School segregation is kind of like war.
When asked point blank, no one wants to admit to liking it.
To paraphrase Motown singer songwriter Edwin Starr:
“Segregation. Huh, Good God.
What is it good for?
However, when it comes to supporting actual integration programs or even just education policies that don’t make segregation worse, no one in politics really gives a crap.
Both Republicans and Democrats are heavily invested in ways to divide up school students along racial and economic lines – whether they be charter and voucher schools or strategic disinvestment in the public schools that serve the poor and minorities and hording resources for wealthy whites.
That’s why it’s somewhat shocking to hear the outrage over Trump judicial nominee Wendy Vitter.
WATCH: During her confirmation hearing this morning (yes, this morning – in 2018), judicial nominee Wendy Vitter refused to say whether she agreed with the result in Brown v. Board of Education. #UnfitToJudge pic.twitter.com/RWroh0XUIC
— The Leadership Conference (@civilrightsorg) April 11, 2018
Trump nominated the extremely partisan justice for a federal judgeship in Louisiana. Yet during a Senate hearing Wednesday, Vitter refused to answer a question from Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) about whether or not she believed the Supreme Court was right in its landmark 1954 decision, Brown v. Board of Education.
The decision overturned the excuse that we could educate white and black people in different facilities so long as they were “separate but equal.” In effect, it said that when we educate the races separately, their schools will never be equal.
And Vitter couldn’t bring herself to affirm this ruling.
“If I start commenting on ‘I agree with this case’ or don’t agree with this case,’ I think we get into a slippery slope,” she said.
“I don’t mean to be coy, but I think I get into a difficult area when I start commenting on Supreme Court decisions which are correctly decided and which I may disagree with,” Vitter said.
She added that the ruling was “binding” and that she would uphold it if confirmed as a judge.
And there we have it, people.
That’s where the bar is set during the Trump administration.
You no longer need to pretend to be against school segregation.
On the one hand, it’s more honest than most people in the political arena.
On the other, how far have we sunk when you don’t even need to feign decency in order to expect having a chance of Congress confirming you?
Let me be clear. Vitter’s nomination should not be approved.
Congress should draw a line in the sand and say that it cannot accept people who do not share bedrock American values on the bench.
And that is the barest minimum.
That is merely decorum.
It’s like having the decency to condemn Nazis – something else Trump can’t bring himself to do.
What actually happens to Vitter will probably be determined by the degree of backlash against her.
As of Thursday afternoon, the video clip of Vitter’s comments about Brown V. Board had more than 1.7 million views, and was retweeted over 13,000 times.
A few months ago, another Trump judicial nominee, Matthew Petersen, withdrew from consideration after a video in which he couldn’t answer basic legal questions went viral.
But even if this reprehensible person who has no right sitting in judgement over anything more taxing than a checkbook gets turned away from the bench, we’ll still be far from where we need to be on school segregation.
Despite Brown vs. Board, many of our schools today are more segregated – not less – than they were in the 1960s.
And instead of putting on our big boy pants and tackling the issue, we’ve gone in the opposite direction.
On both sides of the aisle, lawmakers support charter schools. Republicans and a few Democrats support school vouchers. And just about everyone is fine with the fact that our public schools serve vastly disproportionate racial and economic populations yet rely on local tax revenues for funding and thus are inequitably resourced.
In every case, these policies make segregation worse. Yet hardly anyone in the halls of power or in the media even admits it is happening.
At most, you get a news story every anniversary of Brown v. Board about the increased segregation and a journalistic shrug. Well, we don’t know how to solve that one…
Yes, we do!
We need to end school privatization.
We need to redraw district boundaries.
We need to audit school policies that keep the races apart within districts by building or by class.
And we need robust, equitable funding that can’t be manipulated to favor wealthy white kids.
That will take a lot more moral courage than partisan outrage against Vitter.
Oh, she deserves outrage, but because of her lack of morality, not her political party.
This can no longer be about if you’re political football team is in power or not.
It has to be about what’s right and wrong.
Caring about integration should be part of what it means to be an American – like freedom, justice and apple pie.
If it isn’t, we have a lot worse problems than one reprehensible would-be judge.