Opinion

The Great Debate

Why did court treat two minorities so differently?

By Bill Schneider
June 28, 2013

Gays win, blacks lose. That’s the upshot of this week’s landmark Supreme Court decisions.

“It’s an exciting day for civil rights in America,” a young gay man standing outside the Supreme Court told the Washington Post. “I am a significant step closer to being an equal citizen under the law.” That sentiment was not shared by African-Americans. The day before, Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, called the court’s voting rights decision “an egregious betrayal of minority voters.”

Why did the Supreme Court treat the two minorities so differently? Because the two minorities face significantly different problems. Since the civil rights laws were passed in the 1960s, inequality has become a bigger problem for African-Americans than discrimination. For gays, the problem is discrimination. The U.S. legal system is far better equipped to deal with discrimination than inequality.

In the movie “Lincoln,” there was a dramatic moment when Thaddeus Stevens, a radical Republican congressman from Pennsylvania, is being goaded by his enemies to declare that African-Americans are equal to whites — a sentiment that, in 1865, would have exposed him as an “extremist.”

Representative George Pendleton of Ohio, the recently defeated Democratic candidate for vice president, confronts Stevens, saying, “You have long insisted, have you not, that the dusk-colored race is no different from the white one?”

After a dramatic pause, Stevens replies, “I don’t hold with equality in all things. Only with equality before the law — and nothing more!”

An uproar ensues, as Stevens is accused of deluding his colleagues. But Stevens persists, defiantly proclaiming, “I do not hold with equality in all things! Only with equality before the law!”

Then, as now, equality before the law is something the Constitution can deal with. “Equality in all things” is more difficult.

Both gays and African-Americans have had to face legal discrimination. The law makes a huge difference. It legitimizes prejudice by giving it legal sanction — as it did in the Jim Crow South. Gays were prohibited by law from marrying and raising families, thereby denying them personal happiness and fulfillment.

African-Americans could not avoid discrimination and prejudice. Gays, however, could stay in the closet. And many, perhaps most, did until recently. The federal government even tried to force gays into the closet when it passed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 1993.

That was the most outrageous legal compromise since the framers of the Constitution defined slaves as three-fifths of a human being. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” told gays serving in the military that they could avoid discrimination and punishment only by hiding their true identities.

One key reason that gay rights have become a major issue in recent years is that so many gays have come out of the closet. According to CBS News, 77 percent of Americans said they knew someone gay or lesbian in 2010, up from 42 percent in 1992.

The greater prominence of gays has had both a negative and a positive effect. On the one hand, we’re seeing more instances of anti-gay discrimination and violence. At the same time, we’re seeing greater familiarity and acceptance. Call it “the Dick Cheney effect.” Knowing gays personally helps explain the astonishing speed with which so many Americans have changed their minds about same-sex marriage.

Inequality remains a serious problem for African-Americans. Much of it is attributable to centuries of oppression. Speaking at Howard University in 1965, President Lyndon Johnson argued for affirmative action as the remedy, saying, “You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race, and then say, ‘You are completely free to compete with all the others’ and still justly believe that you have been completely fair. Thus it is not enough just to open the gates of opportunity. All our citizens must have the ability to walk through those gates.”

Public support for affirmative action has been declining for the past two decades, according to the Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll. In 1991, 61 percent of Americans felt that affirmative action programs were still needed. Now, 45 percent feel that way.

The Supreme Court responded this week by ordering the University of Texas to justify its affirmative action program as a remedy for specific instances of past discrimination. The court also ruled that states that had a history of voter discrimination when the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965 no longer have to bear a special burden of demonstrating fairness in their election laws.

No one talks about affirmative action for gays because inequality is not perceived to be the problem. The stereotype of gay men is affluent and fancy free because they often have fewer family responsibilities. But that’s only because financially secure gay men are the ones most likely to come out of the closet. Lesbians certainly don’t fit that stereotype. They have the disavantage of being underpaid women with no male income to depend on.

“We can deal with discrimination,” the court seemed to be saying. “We can deal with inequality only if it can be proved that it is a direct result of discrimination.” For African-Americans, proving that is becoming more difficult. For gays, however, the main issue is discrimination. With same-sex marriage still banned in 37 states, gays have not yet overcome.

