As the Supreme Court considers ending affirmative action this year, one can only hope those justices who seemingly oppose so-called preference-- Scalia, Roberts, and Alito-- would reflect on their own early race preference, white male race preference.
Scalia, the poster boy for deriding affirmative action, should reflect on his family's use of preference. In the early 20th century, the Scalia family took advantage of the European preference of citizenship at Ellis Island. The day Scalia's parents stepped off the boat from Italy and through processing, they were citizens granted full rights in America, rights that the descendants of slaves had been denied for three hundred years.
Justice Alito's parents took advantage of the same European race preference to gain citizenship. They did not have to march for the right to vote, or to eat at public facilities, or to live where they chose, work where they wanted, or attend a university of their choice. There was no separate but equal for those white European families. It did not matter that those families didn't speak a word of English. They did not have to earn their rights, or fight for them, or die for them. No, based solely on their skin color and country of origin, the doors of this great and generous country flew wide open for them.
And when young Nino Scalia was eighteen years old, being a smart boy, he had his choice of universities. He decided on Georgetown in Washington, D.C. Interestingly, this self-professed paragon meritocracy took full advantage of preference when he applied to college: Georgetown not only was all white, but all male. This preference baby didn't have to compete against qualified women or qualified African Americans. This was not a thumb on the scale; it was a fist.
And Justice Alito is a fellow prince of preference: He was a member of the last all-male class admitted to Princeton. Who knows if he would have been admitted if he had to compete against qualified women. He only competed against men. To add to the absurdity of Alito's hostility towards affirmative action, he belonged to a group, Concerned Alumni of Princeton, that supported quotas, set-asides for men in the admissions process.
The third member of the court to participate in this festival of preference is the Chief Justice himself, Mr. Roberts. This Harvard man, undergraduate and law school, did not compete against half the country in the admissions process--the smart girls competed against each other for a spot at Radcliff, the women's school at Harvard. Roberts, who loudly decried, "When will it (affirmative action) end?" probably didn't ask that question when he was admitted under male preference. No, he grabbed his preference as entitlement.
One would think that these three men, princes of racial and gender preference, would exhibit some modesty, some humility, given the clear advantages that they exploited early their careers. But no, there is no humility, only a disgusting sense of entitlement that is all too common among this older generation, the last to benefit from gender and race.
Retired Justice Sandra Day O'Conner, in her genius, realized this when she determined that affirmative action needed 25 years to run its course. She knew that a generation of Scalias and Alitos and Robertses had to "age out" of public influence. She knew these men, the very beneficiaries of discrimination, would work to keep the old white boys network that has served them so well.
If these justices had an ounce of integrity, they would recuse themselves, or at least acknowledge that they and their families owe their great success to preference programs and look, with the eye of context, at allowing diversity to continue to have its day on the campuses of America. If only decency and intellectual honesty would have their day at our highest court. But sadly, that day will never come as long as men like this sit in their entitled seats.
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