Charles Pickering on Discrimination

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Judge Pickering, victim of Democratic politicking in the Senate, now has a temporary position as a federal judge. The primary reason Democratic senators opposed even giving him a Senate vote was from one case of two cross-burners, one who was only an accomplice who got a harsher treatment than the other who was the real driving force behind the incident. Pickering wanted to see the accomplice treated less badly than the main provacateur. Democrats on the Senate Juiciary Committee used this as an excuse to pretend Pickering is a racist, even though he has a strong record in favor of civil rights. It was some of the most shameful misrepresentation I've seen in the current Senate lineup, in the same category of worrying about John Ashcroft merely because he's an evangelical Christian.

Stuart Buck reports on Pickering's first decision as a federal judge on the issue of segregation and discrimination. Here are some choice quotes:

This case demonstrates the progress we have made, yet the distance we have to go to eliminate the vestiges of past racial discrimination.

So he doesn't act as if there'no racism left to be remedied, as I remember the doomsayers were claiming about him (or at least acting as if he would even reverse every civil rights advance of the last 50 years).

In a perfect society all of the vestiges of discrimination and segregation would disappear and all people would be treated equally without regard to race, color of skin, or ethnicity. We do not live in a perfect world. Therefore, we must deal with the facts as presented.

So he doesn't even take the view that we should act as if color doesn't matter, as many true conservatives on race do!

We note Bowling Green�s argument that it cannot compel African Americans to join its faculty or enroll as students. It could be that an African American teacher might be reluctant to teach in a private academy, previously all white and created to preserve segregation, for less money than a teacher can make in the public school sector. Nevertheless, Bowling Green must make a good faith effort to attract African American faculty.

Pickering is well aware of what my wife discovered when she looked into complaints from her peers that her college newspaper was racist for not hioring black students. She discovered that black students at her college were avoiding the newspaper because it was racist, while the newspaper was happy to have them join and frustrated that they wouldn't give it a try. I've seen this phenomenon perpetuating segregation too many times to count. The saddest place to see it is in college Christian ministry groups. In the case Pickering is looking at, there's an even worse problem. The school involved, regardless of what the current people believe and practice, was founded as a segregated school. That means even fewer black faculty will be attacted to apply there. You can't make someone apply for something they choose not to apply to. So the complaints about discrimination are really silly, once you realize why there aren't better numbers of black faculty there.

Still, Pickering makes a great point. Especially given their racist past, the school might even have a moral obligation to encourage African American applicants. The fact that a judge would recommend this, when he merely has the obligation to point out that in the eyes of the law there's no segregation, says something about his character. He wants the school to know that they can't just complain that no one bothers to give them the time of day. They have a duty to try to encourage more consideration of them as an employer. Otherwise there will be no overcoming of the historic segregation initiated by the racists who formerly ran the school unless a particularly insightful and morally courageous black teacher decides to overcome the resistance among the segregationists in the black community and apply anyway, as my wife did with her school newspaper, eventually becoming the editor-in-chief. That's too rare to expect it will happen eventually. The school must make an effort to overcome this misperception of them. This is a rare insight, and I applaud Judge Pickering for casting the responsibility on both sides.

There will always be those skeptics who will assume he did this just to get confirmed when the recess appointment expires. Aside from the fact that this is all based on a groundless assumption, as I explained above, I think there are really strong moral arguments against assuming the worst about someone's character and motivations. People who are that suspicious probably have something psychologically wrong with them, but a predisposition to immoral behavior isn't always an excuse. In this case, I think the language is careful and balanced enough that I have trouble seeing this as writing against his own convictions. If he had wanted to do that to appear in favor of civil rights, he wouldn't have said some of the unpopular things in here that I think happen to be the right thing to say. This guy's the real deal. Shame on those who opposed his nomination.

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