Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
July 02, 2007

The Roberts Principle

by Slothrop

Accepting class balancing as a compelling state interest would justify the imposition of class proportionality throughout American society ... Allowing class balancing as a compelling end in itself would “effectively assur[e] that class will always be relevant in American life, and that the ‘ultimate goal’ of ‘eliminating entirely from governmental decisionmaking such irrelevant factors as a human being’s class’ will never be achieved.” Croson, supra, at 495
An interest “linked to nothing other than proportional representation of various classes ... would support indefinite use of class classifications, employed first to obtain the appropriate mixture of class views and then to ensure that the [program] continues to reflect that mixture.” Metro Broadcasting, supra, at 614 (O’Connor, J., dissenting).

The validity of our concern that class balancing has “no logical stopping point,” Croson, supra, at 498 ... is demonstrated here by the degree to which the districts tie their class guidelines to their demographics. As the districts’ demographics shift, so too will their definition of class diversity.

From Roberts's plurality opinion in Seattle

The Seattle/Louisville school district desegragation policies were struck down by the Roberts Court. Anybody could see it coming. Researching to draft an amicus brief for Seattle last year, it was obvious to me then the school districts were sunk. I believe in large part the cases finally resolve "race" as a rhetorically inert concept, incapable of signifying anything but the will of domination. Whitey done won.

What Volosinov called the "univocality" of a sign washed up as a site of confrontation over meaning, explains the semiotics of "race" perfectly. Replacing the word "race" with "class" in Roberts's opinion rehabilitates some of the polyvocality of the sign acknowledging in a more obvious way what the "concept" is in the line of cases from Dred Scott to Brown to Seattle.

The concept is about the kind of 14th Amendment rights associated with class-ism. "Race," as a polyvocal sign in Brown was, if not explicitly, obviously encoded as a signifier of class. "Race" in Brown is no empty abstraction as it is for Roberts. In Brown "race" is another way to say "Negro" and as such, an avalanche of contestation of status is embedded in the word. "Negro" meant seperate but not equal, those persons routinely denied "opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made available to all on equal terms." "Negro" is in part a sign acknowledged by the Court as a site of class conflict, remedied by equal access to public education.

Well, fuck that. Hey, we're equal, time to be seperate. Pity the Chief Justice's decorum for not offering Michael Jorden and Oprah! as exemplars of "race." But the cynicism is there. The triumphant expropriation of political content from the word "race" is total--the victory of semiosis, the Roberts Principle: white=race.

One can only envy their balls. "Class" is a signifier which has none of the effeteness of "race." "Class" is a devil-term signifying communism, the Rosenbergs, Rosie O'Donnell, Michael J. Fox, MSNBC, and hybrid vehicles. So, in order to get at the idea of class without saying the terrible word, "race" was a wobbly juridical surrogate. Farewell.

So, where to take the fight? Good luck opening up the terrain of contestation occupied by "Choice," "Happiness," "legal immigrant," "freedom." Even better luck you'll need to transliterate "class" to circulate signs mediating continuous class-warfare in what passes as the nation’s political consciousness. Whatever that word is, it won't be "class" anymore than it will be "race."

And good luck finding a person of color in a position of power to rip a little hole in the prevailing ideology. Says Thomas: "Indeed, if our history has taught us anything, it has taught us to beware of elites bearing racial theories." Elites: Dubois, CLR James, MLK.. who all understood the ways in which "race" often implicates "class" and "class" always insinuates "race." These are the stuff of Thomas's nightmares.

Well, as Raymond Williams often said "hegemony is never total, twat!" So lurking out there is a word whose political content might include the synchronic deviousness to assault Mr. Thomas and his merry class of gated-community dwellers. My money is on, if you're in America, "Mexican"--if in Europe, "Arab" might do.

Posted by b on July 2, 2007 at 8:58 UTC | Permalink


A darkie by any other name...

Posted by: beq | Jul 2 2007 11:46 utc | 1

to mix metaphors -those crackers just cooked their goose

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Jul 2 2007 12:07 utc | 2

Really, it is all quite consistent (though some of the argumentation was clearly rubbish, I read that one of the majority judges argued ‘you can’t fight discrimination with discrimination’ - !) Supposedly, class doesn’t exist in the US. It has most often been hidden or veiled over by race categorization, which was, is, a kind of pretense, as Americans, are, broadly speaking, imho, not racists but class-ists, worse than the Brits (again, in my limited, and perhaps skewed perception.)

