NRO Attacks Desegregation Efforts By Likening Obama Administration To Jim Crow

Blog ››› ››› SERGIO MUNOZ

A National Review Online editorial compared Attorney General Eric Holder to a notorious Jim Crow official for blocking a Louisiana school voucher program and accused the Obama administration of dehumanizing children of color, failing to mention the Department of Justice is acting pursuant to long-standing desegregation orders.

Continuing a right-wing media campaign against the DOJ's current attempts to ensure Louisiana remains in compliance with valid court orders still in effect to prevent the re-segregation of its public schools, the NRO followed the lead of Fox News and completely ignored the law in order to champion a Republican school voucher plan.

The NRO also accused the Obama administration of "inhumane" treatment of public school students of color, comparing the attorney general to George Wallace, the infamous Alabama governor who attempted to illegally maintain school segregation.

Finally, the editorial assumed its readership was unaware of Nixon's "Southern Strategy" and the well-known switch on race relations between the two parties because of federal civil rights law, ahistorically concluding "[w]ould that [Wallace's] fellow Democrats should have a similar change of heart and give up their half-century stand in the schoolhouse door." For a publication with an ugly and well-documented history of past and present racism, such smears are wildly audacious.

From the September 4 editorial:

It was 50 years ago this June that George Wallace, the Democratic governor of Alabama, made his infamous "stand in the schoolhouse door" to prevent two black students from enrolling at an all-white school. His slogan was "Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!"

These many years later, Democrats still are standing in the schoolhouse door to prevent black students from enjoying the educational benefits available to their white peers, this time in Louisiana instead of Alabama. Playing the Wallace role this time is Eric Holder, whose Justice Department is petitioning a U.S. district court to abolish a Louisiana school-choice program that helps students, most of them black, to exit failing government schools.

The Obama administration is a serial offender on this issue, and its cynicism is startling.


Setting aside the naked political cronyism that is in fact at the heart of this dispute, consider the DOJ's case on its merits: The government is arguing that the choices of actual black students and their families must be constrained in the service of preserving certain statistical measures of how black certain schools are. Put another way, this case really turns on the question: Are black children human beings?

Whether or not one believes school vouchers are more important than the civil rights struggle to desegregate American education threatened by "school choice" and resulting "white flight," the Department of Justice is not engaging in a policy debate with this specific move.

Rather, by refusing to seek approval for a state program that will reverse decades-old integration efforts from the court monitoring a current desegregation order, Louisiana is breaking the law and the DOJ is attempting to uphold it. The NRO editorial refuses to engage this fact.

From the August 22 Department of Justice motion in this case:

The United States asks this Court to permanently enjoin the State of Louisiana ("State") from awarding any school vouchers ("vouchers" or "scholarships") to students attending school in districts operating under federal desegregation orders unless and until the State receives authorization from the appropriate federal court overseeing the applicable desegregation case. In 2012-2013, the State awarded publicly funded vouchers to nearly 600 public school students residing in or attending school districts operating under federal desegregation orders, and many of these vouchers impeded the desegregation process. The State did not consult with or obtain authorization form the federal courts overseeing the applicable desegregation orders before awarding any of the vouchers.


As a party to this case and to ensure compliance with this Court's orders, the United States monitors the actions of the State in granting, inter alia, funds to private schools. Pursuant to its monitoring responsibilities in this case, the United States initially sought information concerning the students awarded scholarships for the 2012-2013 school year from the State on July 20, 2012. Only after filing multiple motions in this case and receiving an order of this Court did the United States finally receive, in March 2013, the information and data it requested from the State. After analyzing the data, the United States determined that the State's voucher awards appeared to impede the desegregation progress in 34 schools in 13 school districts.

Instead, the NRO's bizarre claim that the president and the attorney general do not consider "black children human beings" is just one more example of right-wing media's sad attempts to smear defenders of the civil rights movement as racist. For a right-wing media outlet that once attempted to crack down on what it called its "appalling" content on race, this latest dishonest attack on the nation's first African-American president and attorney general shows the NRO isn't even trying to clean up its act anymore. 

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