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"Having Your Racial Cake and Eating it Too - Commentary by Joseph C. Phillips"

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John C. Calhoun, father of the confederacy, said about the ideas expressed in the Declaration of Independence: “there is not a word of truth in the whole proposition, as expressed and generally understood.” These sentiments were echoed by Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Roger B. Taney. Writing the majority opinion for Scott v Sanford, Taney also denied the veracity of the founding noting, “…the Declaration of Independence shows that neither the class of persons who had been imported as slaves, nor their descendants, whether they had become free or not, were then acknowledged as a part of the people, nor intended to be included in the general words used in that memorable instrument.”

It is a continuing source of fascination that the new left has chosen this view of the founding, replete with its historical inaccuracies, while the political right has adopted that of Abraham Lincoln and Justice John Marshall Harlan. It was Harlan who wrote in his famous dissent in Plessey v Ferguson that “Our Constitution is colorblind and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens.”

This brings us to the current controversy surrounding the president’s nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the United States Supreme Court.

During her Judge Mario G. Olmos Lecture at Berkeley Sotomayor remarked, "Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences…I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life." Revelations of the remarks were met with condemnation. Democrats were shocked-yes shocked!-to discover that some Americans find repugnant the idea that ones ethnicity makes them more qualified to make decisions. The left has responded to the reproof of Sotomayor with stuttering indignation, accusations of a latent fear of brown people and claims that Sotomayor’s reputation was being besmirched unfairly. (The fact that Democrats have routinely besmirched the reputations of brown justices nominated by Republican presidents on far less substantive grounds or outright lies seems to have slipped their minds. But I digress.)

In point of fact, Sotomayor is not a racist. She is, however, clearly enamoured with the identity politics of the left.

The denial of a universal human nature is the philosophical heart of multiculturalism. For those steeped in multiculturalism there is no objective truth or objective right and wrong because reason is purely the result of different cultural and environmental influences. Therefore the values of every culture are equally valid. The individual ceases to exist except as part of that larger culture from which he receives his identity, his rights and his very life. This is a direct contradiction of the declaration, which recognizes certain self-evident truths that exist for every individual in every time.

The political extension of multiculturalism is diversity. We are now taught that diversity (as opposed to racial non-discrimination) is a virtue - that we must have critical mass in our schools and universities and that in order to respond to the varying needs of a varied people our government agencies and courts must be made to “look” like America. The political method turns the foundational principle of judgment “without regard to race” on its head. What we learn is that there is some inherent value in race, that in fact race is primary. And after rejecting the idea of a universal human nature and the universal truths that should apply to all men we are met with the revelation that our ideas of justice and compassion are not the result of reason and an association with the divine, but of “inherent physiological and cultural differences,” which make Latina jurists superior to white male jurists.

Had similar sentiments been expressed by a white man his career as a justice would be over. And properly so. Isn’t the disapprobation of Sotomayor a sign that we have entered into a true post racial society? Isn’t the vision we have for America one in which we repudiate the idea that race conveys some value or detriment to ones ability?

The left cannot have its racial cake and eat it too. The founding was either true or it was not. If true then Justice Harlan was correct and our constitution is color blind, racial non-discrimination is in fact an essential building block of our republic and a value to be encouraged in our society. If the founding was untrue then Justice Taney and Calhoun were correct and our ideas of race are dictated not by any universal truth embodied in our founding document, but by the changing whims of men and the onward marching of time.

Joseph C. Phillips is the author of “He Talk Like A White Boy” available wherever books are sold.


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