The New Plessy v. Ferguson
July 2, 2007
Michael Blim summarizes the news from the Supreme Court over on 3quarksdaily; I wish this had gotten the coverage that the iPhone did, or even that people were camping out on the streets lining up for justice. Blim provides us with the amazing sight of Justice Clarence Thomas quoting Justice Harlan of the Plessy Court’s white supremacist justifications:
“The white race deems itself to be the dominant race in this country. And so it is, in prestige, in achievements, in education, in wealth and in power. So, I doubt not, it will continue to be for all time, *if it remains true to its great heritage and holds fast to the principles of constitutional liberty*. But in view of the constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens. There is no caste here. Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. (words in italics omitted by Thomas)
A curious omission there, Justice Thomas. Justice John Paul Stevens, the elder statesman of the court, isn’t so easily fooled. From his dissent:
There is a cruel irony in THE CHIEF JUSTICE’s reliance on our decision in Brown versus the Board of Education. The first sentence in the concluding paragraph of his opinion states: ‘Before Brown, schoolchildren were told where they could and could not go to school based on the color of their skin.’ This sentence reminds me of Anatole France’s observation: ‘The majestic equality of the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal their bread.’ THE CHIEF JUSTICE fails to note that it was only black schoolchildren who were so ordered; indeed the history books do not tell stories of white children struggling to attend black schools. In this and other ways THE CHIEF JUSTICE rewrites the history of one of this Court’s most important decisions.
Note his use of the word “our” here: Stevens was on the court for the Brown v. Board decision. One would hope that would make the rest of the Justices respect his opinion even more, but apparently not.