The conflict between the accidents and practicalities of history and the principle that race consciousness should not drive government policy is restaged around the distinction between de jure and de facto segregation. The distinction, Roberts explains, is “between segregation by state action and racial imbalance caused by other factors.” The results of these other factors — individual choice, economic inequalities, historical biases — may be regrettable and include de facto segregation, but in Roberts’s view, they should not be remedied by law.I said it after the last abortion case and I'll say it again. The SCOTUS will be a huge factor in the 2008 Presidential election and will cost the GOP the election short of a major terrorist attack or other catastrophe. There will not be an openly conservative justice confirmed to the Supreme Court for at least a decade, if not much longer.
Why? Because history, not government did it, and what history has done, history, not legislation, should undo.
That’s all very nice on paper, declares Justice Stephen Breyer in dissent, but it simply ignores “the long history and moral vision” that stretches from the 14th Amendment to Brown and beyond — the vision of “true racial equality,” not as “a matter of legal principle but in terms of how we actually live.” In other words, my principle — true equality — is more principled than yours.
This move of Breyer’s shows that while I have framed the opposition as one between history and principle, the identification of principle is itself the work of history, and history can always go the other way. This is Stevens’s point when he slyly reminds Roberts of one of his own recent pronouncements: “history is written by the victors.”