Happy Plessivus! The New Rage in Separate-but-Equal Celebrations – JONATHAN TURLEY

Below is my column in The Hill on the reemergence of separate but equal policies from housing to graduation to even holiday parties. Many on the left are now embracing race-based exclusions as a certain article of faith. That was vividly shown in the race-based holiday party thrown recently by Boston Mayor Michelle Wu. 

Here is the column:

For some, it seems, Christmas is so last century, and “Festivus” is so last decade.

Happy Plessivus, the new rage in politically correct holiday celebration.

Now, as we approach the 70th anniversary of the rejection of Plessy v. Ferguson and the concept of separate-but-equal with the Supreme Court’s 1954 landmark ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, many people seem to be embracing racial segregation as a public good.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu offered just such an alternative with a holiday party that excluded guests on the basis of race. Wu was criticized after her staff mistakenly sent the entire city council an invitation to the party at the city-owned Parkman House. However, the invitation told white city council members that they could not attend due to their race.

It was not exactly what most of us think of as being in the spirit of the holidays. Yet, it is precisely what Wu wanted to capture for a racialized holiday theme with a hefty helping of identity politics.

It seems that, today, the three kings would be told by the angel to just drop off the gold, frankincense and myrrh at the door of the stable if they were not the right race.

What was most striking about the controversy is that Wu’s office apologized — but not for the racially exclusive policy. It apologized for sending the invite to white city council members.

Despite the criticism, Wu proudly posted a photo of all the attendees at her “electeds of color” holiday party. Six of the city’s 13 council members are people of color.

Imagine the reaction if the mayor held a holiday party only for white city council members. She would be called the Bull Connor of Christmas.

Yet, such racism is now not just acceptable but seemingly popular. The mayor used official property and staff to hold a racially segregated event, but many in Boston were apparently thrilled.

Roughly 20 years ago, I wrote about how we seemed to be moving toward a revival of separate-but-equal in schools, dorms, graduation ceremonies, events, and academic programs that excluded some students on the basis of race.

Some supporters defended Wu by arguing that such racial segregation is needed to make minorities feel safe or accepted, even on the ultra-left Boston city council, on which members of color are one seat short of an outright majority.

The case for such race-exclusive dinners was made by then-Justice Henry Billings Brown almost 125 years ago, when he explained that some people simply find the “commingling” of races to be “unsatisfactory.” He said that for a 7-2 majority in Plessy v. Ferguson.

It is not the taste of discrimination but the ease of the discrimination that is so alarming. Racial segregation now appears to be an article of faith for too many on the left.

It has gotten to the point that Super Bowl champion running back Rashard Mendenhall was entirely comfortable in declaring that whites are “not even good at football. Can we please replace the Pro Bowl with an All-Black vs. All-White bowl so these cats can stop trying to teach me who’s good at football.”

That could be the perfect combination for the racially intolerant: A race-based holiday dinner at Mayor Wu’s house, followed by a racially segregated holiday football game.

Wu’s dinner and Mendenhall’s posting are, ultimately, trivial matters compared to a wide array of policies and programs that are again dividing the nation along racial lines.

Courts have repeatedly found the Biden administration to be engaging in racial discrimination in such programs. In Wisconsin, for example, a federal court stopped Biden’s controversial $4 billion race-based federal relief program for farmers, holding that white farmers were found to be “experiencing discrimination at the hands of their government.” Another court held that the administration engaged in systemic discrimination in implementing COVID-19 relief for restaurants and bars.

The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that racial discrimination does not become good policy despite being carried out with the best of motivations. In 1989, in City of Richmond v. J.A. Croson Co., the high court ruled that “legislative assurances of good intention cannot suffice.”

The public agrees. A majority has long rejected racial criteria in areas like college admissions. Yet, despite the Supreme Court recently declaring such criteria to constitute racial discrimination, some colleges and universities are circumventing the decision with new pathways to maintain race-based admission goals.

Such politicians and educators are responding to a segment of our population driven by identity politics — even for holidays. Christmas is now viewed by some as just another race-based jump scare, seen through the lens of race and the dangers of what some have called “white privilege” disguised as Santa.

There is an alternative: We could use this holiday to celebrate our shared values and strengthen our interconnectedness. Instead of looking through the lens of race, we could just look at each other as individuals — even if it is just once a year.

Instead, we seem to have our own versions of “Krampus,” who would come around every year to chase naughty children and maybe even drag them to hell. In Germany, Krampus added an edge to the holidays; you had to escape Krampus trying to hit you with a stick and stuff you into his satchel to make it to the big holiday payoff.

The one thing you have to hand Krampus, however, is that he did not discriminate. He would bag anyone for the holiday.

Jonathan Turley is the J.B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at the George Washington University Law School.

 

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