Justice Thomas' Racial Fatalism05-28-2017
Justice Thomas' Racial Fatalism
The Supreme Court this week ruled that two gerrymandered districts in North Carolina were unconstitutional because they were impermissibly drawn on racial grounds to dilute the vote of black Americans. The swing vote in the 5-3 majority decision was Justice Clarence Thomas. For Scott Lemieux, Thomas' vote is consistent with an idiosyncratic jurisprudence that may over time prove enormously influential. Lemieux sees Thomas' idiosyncrasy most in evidence on his unique approach to legal questions where the issue is race.
"Thomas’s approach is particularly visible in cases involving race. Typical Republican nominees like Chief Justice John Roberts and Antonin Scalia combine a belief in formal colorblindness with the view that racism is no longer a major problem in American society. This willful optimism reached the point of self-parody with Roberts’s 2013 opinion gutting a section of the Voting Rights Act that required states with a history of discrimination to get approval from federal authorities for any changes to election law. Roberts held that because the Voting Rights Act had been so effective in addressing race discrimination in voting, Congress no longer had the power to enact its most important enforcement mechanism. Thomas also generally believes in formal colorblindness, but for very different reasons rooted in (sometimes explicit) black nationalism. Thomas believes that the state should be race-neutral not because he has any illusions that racism has ended in the United States, but because he believes that color-blindness is the best that African-Americans can reasonably expect from the state. Thomas’s fatalism can be seen even in opinions where he ends up in the same position as his conservative colleagues. His 2003 dissent from the Court’s opinion upholding the University of Michigan Law School’s affirmative action program is a powerful argument even if, like me, you ultimately disagree with the bottom line. Beginning by quoting Frederick Douglass, he makes a subtle, complex argument with pointed discussions about the fallacious assumptions that predominantly black institutions must be inferior; the dubious necessity of the state maintaining an elite law school; the disgrace of legacy admissions preferences; and the false “merit” reflected by standardized tests. Even if one ultimately finds it unpersuasive, it’s certainly not the boilerplate defense of American “meritocracy” that underlies Republican arguments against affirmative action. Sometimes, because of his unique perspective on race, he has ended up entirely alone on the Court. The last time Thomas substantially participated in an oral argument was the 2003 case Virginia v. Black, which involved several people who had been convicted under a Virginia statute banning cross-burning. The key constitutional question in such cases is whether the relevant statute penalizes white supremacist expression (which is speech protected by the First Amendment) or intimidation or threats (which, legally, are “conduct” not protected by the First Amendment). Under Virginia law, the intent to intimidate could be inferred from the act of cross-burning itself, and the burden of proof was on the defense to show that the intent of the act was purely expressive. A majority of the Court found this unconstitutional, essentially holding that to be consistent with the First Amendment the burden of proof had to be on the state to show that a cross-burning was intended to be threatening. In his dissent, however, Thomas pointed out that the statute was enacted by a segregationist legislature. Obviously, the Jim Crow legislators who voted for the law were not trying to suppress white supremacist expression, but simply realized that cross-burning was virtually always done with the intent to intimidate. And therefore, Thomas concluded, the statute “prohibits only conduct, not expression.” Thomas was right—but no other justice joined him."Form more information visit: https://newrepublic.com/article/142825/clarence-thomass-rulings-race-idiosyncratic
When Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with President Trump last week, protesters against his authoritarian and increasingly totalitarian regime were attacked. The New York Times analyzes videos of those attacks to show that many of those attacking the protesters were part Erdogan's personal security team.
"The New York Times reviewed videos and photos to track the actions of 24 men, including armed members of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s security detail, who attacked protesters in Washington last week. Many of the protesters were American citizens. The men kicked people lying on the ground and put a woman in a chokehold just a mile from the White House. They outnumbered the protesters nearly two to one. The State Department has condemned the episode, and some American lawmakers have called for the men to be prosecuted. But none have been charged with a crime. Here’s what video of the main actors shows about the identities of the men and the roles they played in the clash."Form more information visit: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/05/26/us/turkey-protesters-attack-video-analysis.html
[caption id="attachment_18925" align="alignleft" width="200"] By Neuchâtel Herbarium - This document was created as part of the Neuchâtel Herbarium project.Deutsch | English | français | +/?, CC BY-SA 3.0[/caption] Maria Popova pages through Emily Dickinson's herbarium:
"Long before she began writing poems, Dickinson undertook a rather different yet unexpectedly parallel art of contemplation and composition — the gathering, growing, classification, and pressing of flowers, which she saw as manifestations of the Muse not that dissimilar to poems. (More than a century later, Robert Penn Warren would articulate that common ground in his observation that “poetry, like science, draws not only those who make it but also those who understand and appreciate it.”) Dickinson started studying botany at the age of nine and assisting her mother at the garden at twelve, but it wasn’t until she began attending Mount Holyoke in her late teens — around the time the only authenticated daguerrotype of her was taken — that she began approaching her botanical zeal with scientific rigor. Mary Lyon, the school’s founder and first principal, was an ardent botanist herself, trained by the famous educator and horticulturalist Dr. Edward Hitchcock. Although Lyon encouraged all her girls to collect, study, and preserve local flowers in herbaria, Dickinson’s herbarium — with which I first became enchanted at the Morgan Library’s fantastic Emily Dickinson exhibition — was a masterpiece of uncommon punctiliousness and poetic beauty: 424 flowers from the Amherst region, which Dickinson celebrated as “beautiful children of spring,” arranged with a remarkable sensitivity to scale and visual cadence across sixty-six pages in a large leather-bound album. Slim paper labels punctuate the specimens like enormous dashes inscribed with the names of the plants — sometimes colloquial, sometimes Linnaean — in Dickinson’s elegant handwriting. What emerges is an elegy for time, composed with passionate patience, emanating the same wakefulness to sensuality and morality that marks Dickinson’s poetry."Form more information visit: https://www.brainpickings.org/2017/05/23/emily-dickinson-herbarium/