Another great national crisis is at hand: We’re running out of white folks. There just aren’t enough of them to suit the Democrats.
Last week the nation observed the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the declaration of the U.S. Supreme Court that legal segregation of the races in the public schools is unconstitutional. The court followed that later with an order for the states to move with “all deliberate speed” to desegregate the schools.
We’ve come a long way in the six decades since; everyone agrees on that much. Today there’s no such required segregation and the idea that anyone would try to separate black and white by law, reprising the bad old days, is fantastical indeed. But many voices on the left insist that the nation is moving now to “resegregation” because many black children still can’t sit in a classroom with white children.
And it’s not just the schools. A growing chorus of Democrats complain that there aren’t enough white folks to populate their party in the South. They lament the fact that 65 years ago Democrats held 103 of the 105 congressional seats in the 11 states of the Confederacy, and now Democrats have only 16 of the 131 Southern seats. “I should be stuffed and put in a museum when I pass away,” says Rep. Steve Cohen, who represents an overwhelmingly black district in Memphis despite his being both white and Jewish. He wants some kind of public recognition, perhaps a brass plaque at the airport or on one of the bridges across the Mississippi River to Arkansas, proclaiming that “yes, a white Southern Democrat once lived here.”
These may be heartfelt tears, but they’re tears of foolish inconsistency. Mr. Cohen celebrates the right of citizens, both black and white, to live where they please and vote where they please, he just doesn’t like the choices they make. Neither do Democrats who rage against the “resegregation” of the public schools.
There’s a key statistic that must be kept in mind, says Roger Clegg, the president of the Center for Equal Opportunity. “The number of segregated (or resegregated) public schools in the United States is … zero. Segregation means sending children to separate schools because of their race; it does not mean a failure to have socially engineered racial balance. We can celebrate, unreservedly, the fact that we no longer have racial segregation in our public schools.”
There’s no evidence, say many researchers, that racial balance necessarily means better education for children of either race. Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom observed in their classic study, “No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning,” that “minority students are not becoming more racially isolated; white students typically attend schools that are much more racially and ethnically diverse than 30 years ago, and the modest decline in the exposure of black and Hispanic children to whites is solely due to the declining share of white children in the school age population.”
The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, a liberal think tank, decries the fact that only 4.8 percent of black state legislators serve majority-race districts. A mirror phenomenon is no doubt true in predominantly black districts, where a winning candidate is rarely white. Voters, black and white, vote the way they want, the learned sociologists and loudmouth politicians be damned. It’s called “democracy.”
Such analysts insist that everyone is as obsessed with race as they are. The white Southerners who switched parties to make the South reliably red have done so for a lot of reasons, and legal segregation, as dead in Little Rock and Birmingham as in Boston or Seattle, is rarely one of them. The Democratic impulse to embrace every strange and weird social whim, from same-sex marriage to banishing God from the public square, will always be a tough sell south of the Mason-Dixon Line, where tradition thrives and old-school morality is honored, if sometimes in the breach. Getting elected to office anywhere is hard work and there’s a broken heart for every live oak on the bayou, but there have been more black elected officials, including sheriffs, legislators and congressmen, in Mississippi than in any other state.
Sixty years on, there’s much to celebrate, even if the classroom isn’t as white as the liberals and the eggheads think it should be. “It never ceases to amaze me,” Justice Clarence Thomas has observed, “that courts are so willing to assume that anything that is predominantly black must be inferior.” Just so.
Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.