The beautiful post-racial, &c.

Contemplation of Justice statue at the Supreme Court


On Sunday, a news report was published, and it makes for very interesting reading. Its headline is “High court poised to upend civil rights policies.” It begins, “Has the nation lived down its history of racism and should the law become colorblind?”

That is something of an admission — that the law is not colorblind now. And isn’t justice supposed to be blind, to color and other things?

The article further says, “The court’s five conservative justices seem ready to declare a new post-racial moment.”

I find this fascinating. It is conservatives who want a post-racial America. It has been that way for a long time, of course. Could such a thing have been predicted in, say, 1960?

Conservatives have made hay out of the Obama family’s vacations, and Joe Biden’s European hotel bills, and so on. Why should our leaders be livin’ so large when, in these straitened times, we have canceled White House tours?

I am often opposed to mere symbolism in politics. I don’t want the Obamas to give up their vacations. Maybe Biden can travel a little less extravagantly. I don’t know. But listen: I think conservatives are right to make hay. There is a “let them eat cake” attitude coming from our leaders.

Then again, the people elected them — reelected them — didn’t they?

My mother was a little girl in World War II. She remembers hearing that the princesses in London — Elizabeth and Margaret — were going without new coats one winter. They were wearing the ones from the winter before.

Just a tiny symbolic thing. But my mother, not even a Briton, remembered it. These things matter, sometimes.

Reading a Claudia Rosett column, I had a flashback to Cold War days. Claudia wrote of North Korea’s missile tests, and Iran’s centrifuges, and other ominous developments, then said, “Time to ring the world’s super cop . . . but who is that these days?”

I thought of Jeane Kirkpatrick — whom Claudia is a lot like, actually. She said (I’m paraphrasing), “People love to say, ‘America can’t be the world’s policeman.’ Fine. But what if there’s a world criminal?”

She meant the Soviet Union, of course — which the United States usually managed to check.

I received a note from my friend Jack Jolis. “I’m afraid I must report a landmark,” he said — a landmark “of a horrible sort.” He was listening to BBC radio, and he heard the presenter, Danny Baker, refer to Angela Merkel as “the leader of the Free World.” Never before, in Jack’s experience, had anyone other than the president of the United States been “the leader of the Free World.”

I have sometimes called Stephen Harper, the Canadian prime minister, “the leader of the West.” My colleague Kevin Williamson sometimes refers to the Indian prime minister, Manmohan Singh, as “the leader of the Free World.”

Anyway . . .

We are all familiar with slurs on Clarence Thomas, including the one that goes, “He’s just a puppet of Scalia, you know. He has no ideas or opinions of his own, he just follows what Scalia and the other conservatives do.” Anyone who knows anything knows this is nonsense, of course. But a lot of people know nothing — and spout off regardless.

In a 2003 Impromptus, I wrote about a disgusting cartoon in the Palm Beach Post. It depicted Thomas as a puppet on Scalia’s hand. Scalia made some pronouncement, to which Thomas replied, “Oh, yeah! Say what?”

There is nothing a conservative can say or do that will not be described as racist. There is nothing a liberal can say or do — no matter how racist, no matter how vile — that will be described as racist.

I thought of this last week when reading a column in the Washington Post. The writer said, “Early in the oral argument, the conservatives — Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts (a silent Clarence Thomas can be assumed to be their tacit tagalong) — explored the idea that . . .”

What would happen is a conservative writer described a liberal black justice as the “tacit tagalong” of others?