Thursday, March 12, 2020

Reinsch on Caldwell on "The Colorblind Constitution"

Over at Law & Liberty, Richard Reinsch reviews (here) Christopher Caldwell's new book, The Age of Entitlement: America Since the Sixties.  As Reinsch puts it, Caldwell's premise is that we are currently battling over "two irreconcilable constitutions: the constitution of 1788 and of 1964."  What follows is an excerpt from the review.  Given the emphasis on diversity in corporate governance, the connection to this blog should be relatively obvious.  Since I am not an expert in the area, I'm curious if readers will identify any misstatements of fact in the excerpt or linked-to materials.

As many legal scholars have observed, the Rehnquist and Roberts Courts have aimed to return to the “color-blind” understanding of equal protection that inspired the Brown decision and the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Of course, many of these same scholars reject such an understanding as a just one …. But the colorblind position is on solid ground ….

As Shep Melnick argues, “the NAACP lawyers who brought the long string of cases culminating in Brown” endorsed the “colorblind” interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment. It was chief counsel Thurgood Marshall before the Court who argued that the Fourteenth Amendment denies states authority “to make any racial classification in any government field.” Leaders in the Civil Rights movement in the late 1960s argued against the collection of any hiring or employment data regarding blacks and whites. Of course, the Rehnquist and Roberts Court, the NAACP, and those who claim this argument stand on Justice John Marshall Harlan’s legendary dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) that argued the government use of racial classifications is an invitation to majority tyranny. Justice Thomas therefore is correct to argue in his concurring opinion in Parents Involved v. Seattle School District (2007) “what was wrong in 1954 cannot be right today.” In his majority opinion in the same case, Chief Justice Roberts memorably wrote “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” Case closed.

Stefan J. Padfield | Permalink


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