The south had Jim Crow, but some nasty racial battles took place in Boston over school busing.
Daniel Henninger on the case before the Supreme Court that would free certain southern states from supervision by the DOJ.
Chief Justice Roberts: General, is it the government’s submission that the citizens in the South are more racist than citizens in the North?
General Verrilli: It is not, and I do not know the answer to that, Your Honor. . . .
Chief Justice Roberts: Well, once you said it is not, and you don’t know the answer to it?
General Verrilli: I—it’s not our submission. As an objective matter, I don’t know the answer to that question.
Shelby County was one of those moments when one wished the Supreme Court allowed its oral arguments to be televised. Some cases are crucial to the nation’s sense of itself, and this is one of them. At its center lies Justice Roberts’s blunt question: Is the American South irredeemably racist?
The answer should matter for a country that chose to call itself the United States of America and sacrificed much to preserve the idea. The common goal, one may assume, is to be united.
But racism is something liberals just can’t let go. Justice Breyer came up with this:
“Imagine a state has a plant disease, and in 1965 you can recognize the presence of that disease. . . . Now it’s evolved. . . . But we know one thing: The disease is still there in the state.”
Since proving a negative is logically impossible, the restriction would last forever. Henninger continues:
If I’m a 40-year-old southerner, born in 1973 and raising a family in one of these states, this view by four justices on the Supreme Court in 2013 of what I might do is insulting and demeaning.
The liberal justices’ remarks explain Solicitor General Verrilli’s conflicted response to Chief Justice Roberts. He isn’t saying the South is more racist than the North, but he doesn’t know if it is. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. But we can’t trust them, so they must answer to Washington.
This is an impossible world defined by Alice’s Queen of Hearts, and it may be one reason the South today is filled with red states. They stand charged with being the only people in the United States who are potentially racist because they reside in Alabama, Mississippi or Louisiana.
Justice Breyer addressed that directly: “What do you think the Civil War was about? Of course it was directed at treating some states differently than others.” In fairness, he then asks if this singling out must persist forever. “What is the standard for when it runs out? Never?”
On the evidence of the comments here, and by other liberal commentators on this case, the answer indeed is “never.” Justice Kennedy, the court’s great middle man, puckishly noted: “The Marshall Plan was very good, too, the Morrill Act, the Northwest Ordinance, but times change.”