Affirmative Action, Cliven Bundy, and the Tenacity of Racism

The Supreme Court's decision in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action was ignorant and racist. It was made by ignorant and racist men (including putative African-American Clarence Thomas) for the most ignorant and racist of reasons: the belief that minorities do not need protections that guarantee their full participation in the supposed fruits of an alleged democracy.

If you believe that's true, if you agree with the majority, the Rude Pundit has a ranch he'd like to sell you.

See, last night, Adam Nagourney simply quoted what was said publicly by Cliven Bundy, the cattle owner who refused to pay the fines for letting his bovines eat the shitty sagebrush on federally-protected land and provoked a showdown with the Bureau of Land Management. In a press conference that he his-ole-self called, Bundy started, "I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro," a sentence that can never be followed by anything good.

You've probably read the quote already, but here ya go because, in the context of the deification of Bundy in the pantheon of American dissenters, it's just fucking hilarious: [Black people] "abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom." You got that? The right-wing's newest hero was musing that black Americans would have more freedom as slaves. Honestly, if the Rude Pundit had written a caricature of a conservative fucknut saying those words, he'd've deleted them for being too absurd for anyone with breath and a brain to speak aloud to the press.

Obviously, this has led to crawfishing like crazy from some politicians who had fluffed up Bundy and his "cause" (which, to be clear, was that he didn't want to pay a debt that he's owed for 20 years). It also led to the inevitable "let's parse the difference between Bundy's racism and his cause" bullshit.

The amendment to Michigan's constitution that was voted for by the majority of people in Michigan and that the Supreme Court upheld was called, no shit, the "Michigan Civil Rights Initiative." It said that no government entity within the state of Michigan - city, county, state, university - can "discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting." No affirmative action, no minority set-asides, nothing.

One more part of it is just a twist of the shiv for underrepresented groups: "Nothing in this section shall be interpreted as prohibiting bona fide qualifications based on sex that are reasonably necessary to the normal operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting." What that says, it seems, is that a fire department might be able to say, "Yeah, we won't hire women because they can't lift this air tank." And, well, shit, what can a woman do? Sue? But the state constitution makes that treatment legal.

The SCOTUS decision itself, written by Justice Kennedy, is the usual milquetoast bullshit that racists will say in order to justify their racism as being about anything but racism. Justice Scalia wrote his usual dickish concurrence, joined by his loyal manservant, Clarence Thomas. They wrote that, in essence, hey, if the people of a state want to say that racial discrimination is a thing of the past, who are we to stop them?

It was left to Justice Sotomayor to bitch slap the court and the nation. After detailing how, no, fuck you, there's still discrimination that needs the courts to intervene on, she threw down some knowledge on the Constitution and majority rule: "Under our Constitution, majority rule is not without limit. Our system of government is predicated on an equilibrium between the notion that a majority of citizens may determine governmental policy through legislation enacted by their elected representatives, and the overriding principle that there are nonetheless some things the Constitution forbids even a majority of citizens to do...We often think of equal protection as a guarantee that the government will apply the law in an equal fashion — that it will not intentionally discriminate against minority groups. But equal protection of the laws means more than that; it also secures the right of all citizens to participate meaningfully and equally in the process through which laws are created."

She went on like a fiery preacher: "Race matters. Race matters in part because of the long history of racial minorities' being denied access to the political process...Race also matters because of persistent racial inequality in society — inequality that cannot be ignored and that has produced stark socioeconomic disparities...And race matters for reasons that really are only skin deep, that cannot be discussed any other way, and that cannot be wished away. Race matters to a young man's view of society when he spends his teenage years watching others tense up as he passes, no matter the neighborhood where he grew up. Race matters to a young woman's sense of self when she states her hometown, and then is pressed, 'No, where are you really from?', regardless of how many generations her family has been in the country. Race matters to a young person addressed by a stranger in a foreign language, which he does not understand because only English was spoken at home. Race matters because of the slights, the snickers, the silent judgments that reinforce that most crippling of thoughts: 'I do not belong here.'"

Great words. Great dissent. It will be remembered long after everything John Roberts ever scribbled is forgotten. But it was still the losing side.

Cliven Bundy said aloud what many that rush to his cause are thinking. And the Supreme Court this week justified their beliefs in as stark a way as possible.