 

PHOTO (Top): New York State Senator Brad Hoylman (C) speaks, as his husband David Sigal reaches out to touch their daughter Silvia’s hand, after the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, in New York, June 26, 2013. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

PHOTO (Insert A): Representative Thaddeous Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones), second from R, talks with Mary Todd Lincoln (Sally Fields) in this still from “Lincoln.” Courtesy of DreamWorks

PHOTO (Insert B): The Supreme Court in Washington. REUTERS

PHOTO (Insert C): President Lyndon B. Johnson talks with Martin Luther King Jr. in the White House. Courtesy of The LBJ Presidential Library

Comments
12 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

It is pretty obvious. One minority actually wants to contribute to society. Not fill out prisons, not use up our welfare, and not blame others for the shortcomings of their own families.

I know, I know….this isn’t all of them, but at some point, those 10% of Blacks that leach off of society, as well as everyone in this world, needs to look in the mirror and play the hand that was dealt to them.

Getting really tired of this country and our continual coddling of those UNWILLING to help themselves. Sigh….

Posted by bruisedlee | Report as abusive
 

I posted this comment to the following article, but the ideas I expressed apply equally well to “gay rights”, since they too have chosen to present their case as “common cause” with the blacks.

———————-

http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/20 13/06/28/the-supreme-courts-race-impatie nce/#comment-73540

Continuation of our “civil rights” laws is an obscene extension of the old “Jim Crow” laws there were meant to reverse legitimate grievances of former slaves that had continued after the end of the Civil War in 1865, mainly in the South.

However, simply preventing the continuation of “Jim Crow” laws apparently wasn’t enough for some people, including the US Supreme Court (which in its history has had a track record of being wrong as many times as it has been right).

As they say, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”, which was the original basis for implementing “reverse discrimination”, including “racial quotas” (i.e. “affirmative action”, which is blatant discimination by any other name) that were applied uniformly against those Americans living today who had nothing whatsoever to do with slavery or its result.

It was even applied in those states who had no history of slavery, AND perversely also in those states who contributed (white) troops to aid in suppressing slavery during the Civil War. How many white people died to free black slaves? That is a little fact that is never mentioned.

In any case, “Civil rights” legislation is a “zero sum” game for the American people — whoever they might be anymore, since now there are so many “pseudo-Americans” (for example, “Mexican-Americans”) here that we have lost track of who and what an “American” is supposed to be, or what we stand for as a nation. If you feel the need to be a “pseudo-American”, you don’t belong in my country. It is as simple as that!

This is especially true in the case of the massive numbers of Latinos who are here, legally and illegally, with NO such “moral” claim to special treatment under the law as do blacks. Neither they nor their ancesotors were slaves in this country. What the hell is the obtuse reasoning for granting THEM “special privileges” under the law as to education, employment or any other social services?

There are limits as to how much “civil rights” we can take as a nation and still survive. We have become a “Mecca” for those who wish to take advantage of our stupidly liberal laws that desperately need revision, if for no other reason than to assure the protection of our borders against anyone who wants to be here. In truth, we have NO idea how many “illegal aliens” are here.

The present net effect of this miscreant national angst of slavery is that the “core” beliefs of our white ancestors — the same ones who fought and died to free black slaves 150 years ago in the Civil War — have become a “threatened species” in this country that they supposedly fought to keep free.

What kind of “perverted logic” is driving this nation when illegal aliens receive better treatment under the laws than US citizens?

I would like to remind you of something the incumbent President Lincoln once said.

——————

“A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become lawful in all the States, old as well as new — North as well as South.[1]”

—————————

It is incredibly sad to say we have now come “full circle” once again, after all the deaths, pain and suffering to the same exact place as a nation Lincoln described in 1858 — except this time it is white Americans who are the slaves in their own country.

The fact is that white Americans have become a minority in their own nation. We as a race are already suffering from the growing numbers of minorities in what used to be our country. It WILL continue to get much worse until whites have no rights at all — thanks to the voting power of our new “citizens”, most of whom do not like our culture, but like our liberal attitudes and “deep pockets” they use to advance themselves at our expense.

Perhaps this is really the goal of the new “slaveholders”, whose ultimate goal is to exact full revenge for what they perceive they are still “owed” by this nation. The fact they choose to present their case as being “common cause” with Latinos is pathetic beyond belief.

These two groups have NOTHING in “common” except a desire to drain our economy for their benefit alone. This is simply a case of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. The fact that their “common cause” will not last beyond the perceived “enemy” of the whites in this country will mattter little to those whites who are trapped in this country in the future.

