Only an ostrich…

Only an ostrich could regard the supposedly neutral alternative as race unconscious.

Dissenting Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Fisher v. Texas ruling

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  • Monty J. Thornburg, Ph.D.

    The salience of “Uncle Tom” (I used) and “Ostrich like” used by Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg, are clearly effective rhetorical devices; demonstrated by the response. I can’t speak to the explicit motivation of the Justice but I can speak about my own motivation. As said above, historical context was ignored by this slim majority of the court. Personally, the only time I’ve ever heard the somewhat archaic use of “Uncle Tom” from the iconic literature of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was in Alabama during the Voting Rights and school desegregation struggles. It was used as a warning! In the 60s I lived and worked as a teacher in a town near Selma, Alabama during the voting rights struggles. “Uncle Tom” was then used as a characterization of persons to be careful around and used as a warning to a number of us. All of us were white, from other parts of the U.S., and it was used out of concern for our safety. It was used by a great leader in Civil Rights and Education, a person who helped lead a significant voting rights victory in Greene County, Alabama in 1969.
    Again, as has been well covered by the media, the slim majority of this court has ignored the “data” from 15,000 pages of testimony to Congress; based on that ‘data” the Senate voted 98-0 and the House of Representatives had a near majority vote as the Congress voted to re-authorized the Voting Rights Act in 2006. My guess is that in the mind of Justice Ginsburg who read her decent on the bench, this opinion was “Ostrich like” and, as she said, like “throwing away an umbrella in a rain storm.” I concur, and again, history was ignored by the court, too. Unlike the 9-0 Warren Court in Brown v. Board of Education, we now have a weak 5-4 ruling on the most significant Congressional civil rights act of the twentieth century. I watched John Lewis on June 25th talk on TV about “A dagger in the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.” My thoughts went back to the courage of those who were beaten nearly to death and others who fought and died for the franchise throughout the “Black Belt Region of Alabama.” In deference to my friend and a great education leader from that period, I decided to use his literary metaphor and to do as he had done; to warn others! While in that education leader’s time and place an Uncle Tom could be extremely dangerous causing loss of life, a home, a farm, or a job simply by participating in trying to gain the right to vote; in today’s world it’s more subtle. In today’s world we need to heed the warning, still. How else can we lift the “cloak” so that “equity in education” might have a chance?


  • “Uncle Tom” ? Nothing like name calling to devalue an argument. When I see these poisonous labels I stop reading. Name calling has replaced the lost art of positive persuasion.
    How many intelligent people can I expect to persuade by insulting them?
    Clean it up.


  • Monty J. Thornburg, Ph.D.

    For me, many of these CI Blogs tie together. For example, this goes back to CI Blog, April 23, Ed Policy Unchained: Django, House Negros, and School Reformers. In that CI Blog we witnessed a fictional Uncle Tom. Unfortunately, we have the real “Uncle Tom” on the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice Thomas is someone who provides convenient “cover” for the other four conservatives with all of these slim 5-4 majority decisions. The ideology that race no longer matters was address the next day, April 24, “Regrettable” that Blacks/Latinos are Naughty: Race/Racism Expunged in US” when Race segregation and inequality were declared dead from a high minded, Chester Finn, from a higher education perch. Finn’s “ideology”, unfortunately it appears, has crept into the U.S. Supreme Court. As idiotic and Ostrich like was the University of Texas case, look now at Civil Rights case, from yesterday, June 25th. These same Supreme Court actors, including the Uncle Tom, “threw their umbrella away in the middle of a rainstorm” was the new analogy used by Justice Ginsburg. We now have Ostriches without umbrellas in a terrible rain storm, something close to a hurricane. This all goes to the heart of a major change in leadership on the Supreme Court. In 1954, Brown v. Board of Education was 9-0, and led to be so by a Republican appointed Chief Justice, Earl Warren, because former Race Slavery in America, and Race Segregation in America are historically, and proven to be in the present with a 98-0 vote in the Senate and a nearly unanimous bi-partisan vote in the House, in 2006, to re-authorize the Civil Rights Voting Act. Yet, given the “Uncle Tom” and the ideology both in Texas with the university case and in America with the Civil Rights Voting Case, ideology trumps both real data and historical context.


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