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If it works for the Cabinet



Published: Mon, September 11, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



Los Angeles Times: To his credit, President Bush chose a Cabinet that (to quote former President Clinton) "looks like America." Now the same administration that takes race into account in assembling a government has asked the Supreme Court not to allow school districts to do the same thing in filling their classrooms.

Bush has appointed two African Americans -- one a woman -- as secretary of State, named the first Latino attorney general and had two Asian Americans in his original Cabinet. Of course, Bush would argue that these appointees were superbly qualified. But that doesn't mean that he was indifferent to their practical and symbolic impact.

Last month, Solicitor General Paul D. Clement sent a different message, filing a brief with the high court arguing that public schools in Seattle and Louisville, Ky. -- and everywhere else -- may not take steps to maintain a measure of racial balance. Like other school districts, Louisville and Seattle decided that bringing children of different races together makes for a better educational experience. The administration is siding with white parents who are challenging the programs as unconstitutional.

There is a world of difference, morally and legally, between these schools and the all-white and all-black public schools that the Supreme Court outlawed in its landmark 1954 ruling in Brown vs. the Board of Education. One system was designed to separate white and black children. The other seeks to bring them together.

The Justice Department disagrees. The administration is telling the court that school systems that place a priority on diversity violate the "equal protection of the laws" guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.

In a colorblind society, there would be no need for school administration to keep track of the race of its pupils. That is not, unfortunately, the society in which we live.




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