In 1963, nearly a decade after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown v. Board of Education declared racial segregation of school children to be unconstitutional, the newly elected governor of Alabama, George Wallace, gave a speech in favor of state sponsored discrimination. To this day, that speech is a symbol of the close minded, fearful, and bigotted ideology that allowed racial oppression to cling to life in this country for decades. In that speech Wallace declared: “I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”
According to Wallace, the state had the right, and perhaps even the duty, to discriminate in certain circumstances. Further, Wallace argued that any federal action to prevent that discrimination was an assault on the Constitution and liberty itself. One would think that in the forty plus years since Wallace delivered that infamous speech we would have come to recognize the absurdity of his argument that the prevention of state sponsored racial discrimination is tantamount to tyranny and oppression. Unfortunately, it appears that is not the case.
Just last month the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in BAMN v. Brown. At issue in BAMN is whether Proposition 209, the California constitutional amendment banning the use of race and sex in California government violates the United States Constitution. The BAMN plaintiffs argue that it is a violation of the Equal Protection Clause to prevent colleges from discriminating (i.e. granting preferences) on the basis of race. According to the plaintiffs, California universities have the right- nay the duty- to balance their student bodies along racial lines. If they fail to do so, then, according to the plaintiffs, they are in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. In short, any attempt to force state universities to be color blind would be unconstitutional.
Surprisingly, Attorney General Eric Holder echoed these sentiments in a recent interview at Columbia University. There, in light of the Supreme Court’s decision to hear a challenge to the University of Texas’s affirmative action program, Attorney General Eric Holder was asked if he believed it would ever be appropriate to end the practice of granting college applicants preferential treatment on the basis of race. In response, Holder made a jarring statement in support of racial preferences, saying he “can’t actually imagine a time in which the need for more diversity would ever cease.” Holder continued,”the question is not when does [affirmative action] end, but when does it begin?”
In other words, “preferences now, preferences tomorrow, preferences forever!”
It is a sad day when the chief law enforcement officer of the country declares that discrimination on the basis of race is not only allowed under the Constitution, but perhaps required, and that this blanket discriminatory policy could and should remain in place indefinitely.
George Wallace would be proud.