by William Spriggs
Chief Economist to the AFL-CIO
In what should be considered standing logic on its end, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this week that while public colleges have an interest in having a racially diverse student body, nonetheless, the racial majority of a state can vote to remove racial diversity as a goal. This is a radical and activist reinterpretation of the Constitution, since by strict construction, the 14th Amendment had been added to explicitly limit white majority action to deny full legal protection to the newly freed slaves and their descendants. The purpose was to limit majority rule from becoming mob rule, continuing a legacy of inequality.
Most disturbing, this ruling comes as our nation’s need for success in having a diverse skilled workforce is increasing. The majority of babies born this year are children of color. A part of the reason our nation’s middle class is seeing other countries incomes catch up to them is because the education advantage of Americans is shrinking. To keep pace, America must find ways to educate all its children.
But, beyond the state of Michigan, the court’s ruling would let voters in Mississippi and Alabama return to segregated universities. Absent the countervailing weight of court action, southern public K-12 education has already gone from the most integrated in America to return to its segregated past at an alarming rate. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in her dissenting argument, laid out the difference between turning a blind eye to racial inequality and pretending that disparate outcomes are race neutral.
The Supreme Court has ruled earlier that Congress cannot limit the ability of the wealthy to donate to campaigns. So the majority can vote to limit minority representation when it comes to college and pathways to the middle class, but the majority through their representatives cannot infringe on the rights of the 1 percent minority to control the political process? This apparent schizophrenia, however, is totally consistent with the sick form of American plutocracy.
Plutocracy in America is rooted in the American South, where the wealth of the few was protected by state governments and racism was used to control the masses. The Supreme Court appears to protect majority rule, but only when it would cement a sense of white privilege-giving the masses a sense that the political establishment is responding to their will. But it must protect the 1% from that same majority or else, democracy would be mob rule.