BMEWS
 
Death once had a near-Sarah Palin experience.

calendar   Tuesday - December 05, 2006

Is This The Dream?

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

-- Reverend Martin Luther King, August 28, 1963

WASHINGTON (NY TIMES) - December 5, 2006 - By the time the Supreme Court finished hearing arguments on Monday on the student-assignment plans that two urban school systems use to maintain racial integration, the only question was how far the court would go in ruling such plans unconstitutional.

There seemed little prospect that either the Louisville, Ky., or Seattle plans would survive the hostile scrutiny of the court’s new majority. In each system, students are offered a choice of schools but can be denied admission based on their race if enrolling at a particular school would upset the racial balance.

At its most profound, the debate among the justices was over whether measures designed to maintain or achieve integration should be subjected to the same harsh scrutiny to which Brown v. Board of Education subjected the regime of official segregation. In the view of the conservative majority, the answer was yes.

While there is no reliable data on how common these plans are, they are thought to be widespread among school districts where residential patterns would otherwise produce neighborhood schools of one race or nearly so. Depending on how broadly the court rules, possibly hundreds of districts would need to modify or scrap voluntary integration plans.

Before the arguments on Monday, the challenge for the school board lawyers defending the plans, along with their allies in the civil rights community, had appeared to be to persuade the justices that the appropriate analogy was not to affirmative action, a freighted subject for the court in which benefits are bestowed on one group and withheld from another, but rather to integration, in which the goal is to educate everyone as equally as possible.

But by the end of the tense two hours of argument, that effort had not so much failed as it had become irrelevant. Lawyers for the school systems found themselves struggling, under the justices’ questioning, to meet the even more basic challenge of explaining why the plans should be seen as something different from the intentional segregation that the court struck down in Brown v. Board of Education.

For example, Michael F. Madden, the Seattle district’s lawyer, tried to argue that because the Seattle high schools were “basically comparable,” and “everyone gets a seat,” the court should not view the plan as “a selective or merit-based system where we adjudge one student to be better than the other.”

It was, Mr. Madden said, “a distributive system” that was “quite wholly dissimilar to a merit or selective-based system.”

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. countered, “Saying that this doesn’t involve individualized determinations simply highlights the fact that the decision to distribute, as you put it, was based on skin color and not any other factor.”

He added: “I mean, everyone got a seat in Brown as well. But because they were assigned to those seats on the basis of race, it violated equal protection. How is your argument that there’s no problem here because everybody gets a seat distinguishable?”

“Because segregation is harmful,” Mr. Madden replied.

“It’s an assignment on the basis of race, correct?” the chief justice persisted.

-- NEW YORK TIMES, “Court Reviews Race as Factor in School Plans”, December 5, 2006



imageimageI was 14 years old and just about to enter high school in the 9th grade when Dr. King gave this speech that summer of ‘63. I remember my father saying to my mother that it was going to stir up even more trouble back home. Fortunately for us, “back home” was over 10,000 miles away to the East across the Pacific Ocean.

At that time, my father was a Master Sergeant in the US Air Force and had been assigned to Taipei, Taiwan as a military adviser to the Republic Of China. We had just arrived in Taiwan and were trying to get used to the fact that white folks like us were definitely in the minority in this strange place where very few people spoke English ... choosing instead to jabber away at each other in some weird foreign tongue.

It was an eye-opening and enlightening experience for me and I would spend two years gradually learning Chinese and integrating myself into this strange new culture - even to the point of enjoying Chinese opera on the one TV channel ... definitely an acquired taste, let me tell you.

In school that Fall, I found myself surrounded by the United Nations ... literally. Children of upper-class Chinese, military brats like myself and more importantly all the kids of diplomats from the various embassies in Taipei. I would give everything I own if every child in America today could go through two years of high school like that. That is my dream.

You see, my parents had prepared me well for that culture shock. They themselves had already starting adjusting to the new world long before I came along. Mom and Dad were both children of the depression, born into poor sharecroppers families in the 1920’s in south Alabama. Back in those days, society in Alabama was sharply divided still.

More than sixty years after the Civil War, there were no black politicians or office holders and the black population of my parents home town had a strictly isolated section known as “darky town” with its own school. The blacks worked as hired hands and day laborers on the farms of the region - sort of an earlier version of the Mexican fruit pickers of today. None of their children went to college. They graduated from “their” school and went to work in the fields for pennies a day.

