -- and I'm running for President!

Sven's picture

Welcome to Knoxviews, Gary.

Welcome to Knoxviews, Gary. I thought you might like an avatar:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Andy Axel's picture

Check THIS out... Here's the

Check THIS out...

Here's the supposed reason for the suit in Seattle: A single mom wanted a shorter commute.

For this, we have to crack the foundations of the legal precedent which superseded Plessy v. Ferguson.

A white woman was inconvenienced.


I'm a guy in a Reagan mask -- and I'm running for President!

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