This past Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled that all Americans are entitled to “equal protection of the laws,” as stated in the 14th Amendment. The case was about colleges discriminating against some students because of their race or ethnic background — e.g., “No White males or Asians need apply.” That not all Americans applauded this fundamental restatement of a basic right was disturbing. Predictably, the three weakest minds on the court were unable to think beyond stage one — what would be the long-term consequences of government-sanctioned race discrimination — and dissented in a 6-to-3 vote. For a century after the Civil War, the court did allow discrimination against Blacks (the Jim Crow laws were deemed legal). That didn’t work out so well, and the three justices who voted for new discrimination — this time against Whites and Asians — should not expect better long-term outcomes.

President Biden immediately attacked the Supreme Court for the decision. It is easy to understand why the president prefers a society where not all are treated equally; without the ability to give benefits denied to others, his son might well be in jail along with other members of the Biden family. The “sweetheart deal” for Hunter Biden becomes more obviously outrageous as further evidence of shameful behavior by Hunter, prosecutorial bias, and misconduct by both the FBI and the Department of Justice are revealed on an almost daily basis. A former assistant attorney general for tax, Eileen O’Connor, a highly regarded tax attorney, wrote a devastating op-ed published last week in The Wall Street Journal about how government agents failed in their duty to provide equal justice in the Hunter Biden matter. Ms. O’Connor argued that the judge who will rule on the Hunter Biden plea deal on July 23 has no duty to accept it and now, with all the added evidence of misbehavior that has come to light, has, in fact, an obligation to reject it. It will be interesting to see if the judge has the fortitude to stand up against the political pressure from the Biden administration and its allies and do the right thing by saying no.

The debate among the Supreme Court justices was intense between those continuing to support race-based affirmative action in college admissions and the majority who argued it was unconstitutional. The court’s two Black justices, Clarence Thomas and Ketanji Brown Jackson, had radically different views from each other on the issue. Most observers thought Justice Thomas had much stronger arguments, in part because he understood the long-term consequences of continued government-sanctioned discrimination. Unfortunately, Justice Jackson revealed that she was not as learned, thoughtful and wise as Justice Thomas.

The current debate about whether a person deserves to benefit or be penalized on the basis of skin color or racial and ethnic origin is not new. The first African slaves were brought to America in 1619. Irish indentured servants were brought soon after, and some were treated no better than slaves. Many immigrant groups, including the Chinese, Poles, Italians and Jews, were not only poorly treated but had to deal with specific laws targeting them — including the Japanese internment camps in the Western states during World War II.

Before the Civil War and the Emancipation Act, there was the constant question of “How Black do you have to be to be enslaved?” The answers varied somewhat in the different slaveholding states. Half Black and half White people were known as “mulattoes,” but considered Black. A person who was a quarter Black was called a “quadroon,” and someone one-eighth Black was called an “octoroon.” All of the slaveholding states allowed those who were one-quarter Black to be enslaved, even though many passed for White and were freed or fled. There was no consistent policy concerning those who were one-eighth or less Black, but most were probably freed or escaped because they could pass for White, including some descendants of Thomas Jefferson.

White and Black people worked or lived in proximity to one another, so there was a great deal of race mixing — people being people — which is why American Blacks come in all shades and many Whites have some Black blood in them. Even if the Civil War had not been fought, the whole hypocritical edifice would have collapsed for both definitional and economic reasons.

After the Supreme Court decision last week, more called for reparations since affirmative action is dead. To put it bluntly, the idea is stupid because the equity and definitional problems of who gets and who pays are insurmountable. Tens of millions of Americans are descended from both slaveholders and slaves (e.g., former President Barack Obama).

The enclosed table clearly shows that skin color or national origin are poor predictors of economic, political, or even social success in today’s America. Appalachian Whites are near the bottom, while dark-skinned Indian Asians are at the top. The distinguished economist Thomas Sowell put it best when he said if one wants to give Black children a better future, “raise them in married, two-parent homes and allow them to attend charter schools!”

• Richard W. Rahn is chairman of the Institute for Global Economic Growth and MCon LLC.

© Copyright 2023 The Washington Times, LLC.