Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Justice Secures His Place As a Critic of Integration

New York Times:By NEIL A. LEWIS

In the context of higher education, Justice Thomas said earlier that affirmative action programs cruelly deceived black students admitted to elite law schools under special programs who then found that they could not compete.

''These overmatched students take the bait,'' he wrote in 2003, ''only to find they cannot succeed in the cauldron of competition.''

Justice Thomas was himself admitted to Yale Law School under a set-aside program for minority applicants, although his limited public comments on the subject suggest he has resisted accepting that he was given special treatment.

The new biography of Justice Thomas raises the idea that his skepticism about integration is a product of his own unhappy journey through integrated school situations. ...

Mr. Merida and Mr. Fletcher add, ''But almost every step of the way, he has been nagged by doubts and has burned with anger at slights, real and imagined.''

Justice Thomas's own coming memoir, ''My Grandfather's Son,'' is expected to provide his perspective on events like his time at Yale.

''People who see affirmative action programs as being a benefit to the African-American community are taken aback when they see Thomas opposed to them,'' said Mr. Schmoke of Howard, who is also the former mayor of Baltimore. ''They say, 'Wait a minute, didn't he get on the Supreme Court by race-based decision-making?' ''...

Christopher Edley Jr., the dean of the law school at the University of California, Berkeley, said no one had seriously argued that just putting black children alongside white children made them learn better.

''The central claim for integration today is aspirational,'' Mr. Edley said. ''How do we build a society that is free of the poisons of color?''

Mr. Edley, who served in the Clinton and Carter administrations and on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, argued that ''public education is the single best opportunity to promote understanding across our most dangerous divisions.'' He said Justice Thomas's views provided ''shelter'' for his fellow conservative justices who wanted to end all efforts at maintaining diversified schools.

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