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Welcome to STop, the Seattle Times Opinion blog where our editorial writers and editors share their evolving thoughts on a variety of issues. STop is a place where opinion writers and readers can exchange views and readers can learn more about how editorial positions are formed.

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October 24, 2005

A Lot Like Politics

The decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the Seattle Public Schools racial-tiebreaker case is here. Read it yourself and see which side is more convincing. I find the dissent far more convincing, but I have favored that side from the first. Simply, I think that using race to divide people is trouble. People have fought and killed each other over race, here and around the world. A strong argument can be made that it is unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment, and I support that argument because it fits well with the Constitution and is good policy and good sense.

To those who say, "race still matters," I reply: This policy makes it matter. It will increase racial resentment. It is bad in a practical sense and worse in a moral sense.

Several comments about the ruling and the dissent. The ruling simply repeats the educators' line, "We conclude that the District has a compelling interest in securing the educational and social benefits of racial (and ethnic) diversity." What is so compelling about it? Specifically, what is so compelling--think of the word, compelling--about increasing the number of nonwhite students at Nathan Hale from 30% to 40%? Why is that compelling? What is so compelling about reducing the nonwhite share at Franklin from 79% to 59%? What makes it compelling? We don't need to answer that, because we all know that it just is.

I liked the dissent's focus on the other side's use of the words, "segregation" and "segregated" to describe Seattle schools. People do this all the time. The Seattle Post Intelligencer does it today, here, saying, "segregation keeps spreading." As the dissenters on the 9th circuit said: "Segregation is a transitive verb. It requires an actor to do an act which affects segregation."

Look also at what this case shows about our system of law. The first court ruling, by a federal district judge (Rothstein) was for the use of race; then, to a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit, against the use of race; then to the Washington Supreme Court, for the use of race; then back to a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit, against the use of race; now to a full panel of the 9th Circuit, for the use of race.

Is this law, or is this just political opinion? I'm no professional in the law, but I am one in the matter of political opinion, and it looks a lot like political opinion to me.

Respond to Bruce.


 
Posted by Bruce Ramsey at October 24, 2005 12:15 PM



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