The Long Shadow of Southern Segregation by Race

A sad lesson to be learned from Harvard University’s promotion of Claudine Gay to its presidency is that the racism of Jefferson Davis is still with us and not only at Harvard.

According to Christopher Rufo’s article for the City Journal on Dec. 19, 2023, Harvard’s DEI administrators encourage students to internalize the basic narrative of critical race theory: America is a nation defined by ‘’systemic racism” … ‘white supremacy violence”, and the “weaponization of whiteness” In another resource, students were invited to “unpack” their “white privilege” … and to consider their “white fragility,” which stems from “the privilege that accrues to white people living in a society that protects and insulates them from race-based stress.”

Today, Americans are living under a socially constructed, post-modern indoctrination campaign proudly rooted in racism. We are told to “wake up,” put the past behind us, and look at other people only through the lens of racism, in particular a lens focusing on “whiteness” as a mark of Cain. If we do not become “woke” to the racism in us and all around us, there are Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs to keep us all in our proper places according to our racial identity. These programs reward those who are not white or Asian and put career obstacles in the way of those others who discriminate against them for having disfavored skin coloration and/or personalities.

Lincoln’s faith in the Declaration of Independence that all persons are created equal with equal rights to life, to all the blessings of liberty, and to the pursuit of their own happiness has been abandoned by our progressive elite. So, as of today, who really did win the Civil War?

After the Civil War, southern racism was reincarnated by the US Supreme Court in its 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision. In that case, the plaintiff was a person who looked white but actually had “one eighth African blood.” For some unstated reason, that “taint” was noticed by a railroad conductor in Louisiana, and the plaintiff had been told to obey Louisiana law and go sit in the car assigned to persons of his “race.” He refused, and so he was “forcibly ejected with the aid of a police officer and imprisoned in the parish jail” to answer a charge of having violated the law on segregation of races.

The Supreme Court ruled against him, upholding the relevant Louisiana law, which “merely” made a distinction between the white and colored races founded on “the color of the two races” and “which must always exist so long as white men are distinguished from the other race by color.”

The Court affirmed that even though the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution guaranteed the absolute legal equality of the two races, “in the nature of things it could not have been intended to abolish distinctions based upon color, or to enforce social, as distinguished from political equality, or a commingling of the two races upon terms unsatisfactory to either. Laws permitting, and even requiring, their separation in places where they are liable to be brought into contact do not necessarily imply the inferiority of either race to the other, …”

The Court directly addressed the legitimacy of prejudice by pointing out that the plaintiff’s argument “assumes that social prejudices may be overcome by legislation, and that equal rights cannot be secured to the negro except by an enforced commingling of the two races. We cannot accept this proposition. If the two races are to meet upon terms of social equality, it must be the result of natural affinities, a mutual appreciation of each other’s merits and a voluntary consent of individuals. … Legislation is powerless to eradicate racial instincts or to abolish distinctions based upon physical differences … .”

Later, the Court held that “if the civil and political rights of both races be equal one cannot be inferior to the other civilly or politically. If one race be inferior to the other socially, the Constitution of the United States cannot put them upon the same plane.”

Thus, the Supreme Court of the United States held that racism is a natural, might we say, “God -given,” immutable, condition of involuntary difference between people that can be respected, even honored, through the use of separate and distinct social customs and practices. This is Herbert Spencer’s Social Darwinism at its best.

So, today, if whiteness has become a badge of social inferiority, that is just consistent with nature’s imperatives.

The Court then presumed that little difficulty attached to assigning a person to one race or another: “The power to assign to a particular [railroad car] obviously implies the power to determine to which race the passenger belongs, as well as the power to determine who, under the laws of the particular State, is to be deemed a white, and who a colored person.”

In a comment supportive of today’s cultural disdain for and discrimination against “Whiteness” or “Asian White Adjacency,” at say Harvard University, the Plessy Court reasoned that if: “the colored race should become the dominant power in the state legislature, and should enact a law in precisely similar terms, it would thereby relegate the white race to an inferior position. We imagine that the white race, at least, would not acquiesce in [the] assumption [that they were by nature inferior].”

In 1954, the Supreme Court overruled Plessy. In that new case, Negro children claimed that “they had been denied admission to schools attended by white children under laws requiring or permitting segregation according to race.” Plaintiffs contended that segregated schools could never be made “equal,” so that “Negro” children assigned to black-only schools were denied “protection of the law” to the same degree as were “white” children assigned to white-only schools.

In a statement that refutes the claims of Wokeness and DEI discrimination, the Brown Court affirmed that education “is the very foundation of good citizenship. Today it is a principal instrument in awakening the child to cultural values, in preparing him for later professional training, and in helping him to adjust normally to his environment. In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms.”

This rule of equality under the law was just imposed by the Supreme Court on Harvard University to end its practice of using racism in its decisions as to who best qualifies to enjoy its educational program.

DEI and its advocate, Claudine Gay, marginalize Brown and take us back to Plessy, where differences in skin color can justify imposing unequal opportunity on all—some to benefit at the expense of others.

I doubt Jefferson Davis would object to that way of running this country.

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Photo: WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 05: Dr. Claudine Gay, President of Harvard University, testifies before the House Education and Workforce Committee at the Rayburn House Office Building on December 05, 2023 in Washington, DC. The Committee held a hearing to investigate antisemitism on college campuses. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)