- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 25, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

At present, Sen. Barack Obama is not the leader to end racial divisiveness in the United States. The measure of his leadership can be deduced from his “A More Perfect Union” address and his indulgence of laws and practices that pivot on racial distinctions.

Ending racism requires a colorblind Constitution and a colorblind society. It requires homage to Justice John Marshall Harlan’s majestic dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896): “[I]n 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 colorblind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law. … The destinies of the two races, in this country, are indissolubly linked together, and the interests of both require that the common government of all shall not permit the seeds of race hate to be planted under the sanction of law.” Justice Antonin Scalia penned a codicil to Justice Harlan in Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Pena (1995): “In the eyes of the government, we are just one race here. It is American.”

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. celebrated a colorblind society to complement a colorblind Constitution in his “I Have a Dream” speech that electrified the nation on Aug. 28, 1963: “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.” Racial divisions will end when King’s dream is honored.

The Supreme Court revolted at race-based politics less than a year after King’s oration. In Anderson v. Martin (1964), the court invalidated a Louisiana law that required ballots to designate the race of candidates. The designations encouraged racial prejudice at the polls. Justice Tom C. Clark explained: “We see no relevance in the state’s pointing up the race of the candidate as bearing upon his qualifications for office.”

But since at least 1968, colorblindness has been abandoned for racial distinctions that inflame. Blacks and whites are encouraged daily to believe that their difference in skin color eclipses their common interests as citizens.

Three pernicious ideas that Mr. Obama neglected to confront or repudiate fuel racial conflict: first, that only blacks can legitimately represent black voters, which requires, among other things, racial gerrymandering in drawing legislative districts to ensure a quota of black victories. This idea finds expression in Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires that electoral results yield results approaching proportional representation based on race. White candidates in majority black districts risk being maligned as modern-day plantation owners.

The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), which includes Mr. Obama, is a first cousin manifestation of monochromatic thinking. The CBC is racially exclusive. Rep. Pete Stark California Democrat, was blocked in 1975. In January 2007, Rep Steve Cohen, Tennessee Democrat, applied to give voice to his 60 percent black constituency without result. Rep. William Lacy Clay Jr., Missouri Democrat, explained: “Quite simply, Rep. Cohen will have to accept what the rest of the country will have to accept — there has been an unofficial Congressional White Caucus for over 200 years, and now it’s our turn to say who can join ‘the club.’ He does not, and cannot, meet the membership criteria, unless he can change his skin color. Primarily, we are concerned with the needs and concerns of the black population, and we will not allow white America to infringe on those objectives.” Mr. Obama voiced no protest.

He has similarly declined to challenge a second racially combustible idea: namely, that blacks and whites display racially distinctive ways of thinking and learning, which justify racial preferences in admissions in higher education. The Supreme Court sustained the constitutionality of such racial preferences in Grutter v. Bollinger (2003). But Mr. Obama has neither assailed the dubious ruling nor supported colorblind initiatives led by Ward Connerly in California, Washington, Michigan, Arizona and elsewhere to forbid racial distinctions in public life. In other words, Mr. Obama seems to endorse racial preferences on the theory that blacks and whites are endowed with racially distinctive cerebral faculties.

A third catalyst of racial division is the idea that odious historical subjugation and discrimination, including slavery and Jim Crow, has crippled the ability of blacks to compete with whites. Accordingly racial preferences or quotas in jobs, contracting, or the professions authorized by civil rights laws are justified. Mr. Obama has not challenged the preferences. Nor did he comment on whether he believed slave ancestry caused black underperformance. His opinion would have been persuasive because his wife “carries within her the blood of slaves….”

Whites compound racial divisiveness by knowing little or nothing of their own morally nauseating racist history — an insult to millions of black victims and their descendants, just as ignorance of the Holocaust would be an affront to Jews.

Whites generally do not remember that black soldiers were drafted in World Wars I and II to risk that last full measure of devotion abroad while they were forced to fight in segregated units and their loved ones back home encountered cross burnings and KKK terrorism; or, that hundreds of lynchings were perpetrated for generations with impunity to reduce blacks to serfdom and to entrench White Supremacy. They do not recall the moral abomination of slavery acknowledged in the subtext of Thomas Jefferson’s anxiety articulated nearly two centuries ago: “Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice will not sleep forever.” Mr. Obama should have rebuked whites for learning so little about the stain of black oppression in American history.

Mr. Obama is not yet a profile in racial unity. But he may come to deserve that accolade. He seems to appreciate, like President Abraham Lincoln, that a man who does not grow wiser by the day is a fool.

Bruce Fein is a constitutional lawyer with Bruce Fein & Associates and chairman of the American Freedom Agenda.

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