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Coming Out of the Republican Closet; Queer for Segregation

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One of the pillars of the contemporary Republican Party has been racism.

They have made great efforts to mask it with euphemisms so that they can use code words to let anti-black voters know what side they're on and at the same time piously deny that they are being racist.

Their code words have been that they are for 'states rights,' 'law and order,' 'welfare reform,' and against 'affirmative action,' 'quotas,' 'reverse discrimination.' 'tax and spend liberals,' 'activist judges,' and 'busing.'

Now they've won the Supreme Court. Their man-- who is, unfortunately, our Chief Justice - has declared that the state has no 'compelling interest' in creating diversity. Therefore racial integration can't be required.

Out across the land, there has been a great, but very quiet, sigh of relief.

Among the first to come out of the closet, into the new sunshine where it's at long last safe to say that integration is not a good thing, is the New York Times columnist, David Brooks.

His column today is called 'The End of Integration.'

He says that he's sad about it. But the column is dedicated to selling us on giving it up.

He claims that it's dead already. We just need to recognize, and accept, that reality.

Actually, it's worse than that. According to Brooks, we should never have tried in the first place. He says, "it could be the dream of integration itself is the problem. It could be that it was like the dream of early communism -" a nice dream, but not fit for the way people really are."

See that, integration is evil, like communism. Anyone who believed in it was foolishly naïve. Thank God, we're finally getting over such mistakes.

It's as if there's no memory.

A significant portion of this country practiced apartheid, under our own American name, legally enforced segregation.

I grew up in New York. A place that thought of itself as 'liberal' in the extreme, and that thought of segregation as a particularly Southern disease.

That was not true.

The rest of the country also practiced segregation. They didn't need laws to do it, yet the races were effectively kept almost as separate and black people were kept out of the good schools, the good jobs, the good professions and the good places to live.

As it happened, I lived in a part of Brooklyn called Fort Greene. My grade school and junior high school were, like the area, 95% black and Puerto Rican.

I remember Manhattan in those days. Downtown and Midtown were virtually 100% white. The only jobs blacks could get, maybe, was pushing racks of clothes in the garment district. But black people didn't go into the office buildings in suits and ties, they didn't work on Wall Street, or go the theater or the fine restaurants.

They stayed Uptown. The division was so clear and so well understood that a blaxploitation film of the period could be called North of 110th Street.

White people, especially successful white people, practiced very vigorous affirmative action for themselves. All the better colleges gave preferences to children of alumni. A set of special slots were reserved for them.

It's how George W. Bush got into Yale.

They all relied on letters of recommendation, which were best coming from the sort of people who had been to their school or ones like them. When people graduated, they got jobs from alumni networks and friends of the family.

Furthermore, we all learn quite as much, or more, at home and in our neighborhoods, as we do in school. That's why lawyers and doctors and corporate types, professors and athletes and artists, are so often the children of people in exactly those same professions.

When it came time to go to high school, I went to Brooklyn Tech. It was in my neighborhood. But it required an admissions test. With the skills I learned at home, getting in was a snap. It was over 95% white.

Some people, fortunately, realized that de facto segregation-- the division of the races without the use of laws to do it-- was still segregation and if not quite as complete as de jure segregation, still the same evil.

They even understood that affirmative action was required. People who hadn't learned the scholastic and social skills at their parents feet and who didn't have networking capabilities because their parents where janitors, maids, laborers and sharecroppers, needed a hand up to enter the system. The hope was that over the course of a generation or two they could enter mainstream society and then pass on their abilities to their children.

Great efforts were made to overcome it.

They were not entirely successful. That's true. Great swathes of Brooklyn, including Fort Greene, remain as racially distinct now as they are today. Some even more so.

However, it is impossible to imagine Manhattan as an all white city anymore. Black people go into the office buildings as executives, business people, lawyers, secretaries and accountants.

While our major corporations and law firms and political parties may be dominated, especially at the top, by the same white groups, because of the de facto affirmative action that they still practice, it is impossible to imagine them as they were in the fifties and sixties, strictly segregated.

It is true that people tend to flock to groups that are like themselves. In their choice of neighborhoods, associations, and cliques. Yet it is impossible to imagine that we return to all white universities, sports teams, movies, public facilities, theaters and restaurants. Even to drift toward those conditions through de facto segregation.

It is impossible to imagine that we stop fighting to ameliorate the evils of racism, even if the struggle is long, difficult and complex.

Or it was. Until a week or so ago.

It was. Until David Brooks stepped out of the closet on the pages of that 'liberal' newspaper, the New York Times.

The Supreme Court, and David Brooks, making it safe to be racist in America again.
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LARRY BEINHART is the author of SALVATION BOULEVARD,  a major motion picture with Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Connelly, Marissa Tomei, Ed Harris, and Jim Gaffigan, WAG THE DOG, The LibrarianFog Facts: Searching for Truth in the Land of Spin  and HOW TO WRITE A (more...)

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