In that little section of Alabama, there was no Klan presence. None was needed. Everyone knew their place and everyone kept to his or her own. When the depression hit, it hit everyone equally. Whites and blacks both were scraping by, just barely surviving. That is the world my parents were born into. They left me an entirely different world. A better one, by far.

When war came to America in 1941, my father and all the young men in that region volunteered and went off to Europe and the Pacific to face the horror of all-out warfare in strange lands against a determined foe. A lot of the young black men volunteered also. The military was not integrated at that time so most of them served as cooks and motor pool mechanics behind the lines - but not all. The country was already beginning to change even then.

After that war, the men came home and my father married my mother. He also decided to stay in the Army as an aircraft mechanic. The pay was good and the GI Bill was there to give him a college education if he wanted it. Unfortunately, mom and dad had dropped out of school after the sixth grade, like most children of that era. Their presence was needed on the farms, not in school getting “fancy book learning” that would not be needed. At least that is what grandpappy told them.

Then on July 26, 1948 President Truman issued Presidential Order 9981 which officially ended segregation in the US Military. I was already on my way into the world at that point and seven months later mom and the docs would cut the umbilical cord and drag me kicking and screaming out of the womb and into this mess.

As a military brat, I was in an integrated world a full fifteen years before Dr. King made his speech and George Wallace made an ass out of himself. The kids I went to school with on military bases around the world were white, black, red and yellow - and we thought nothing of it. We just wanted to get a passing grade so we could all go play.

The “real world” only intruded when dad took leave and we visited relatives back home in Alabama. Things hadn’t changed much since the 1920’s down there and you could still hear the occasional “nigger joke” from some of the older kinfolk. Dad told me if I ever repeated any of them I wouldn’t be able to sit down for a month. Back then discipline came in the form of a khaki belt applied liberally to my tender backside so I took dad at his word.

So you see, I started living Dr. King’s dream long before the rest of you did and even before he spoke of that dream. That is why I am so angry today. For over fifty years now, I’ve watched the rest of the country catching up to the dream that my parents and the US military gave me back then. Desegregation of the schools, removal of all the “whites only” signs, black leaders elected to public office, black businessmen succeeding in the workplace and the general attitude shift in this country since my youth have been fun to watch.

You think nothing of seeing a black politician spouting off on TV about tax cuts or black actors receiving the Academy Award or even a black woman as Secretary Of State of the US, do you? They’re just people ... like you and me, aren’t they? That attitude shift has been the biggest sign of progress in the struggle to end racial segregation in this country in the last fifty years.

This is also why I am shocked and angered that today there are school systems that still feel the need to parcel out seats to children based on race. The Supreme Court is hearing arguments in two cases this week about the legitimacy of forced integration and racial quotas. Isn’t it time to put it all behind us and recognize the fact that Dr. King’s dream (and mine) has achieved the major goal of “changing the hearts and minds” of the populace?

It’s all downhill from here, people. The hard part is over. Why keep agitating for more “equality” and strictly enforced quotas. That is what got us into this mess to begin with. Let it be. Racism against blacks in America is a dead issue. Let it die. We have more important racial issues to confront in the 21st century ... namely what to do with 11 million Hispanics and an influx of Muslims from the Middle East.

It’s time to turn our hearts and minds to the problems of the future that our children will face. How do we go about integrating into our society people who don’t even speak English or whose religion is radically different from most of us? Our parents brought us this far. It is up to us to take the next step. Let’s make “race” a word that refers to fast runners ... not slow learners.


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Posted by The Skipper   United States  on 12/05/2006 at 10:10 AM   
Filed Under: • Judges-Courts-LawyersRacism and race relations •  
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Not that very many people ever read this far down, but this blog was the creation of Allan Kelly and his friend Vilmar. Vilmar moved on to his own blog some time ago, and Allan ran this place alone until his sudden and unexpected death partway through 2006. We all miss him. A lot. Even though he is gone this site will always still be more than a little bit his. We who are left to carry on the BMEWS tradition owe him a great debt of gratitude, and we hope to be able to pay that back by following his last advice to us all:
  1. Keep a firm grasp of Right and Wrong
  2. Stay involved with government on every level and don't let those bastards get away with a thing
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It's been a long strange trip without you Skipper, but thanks for pointing us in the right direction and giving us a swift kick in the behind to get us going. Keep lookin' down on us, will ya? Thanks.

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Oh, and here's some kind of visitor flag counter thingy. Hey, all the cool blogs have one, so I should too. The Visitors Online thingy up at the top doesn't count anything, but it looks neat. It had better, since I paid actual money for it.
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