President Obama spoke at the University of Chicago law school last week about his nomination of Merrick Garland — a white male — to the Supreme Court. At one point, he was asked about “diversity” in this context, and the answer he gave is interesting. (Search for the word “diversity” to find the relevant question and answer.)
The president professed not to make judicial appointment decisions on the basis of race, ethnicity, or sex, but instead insisting only on a process that ensures that all the best candidates are looked at. He said the same thing for other kinds of recruiting, hiring, and promotion, too.
What’s interesting is that this is an answer that honors the principle of colorblindness. There’s no argument in it about favoring some to correct past discrimination, or about weighing race, ethnicity, and sex to ensure a “diversity” of outlooks.
Now, to be sure, the president talks out of both sides of his mouth, because in the same answer he brags about the fact that he has set records for appointing racial and ethnic minorities, that “it’s important that our courts are reflective of a changing society,” and so forth. But, again, he is professing that these decisions were made on a colorblind basis, and that no one got appointed on account of his or her skin color or what country his or her ancestors came from.
Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue. It is significant that even this president is unwilling to challenge the principle that colorblindness is a virtue and that race-based decision-making is a vice. Too bad that this principle is violated on a daily basis by the rest of his administration.