The Court Drags Us Toward Race War


Washington. -- The United States Supreme Court has ended its 1994-95 term with a series of decisions that have heightened social, racial and legal conflict in America.

This court, which somehow always comes up with a conservative majority anchored by Anthony Scalia and Clarence Thomas, has weakened the historic line between church and state. It has chipped away Bill of Rights protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. And it has, in the fraudulent pretense that we are close to a "color-blind society," blocked honest Americans of all races from considering race in their efforts to truly make progress toward a color-blind America.

This Supreme Court has gone beyond bowing to the election returns. It has become a political instrument whose conservative leaders want to affect the election returns. And that is frightening.

This court said earlier that universities may give scholarships for the most outrageous reasons -- the student's mother was a redheaded, pimpled Girl Scout whose great-grandmother was a passenger on the Mayflower -- but they may not consider race -- that is, the fact that a student's grandmother was a black slave whose offspring have known myriad discriminations.

Thursday, in another 5-4 decision, the court said that no matter how honorable their purposes of remedying historic anti-black gerrymanderings, and the political results of racial discrimination in housing, white and black officials may not even agree amicably to draw congressional districts in ways that wipe out the old "white majority, winner take all" situation, or to guarantee even modest black representation in Congress.

This Supreme Court right-wing majority has rejected totally the wise observation of retired Justice Harry Blackmun that "in order to get beyond racism, we must first take account of race." The majority said that race can never be a "predominant factor."

In many southern states, whites and blacks prodded by the Voting Rights Act of 1965, have acknowledged the shameful injustices, the rigging of districts to ensure that no black became a congressman, member of the state legislature, or of a local city council or school board. Blacks and whites together have fashioned redistrictings to make it possible to have a Congress and other units of government where almost all citizen groups have some representation.

That Voting Rights Act and the redistrictings added to democracy in America, except in the eyes of a few whites who want a return to the "white majority, winner take all" days. They aren't satisfied with a situation where the Georgia delegation to Congress is eight white Republicans and 3 black Democrats. Race-blinded whites still want it all!

Tragically, the Supreme Court is dominated by two men who, splenetically for Justice Scalia, or in Justice Thomas's warped logic and personal identity crisis, would give it to them.

In all the crucial votes during this term, Mr. Scalia has held to his posture as the unbendable troglodyte. His unwavering ally has been the sole black member of the court, Mr. Thomas, a strange man who is in denial of every boost he got from blacks who bled and died in the civil-rights movement of the 1960s.

Justice Thomas, who benefited from "affirmative action" in hundreds of ways and who is regarded across black America as a "quisling" who has hurt more black Americans than any bigoted white justice, has given "cover" to Mr. Scalia and others. They can vote in ways that drag America backward a century away from a "color-blind society" and say, "How can we be wrong if that black justice, Clarence Thomas, voted with us?"

"This court is not a friend of civil rights, of voting rights, nor a friend of minorities," Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., said despairingly last Thursday.

I say that this court is not a friend of the Bill of Rights, or of the 14th and 15th Amendments, or of the white, black and other Americans who are not in denial of the racism that permeates this society and seek agreement on how to reduce it. This court propels America toward a race war because it will not allow Americans to acknowledge corrosive racism as they fashion policies and programs that can deliver fairness and justice to all aspects of American life.

This Supreme Court is a social and political abomination, and we all had better ponder the implications of the fact that it will return. Too soon.

Carl T. Rowan is a syndicated columnist.

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