Supreme Court tackles race (again)

by Anthony Bradley
Posted on Wednesday, April 22, 2009, at 4:21 pm

Remember when Attorney General Eric Holder inaccurately described America as "essentially a nation of cowards" and saying people "simply do not talk enough with each other about race?" My friends, we are about to talk about race for months as the Supreme Court prepares to hear several cases during their next session that will likely agitate scabs on old wounds. The cases, as reported by USA Today, involve four main categories: voting rights, employment, housing, and education.

Holder's jab is not entirely accurate because Americans talk about race, it seems, without ceasing. We're obsessed with the topic. We love to constantly bring it up, love to balk at those who constantly bring it up, or love to balk at those we assume have no concern about the issue. We even see it in the church with this constant talk about "racial reconciliation" and the misapplication of Revelation 7:9 as the goal of every local congregation in America.

The rulings coming from this next Supreme Court session will prove to reveal truth if there is clear injustice, but will also ignite emotional reasoning and irrationality. Part of racial hysteria is the continued belief that any racial disparity is the result of premeditated racial discrimination. As such there needs to be a government-coerced remedy. I realize that there are real cases in which discrimination occurs and that institutions act unjustly at times, but that does not mean that racism is always the cause of contexts not appearing cosmetically the way critics prefer.

The cases that are before the court primarily address a conflict between two visions of understanding racial demarcations in institutions and political society. One vision says use merit to equalize the process for all and the other says let surrogate decision-makers use race to create cosmetic outcomes even when injustice is not proven. For example, a group of white and Latino firefighters are suing their city because exams used for assessment of promotions were discarded because black firefighters had low scores. If advancement was determined on the basis of performance, the black firefighters would not have benefited. As such, all the exams were thrown out.

It seems that if we want a society that moves forward, not judging people on the basis of race, then we should let everyone compete freely and fairly. Racial discrimination occurs in its most aggressive form when individuals are not given a chance to prove their own merit freely and fairly.

The outcome of one's performance tells us nothing about "racism" of the process. If my company has no black male managers why assume that racism is the cause? Perhaps I cannot find many blacks who are qualified for the position. Instead of assuming "racism" it may be good to notice that black males are approaching a 50 percent high school dropout rate. Maybe the perceived lack of racial progress institutionally and culturally in America is actually an indicator that major sabotaging forces other than race are at work keeping the whole nation from progress.

Sadly, what rulings are issued over the next several months will not solve the race issue for us, so I will likely be left to say, "Oh well, here we go again."

Anthony Bradley

Anthony is associate professor of religious studies at The King's College in New York and a research fellow at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty.

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