Of my post regarding the cases on forced integration, Scott Lemieux says:
not surprisingly he [Patterico] can’t be bothered to make a constitutional argument at all.
I think it’s best to ignore Lemieux’s sneering phrase “not surprisingly” — other than to note that it is a cheap shot that is apparently born of lack of familiarity with my writing.
But what of the complaint that I did not make a constitutional argument at all? Well, in my post, I said:
The issue is whether government may institute forced integration of schools as a matter of state policy. If not done to remedy a specific and demonstrated past history of discrimination, this would arguably violate the very idea behind Brown: that the state may not assign pupils to different schools on the basis of race, even if the schools are arguably similar in quality.
Put simply, the argument is that the Equal Protection Clause generally forbids the use of racial classifications by government. For the benefit of Scott Lemieux, that’s a constitutional argument — and one likely to be accepted by the High Court in the recently argued cases.
Of course, this is a generalization, and like any generalization, there are exceptions — albeit limited ones. As I say in the quote above, the State may engage in racial classifications intended “to remedy a specific and demonstrated past history of discrimination” by the State. As Justice Scalia explained in 1992: “the Equal Protection Clause reaches only those racial imbalances shown to be intentionally caused by the State.”
For example, if the State illegally practices segregation at schools, as happened in the earlier part of last century, then it is responsible for desegregating those schools. But there comes a time when a rational observer sees that schools are still segregated — but this result can’t blamed on a long-since-abandoned policy of state segregation. Across the country, there is segregation by choice, arising from people’s voluntary decisions — including decisions about where to live and raise their children.
As the recent arguments made clear, the State is welcome to seek the goal of racially balancing schools. But there are certain means that the State may not employ, such as racial classifications, to achieve that goal. The State may still encourage voluntary racial balancing through programs such as magnet schools, or by locating a school in an area that the school district believes will result in a racially diverse student population, as a matter of demographics. But simply sorting children by race, I hope (and, based on the arguments, suspect) will soon be a thing of the past.
P.S. I’d love to engage in more arcane legal discussion, but I gotta get to bed. Perhaps I’ll have time for more in coming days. For now, I’ll simply observe that there is considerable disagreement concerning Lemieux’s assumption that the country did not intend to outlaw segregation with the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment. As we complain about originalism, it’s good to keep in mind Justice Scalia’s words about providing remedies for racial imbalances intentionally caused by the State. Also, Justice Scalia is not someone who arbitrarily analyzes the specificity of an alleged constitutional right, as footnote 6 to this case illustrates.