Even the largest part of US expert, or professional writings on school ‘achievement’, etc. etc. confound the issues (perhaps excusable?) or worse, link ‘achievement’ to race and/or minority status, and/or immigrant status (fresh ones do much much better ..but then, is that because of their family culture or their ethnicity, etc. etc., a lot of twaddle basically) and other associated variables (single parent homes, etc.) with explanatory variables pulled out of dodgy correlations or la-la land, thereby short-circuiting the real issues, which lie elsewhere. Such as funding, teacher training, a dimension we might call ‘pride’ which *can* be linked to concrete variables such as infrastructure.

Certainly, one must accept that stratification cannot be entirely compensated for by education or ‘fair go type’ policies; the way it can be implemented and the degree of success depends on society as a whole (not I think a favorable picture in the US; compare Thatcher and Reagan on this point, or see health care in the two countries.)

Anyway, if “race” as sloth points out no longer exists, then class no longer exists through its surrogate. The message is : Move on, nothing to see here.

Straightforward right-wing laissez-faire (to use 4 wds only.)

So it ain’t whitey who ‘won’: it’s the rich.

Posted by: Noirette | Jul 2 2007 14:05 utc | 3

Can't say much about this as "race" is not factor here as it is in the U.S.

But the Sup Court in the U.S. has now a very deep conservative majority that needs to be broken. How and when can this happen?

And who will lauch a serious campaing against the Democrats of the "gang of 14" who made this court happen?

Posted by: b | Jul 2 2007 18:11 utc | 4

It was a niggardly ruling that points to the back-tracking of the gains that Americans have made with respect to the enfranchisement of its population. As a ‘racial’ issue the ruling targets the African-American community by depicting the federal laws mandating remedy for historical social marginalization as a form of “discrimination” against “white” middle and working class Americans. It is not that the existence of racism as a social toxin is denied, although it is implied, but it is the courts decision that the culprit for continued social marginalization of African Americans is sloth. This is the same argument – lift yourself by the boot-strap – that is the arch holding the mirage of the American dream. It is deeply held by the public and is used by the elites as a club over the heads of those aiming to change the state sanctioned concentration of wealth and power that falls squarely across racial, gender and class lines. The attack on affirmative action, the jailing of masses of African American males and their being barred from voting (second class citizenship) and the decreased state spending in such basic things as education in poor minority communities is the context in which this ruling adds fuel to the ever burning fire.
The channeling of anger over the deindustrialization, outsourcing, declining standard of living and a general environment of insecurity and fear upon the hordes of immigrants and the slothful minorities is the avenue that the ruling elites have settled upon. These are the offenders of the “harmonious society” and the extent to which they persist is the degree to which they will be demonized and penalized. In the mean time the social policies that are causing such trauma, income polarization and outrageous frivolous consumption for the rich will continue. Sarkozy for 2008 anyone?

Posted by: B | Jul 2 2007 19:00 utc | 5

The George Wallace Court

Posted by: dolce | Jul 3 2007 15:16 utc | 6

part-translation of supremes wack delusional decision :

"we have done everything we possibly can to elevate the African-American (place-holder insert for all non-Whites) to the moral level of Whites. So its time to reset and get back to the good ole days when we had a class-system rather than a race-based system. AND IN OUR SUPREME OPINION, ITS ALL IN THE MIND. If we would all start thinking class rather than race, we would have been there yesterday."

the fact is that if the African-American were not so burdened by his/her historical drastic generational separation from opportunities to practice wholesome class-dynamics, they would over-compete the over-indulged White out of tangible advantage. Children of African immigrants are doing it even in the face of race or class obstacles or whatever you might call it. A boot on the head hurts the same regardless of the reason why.

I have'nt had a chance to read the decision but heres a translation for subliminal code thats in there somewhere. Trust me, I really think its there :

"If the Blacks really want to come-up, they are going to have to get off their fat lazy butts and carry the ball for themselves."

Posted by: jony_b_cool | Jul 3 2007 16:58 utc | 7

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