How much longer are we to allow this massive scam by these people, this obscene diminution of OUR civil rights as white Americans in the name of “justice” to continue before we no longer have the ability to do anything about it?

Who will free US from slavery, as our ancestors did for the black slaves?

Posted by EconCassandra | Report as abusive
 

Gays win, society loses. Mark my words.

Posted by fr0thing | Report as abusive
 

@EconCassandra, Whites don’t “own” America. It isn’t “ours”. The Civil War is over – and just as many fought to maintain slavery as did those to end it.

You wax poetic about the soldiers who fought to end slavery. But that’s not what this argument is about.

You wrote:

“How much longer are we to allow this massive scam by these people, this obscene diminution of OUR civil rights as white Americans in the name of “justice” to continue before we no longer have the ability to do anything about it?”

The very fact that you wrote that, and believe it, proves that we still need Affirmative Action.

Posted by JL4 | Report as abusive
 

@ JL4 –

Thank you for “cherry picking” my argument to “prove” we need to keep giving handouts to people who want it simply because they are not white.

Can you explain to me why we should continue to do that?

As I said above, this is a zero sum game for this nation, whereby we fund “racial-based” programs for those who have no demonstrable need for them.

Many of them have no legal right to be in this country at all, yet they remain because they get special protection not available to whites.

They take our jobs, we pay taxes to support these people who are nothing more than “freeloaders” on our society, and the whining about more, more, more never ends.

You may refer to it as Affirmative Action, but clearly it is racism is its most pernicious form, because it masquerades as something with a noble purpose while it is not, and most of it at the expense of white people.

Racism by any other name is still racism, and racism IS color blind. I have seen as much or more blatant and open racism by non-whites as I have by whites.

By the way, do you know that according to the latest census the white race is now a minority in this country?

If, that is, you include Latinos who are racial chameleons, willing to become either Latinos on their own merit, or a member of a minority group (blacks in this instance) in order to obtain more voting power. What they are doing IS a scam to become the majority.

When that happens blacks will find out rather quickly that Latinos have no such feelings of remorse for blacks as whites do now. You can guess what kind of future blacks will have in this country, not just whites, when they become a majority.

How can this Affirmative Action argument possibly be morally right?

It isn’t. It’s a scam at the expense of anyone in this country who isn’t in on the scam, and it must stop.

Posted by EconCassandra | Report as abusive
 

@ JL4 –

You have taken “cheap shots” at me previously. Clearly, it is you who have a race problem. I have said many times, I am not a racist, but a realist. What you want is racist, not realistic.

I was in the military when the Supreme Court ruled that segregated schools were unconstitutional, and I participated in some of the implementation of those orders. However, since then the Supreme Court has literally taken the law into its own hands, deciding that simple desegregation was not enough, but resitution had to be made.

At that point the Supreme Court basically threw out the entire Bill of Rights in favor of the 14th Amendment, which in effect denies ANY other citizen the rights guaranteed under the Constitution — many more than could possibly be mentioned in this venue — which is a usurpation and travesty of justice that is unequalled in this country’s history.

Since then, the Supreme Court has denied most of its citizens the right to equal justice under the law in the pursuit of “compensatory justice”.

And how has this “compensatory justice” been applied? By a blanket order depriving anyone who is not black to be the victim of discrimination by setting “racial quotas”.

And where are these victims? They are long dead. And where are the perpetrators of slavery? They are long dead. Has there been ANY effort whatsoever to link the “crime” with the victims of the crime? No. Instead, everyone who is not black has been summarily judged guilty of a crime they did not commit. Is there any rational compelling reason for the Supreme Court to apply punishment to an entire nation in such a manner? No. In fact, the US Constitution strictly forbids the government from taking such actions against its people.

What the Supreme Court has done is an obscene miscarriage of justice no matter how you look at it.

“Affirmative Action” REQUIRES discrimination against another group, which is wrong under the concept of equal justice for all under our Constitution.

It does not matter that the crime is heinous, which it was. It does not matter what “good intentions” the Supreme Court had in enacting this gross miscarriage of justice.

To arbitrarily deny a citizen of the US his/her rights under the Constitution without due process is WRONG.

To make matters worse, other “minority” groups have seized this opportunity to leverage what was done to the blacks in this country to get a “free ride”, which is ugly and deceitful because it denegrates the blacks who might still have reason for Affirmative Action. The blacks in this country deserve that hearing, but it is being turned into a circus by those who would benefit from their tragic years of slavery.

