Black is white
August 6, 2007 - 8:55am ET
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When I wrote about the Supreme Court's monstrously mendacious decision to ban local school districts from seeking racial fairness, I was especially offended by Chief Justice Roberts' formulation, “the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race."
Historian Nancy Maclean has now published an amazing little essay in which she reveals the workshops that churned out this Orwellian notion. "Roberts’s decision," she writes, "is replete with quotable phrases from the lexicon conservative strategists honed in their think tanks in the 1970s and then carried into the nation’s courtrooms through their various legal societies."
Here's the story:
[H]ow did National Review greet the Brown decision? Frank Meyer, its founding co-editor and the leading conservative movement builder in the formative years, called the high court’s decision a “rape of the Constitution.”
To fight the implementation of Brown, Buckley and Meyer forged an alliance with the intellectual architect of “massive resistance,” James Jackson Kilpatrick. Kilpatrick’s agitation against school desegregation as editor of the Richmond News Leader earned him praise as “one of the South’s most talented leaders” from the Mississippi-based white Citizens’ Councils then working to crush the civil rights movement.
Buckley traded mailing lists with this avid white supremacist organization in 1958, assuring its leader that “Our position on states’ rights is the same as your own.” Indeed, it was. What made “the White community” in the South “entitled” to use any means necessary to keep blacks from voting, Buckley had editorialized the year before, was that “it is the advanced race” so its “claims of civilization supersede those of universal suffrage.”
But calling the emancipation of black schoolchildren a "rape," and calling blacks civilizationally inferior, wasn't flying with the public. So they did what conservative do: borrowed from the black arts of corporation public relations.
They were tutored by northern neo-conservatives like Irving Kristol, who in 1964 warned Buckley of the “political folly” of arguing against school desegregation “in terms of racial differences.” Buckley and his allies wisely dropped the racial rationales and most now say that they regret their earlier arguments.
But their core commitments stayed the same. To fight social justice, conservative spokesmen simply mastered the art of rhetorical jujitsu. They seized the civil rights movement’s greatest strength--its moral power–to defeat its goals. They complained less and less that civil rights measures violated property rights, aided communists or elevated racial inferiors. Instead, conservatives claimed that civil rights measures themselves discriminated.
“I am getting to be like the Catholic convert who became more Catholic than the Pope,” Kilpatrick marveled in 1978 about his own altered phraseology. “If it is wrong to discriminate by reason of race or sex,” intoned the outspoken enemy of civil rights, “well, then, it is wrong to discriminate by reason of race or sex.”
The former segregationists now portrayed themselves as the true advocates of fairness. They framed “the egalitarians,” in Kilpatrick’s words, as “worse racists--much worse racists--than the old Southern bigots.”...
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