Tuesday, December 05, 2006

More on Honesty and Race

Building on Sherry's interesting post, I would note that Justice Souter's point about honesty being the best policy is reminiscent of a passage in Justice Ginsburg's dissenting opinion (which Justice Souter joined) in Gratz, the Michigan undergraduate affirmative action case:

"One can reasonably anticipate . . . that colleges and universities will seek to maintain their minority enrollment--and the networks and opportunities thereby opened to minority graduates--whether or not they can do so in full candor through adoption of affirmative action plans of the kind here at issue. Without recourse to such plans, institutions of higher education may resort to camouflage. For example, schools may encourage applicants to write of their cultural traditions in the essays they submit, or to indicate whether English is their second language. Seeking to improve their chances for admission, applicants may highlight the minority group associations to which they belong, or the Hispanic surnames of their mothers or grandparents. In turn, teachers' recommendations may emphasize who a student is as much as what he or she has accomplished. . . . If honesty is the best policy, surely Michigan's accurately described, fully disclosed College affirmative action program is preferable to achieving similar numbers through winks, nods, and disguises."

That seems exactly right to me. And by the same token, I think Justice Souter was right yesterday when he said that if racial integration is a worthy goal, we might as well be honest about our attempt to achieve it.