Civil Rights Bias; Our Colleges and Courts Should Be Colorblind

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), March 27, 2003 | Go to article overview

Civil Rights Bias; Our Colleges and Courts Should Be Colorblind


Byline: Edward Blum and Roger Clegg, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Ever since it began insisting that the only way to stop racial discrimination is through the use of racial preferences, consistency has never been a strong point for the civil-rights establishment. To see this, one needn't do more than compare "Wrong Then, Wrong Now: Racial Profiling Before and After September 11, 2001" a report just published by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR) with the position the organization is taking in the University of Michigan affirmative-action cases, which will be argued before the Supreme Court Apr. 1.

"Wrong Then, Wrong Now" endeavors to compare the old-fashioned, street cop!type of racial profiling with the post-9/11 profiling of Arabs, Muslims and Middle Easterners. The Leadership Conference is against both, and there is no logical inconsistency with that. But, that's not what's remarkable about the report. What is remarkable and foolishly inconsistent is the contradiction between the civil rights establishment's opposition to the use of race by law enforcement agencies to prevent crime or terrorism, on the one hand, and its adamant support of universities using race in admissions, on the other.

The contradiction is most glaring in the report's own definition of profiling: "Racial profiling is any use of race, religion, ethnicity, or national origin by law enforcement agents as a means of deciding who should be investigated . . . . Under this definition, racial profiling doesn't only occur when race is the sole criterion used by a law enforcement agent in determining who [sic] to investigate . . . . Selective enforcement based in part on race, is no less pernicious or offensive to the principle of equal justice than is enforcement based solely on race."

Fair enough. According to the definitions set out by the Leadership Conference's own report, race should never be a factor a law-enforcement officer takes into account when attempting to prevent crime or terrorism. Police can't dodge the fact that they are discriminating by arguing that race is "just one of the factors" they consider in deciding whom to pull over.

Yet, compare this position with the stance the Leadership Conference took in a friend-of-the-court brief filed at almost exactly the same time with the Supreme Court. The cases there challenge the use of race in university admissions at the University of Michigan. The brief says: "LCCR support* the use of race as one factor in admissions policies to preserve diversity in the nation's colleges and universities. …

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