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kottke.org posts about Elie Mystal

"The Supreme Court Has Killed Affirmative Action. Mediocre Whites Can Rest Easier."

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 30, 2023

Elie Mystal writing for the Nation on the Supreme Court's recent decision that declared affirmative action in college admissions unconstitutional.

But the death of affirmative action was not achieved merely through the machinations of Republican lawyers. While conservatives on the Supreme Court delivered the fatal blow, the policy has long been made vulnerable by the soft bigotry of parents, whose commitment to integration and equality turns cold the moment their little cherubs fail to get into their first choice of college or university. If you want to see a white liberal drop the pretense that they care about systemic racism and injustice, just tell them that their privately tutored kid didn't get into whatever "elite" school they were hoping for. If you want to make an immigrant family adopt a Klansman's view of the intelligence, culture, and work ethic of Black folks, tell them that their kid's standardized test scores are not enough to guarantee entry into ivy-draped halls of power. Some of the most horribly racist claptrap folks have felt comfortable saying to my face has been said in the context of people telling me why they don't like affirmative action, or why my credentials are somehow "unearned" because they were "given" to me by affirmative action.

That last bit is in some ways the most devastating: Black people are attacked and shamed simply because the policy exists, regardless of whether it benefited them or not. I've had white folks whom I could standardize-test into a goddamn coma tell me that I got into school only because of affirmative action. I once talked to a white guy โ€” whose parents' name was on one of the buildings on campus โ€” who asked me how it felt to know I got "extra help" to get in. The sheer nerve of white folks is sometimes jaw-dropping.

I recommended this yesterday in a Quick Link, but Scene On Radio's episode of their Seeing White series on White Affirmative Action is great.

A Black Guy's Guide to the Constitution

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 02, 2022

book cover of Allow Me To Retort by Elie Mystal

That's the subtitle of a new book by Elie Mystal โ€” the full title is Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy's Guide to the Constitution. From the Kirkus review:

Mystal, an analyst at MSNBC and legal editor for the Nation, reads the Constitution from the point of view of a Black man keenly aware of the document's origins in a slaveholding nation. "It is a document designed to create a society of enduring white male dominance," he writes, "hastily edited in the margins to allow for what basic political rights white men could be convinced to share." As the author abundantly demonstrates, people of color and women have always been afterthoughts, and recent conservative applications of constitutional doctrine have been meant to further suppress the rights of those groups. "The law is not science," writes the author, "it's jazz. It's a series of iterations based off a few consistent beats." Conservative originalists know this, but they hide their prejudices behind the notion that the text is immutable. Mystal shows how there's plenty of room for change if one follows a rule hidden in plain sight: "There's no objective reason that the Ninth Amendment should be applied to the states any less robustly than the Second Amendment. The only difference is that the rights and privileges that the Ninth Amendment protects weren't on the original white supremacist, noninclusive list." Article by article, amendment by amendment, Mystal takes down that original list and offers notes on how it might be improved as a set of laws that protect us all, largely by rejecting conservative interpretations of rights enumerated and otherwise.

The Ninth Amendment, in case you were wondering, reads: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." So basically, the Bill of Rights (and subsequent Constitutional amendments) are not the only rights Americans have.