US Supreme Court justice argues black students should attend inferior schools
12 December 2015
The US Supreme Court heard extended arguments December 9 regarding the validity of an affirmative action program at the University of Texas.
The case and the arguments, which were significant in themselves, were overshadowed by a provocative and racist diatribe by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, in which he claimed that black students would be better off in “less-advanced” and “slower-track” schools.
“There are those who contend that it does not benefit African Americans to get into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a slower-track school, where they do well,” Scalia said.
Scalia claimed that “most of the black scientists in this country” come from “lesser schools” where they were not “pushed ahead in classes that are too fast for them.”
Repeatedly interrupting the attorney who was trying to argue the case, Scalia went on to declare that he was “not impressed by the fact that the University of Texas may have fewer” black students if certain affirmative action policies were discontinued. “Maybe it ought to have fewer,” he said.
Scalia’s words were carefully chosen—doubtless prepared in advance—as a direct appeal to racists. This is language that has not been heard in Supreme Court for decades, and the attorneys arguing the case were evidently stunned. The lawyer representing the University of Texas pointed out that this was essentially a proposal to send minorities to “inferior schools.”
Scalia’s words are an echo of the darkest days in the court’s history, when it upheld racial segregation in the infamous case of Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), and chattel slavery in the Dred Scott case (1857).
It is significant that Scalia made his remarks in a case that originated in Texas. Annexed in 1845, Texas was a slave state and its regiments fought for the Confederacy. For a century after the end of the Civil War, the state constituted a bastion of Jim Crow apartheid, and Texas officialdom to this day remains a cesspool of Christian fundamentalism, bigotry, and corruption. It is clear that Scalia’s remarks are directed at those sections of American society that never fully accepted the civil rights reforms.
Scalia’s racist remarks came only two days after Republican candidate Donald Trump’s call to close the country’s borders to all Muslims. Scalia no doubt feels emboldened by this political climate.
… Racism and other backward prejudices are promoted and encouraged by the capitalist class and intensified in the imperialist epoch. The capitalist class dredges up the ideological filth of the past to divide the working class and to stampede popular support behind policies that benefit the ruling class, and which could not otherwise be justified. This is the class content of racism and bigotry.
Anti-Muslim hysteria, in particular, provides a clear example of this phenomenon. Hatred against Muslims is being deliberately promoted by the imperialist ruling classes around the world in order to justify domestic crackdowns and military aggression abroad, as part of the phony “war on terror.” Contrast the response in broad sections of the international working class to the Syrian refugee crisis—compassion, hospitality, and demonstrations for better treatment—with the attempts by political leaders to whip up fear and hatred.
In the US, the figure of Donald Trump expresses perfectly the relationship between imperialism and bigotry. The billionaire parasite, like every aspiring fascist politician before him, seeks to generate support for his policies by appealing to xenophobia, misogyny, racism, and religious bigotry. For socialists, the fight against Trump means shutting down the machine that produces Trumps—capitalism.
… The ugly reappearance of open racism in American politics, including on the Supreme Court, is a process parallel to the abrogation of democratic rights, the plundering of the economy, the shift towards dictatorship, and fifteen years of military aggression and brinksmanship.
Looking back at the 20th century, it should be clear to every class-conscious worker and student how very dangerous this is, and where it will lead if the working class does not intervene. The struggle to put an end to racism and bigotry must be a united struggle by the international working class against capitalism, the driving force of reaction.