HOW can you possibly justify actions like that taken by people who have actually NO “common cause” with blacks?

To me, it is disgusting to see how the original good intentions by the Supreme Court to set things right have been so twisted and perverted by those who would use this tragedy of slavery to benefit from it.

Posted by EconCassandra | Report as abusive
 

@EconCassandra, Racism is alive and well. You should know that from reading and contributing regularly to Reuter’s posts.

You should know just how easy it is to discriminate against anyone in the work force and skirt around the laws. It’s easy; if a job candidate’s name is “Jamol” or “Habib” you simply put that resume in the “no” pile. If they graduated from high school in 1978, you know how old they are, and if you want someone younger, you put that resume in the “no” file. In short, it’s pretty damned easy to discriminate in the college and job market and you know it. We all know it. Denying that fact doesn’t change a thing.

Screaming “Reverse Discrimination” is unbecoming. There is no reverse discrimination – it’s called Affirmative Action and it’s best use is in college’s and the workplace to force the hiring decision makers to allow the best of the best minorities. News flash, women are minorities – so that means women are guaranteed opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise be offered.

READ some of these comments in other posts, Econ, and tell me that the majority of the racists posting (Zimmerman case, our President…issues large and small) and tell me there isn’t a reason for affirmative action. Tell me there isn’t a reason for Section 5. Tell me there isn’t redistricting to redistribute the minorities’ vote to Republican. You can’t.

Posted by JL4 | Report as abusive
 

‘Gays win, blacks lose’

Axis of Evil? If you are not with us-you are against us!

Riddle me this…Hogs washing in muddy water make…

(pork)

Posted by ex-fungi | Report as abusive
 

@ JL4 –

Of course “racism is alive an well” in this country, mainly because we have “institutionalized” it as part of our culture and seemingly cannot function without all the whining about it, mainly because of people like you who are racist and want to see this country remain that way — permanently divided.

Mindlessly “screaming “Affirmative Action” without trying to understand what I am saying or why is more than “unbecoming” is stupid beyond belief.

Unless and until you can manage to formulate a reasonable reply to my argument, there is no reason to accommodate your hysteria.

Posted by EconCassandra | Report as abusive
 

@Econ, It would take all day to formulate a reply to each point in your long rants.

But for a moment, I’ll hypothetically grant you that whites are now the underbelly of America, victims of “reverse discrimination”. How do YOU like the threat of it? How do YOU like being on the receiving end of wholesale condemnation based on race or nationality? Apparently, it makes you feel considerable anxiety and a little hysterical. Interesting when the shoe just might be on the other foot. You aren’t alone.

I’ll wager that Affirmative Action and/or the Supreme Court will protect YOU in the event your worst fears become reality, and you suffer discrimination as a minority inflicted upon you by a majority, the way whites forced them to suffer throughout our entire history as a nation. Are you sure you want to do away with Affirmative Action? Be careful what you wish for – you just might get it. These emotional, knee-jerk reactions have long-term, unforseen repercussions. It seems you’re deep fear is this: “Turn about is fair play.”

How do you explain the fact that corporate America is still dominated by white males, from middle management up to the board rooms? Our politics have been dominated by white males up until I was a teenager. There is more balance now, but only because minorities have finally been afforded a “somewhat” more level playing field, a field which had to be legally forced on schools, hiring companies, restaurants, swimming pools…you remember don’t you?

Forget the slavery argument – although it doesn’t escape me that my southern grandmother was as racist as they come – after slavery was abolished. She was quite happy with segregation.

I do understand what you’re saying. Because I don’t agree doesn’t mean I’m stupid – it means I think you’re wrong.

Posted by JL4 | Report as abusive
 

@JL4-thank-you for silencing econ cassandra-What an annoying rant-She does not speak for all “white america”

Posted by FBICHILD | Report as abusive
 

This hysteria is revealing. Reverse Racism? It just means you are racist. You strike me at the type to say, well if black rap artists can say n—-r, why can’t I?

Perhaps you would have a shred of credibility if affirmative action filled up 100% of seats at institutions. As it is, if you are “discriminated against”, then how come you never were able to get one of the other 90% of places not held aside for affirmative action? (college for instance) perhaps you never would have been accepted in the first place…

Posted by Benny27 | Report as abusive
 

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