Meanwhile, back here on the home front, we're all still about lining up behind our own racial and ethnic groups, defining ourselves by our disagreements and making it a trial to be human.
This week's examples of what I'm talking about: Jennifer Gratz and Ed Kwiatkowski.
First, Gratz, who was Topic A at the Supreme Court a few days ago. She wanted to attend the University of Michigan in 1995 along with thousands of others. It turns out that 4,000 applicants were ultimately granted admission to the university. Alas, Gratz, who had a good SAT score and grade-point average, was not one of them. In fact, more than 1,500 students with grade-point averages and SAT scores lower than Gratz's got into the school. Those 1,500 students, by the way, were not beneficiaries of affirmative action; they were admitted on the basis of other admissions criteria that awarded extra points on a 150-point admissions scale to ensure that a broad and diverse array of talented students attend the university.
Gratz apparently was okay with that, because she didn't kick up a fuss about the 1,500 students with lower scores and grades who got in ahead of her. But then she learned about other students with lower scores and grades who got in because the university awarded them 20 points on the 150-point scale. The difference between the 1,500 students with lower scores and grades than Gratz and the others with lower scores and grades is that the latter group -- minorities -- were beneficiaries of affirmative action.
It seems that Gratz, who is white, could graciously lose out to white students with lower grade-point averages and test scores. But losing out to similarly situated African Americans and Latinos was just too much to take.
Second place to them? Pass the smelling salts.
So she sued.
If good sense prevails, the Supreme Court will tell Gratz to take a hike. The justices have heard the arguments. Now all they need to do is read the amicus curiae brief from Howard University in support of the University of Michigan's admissions policies. It's fair to say that Howard's role in the civil rights movement, through the lawyers and social scientists it trained, put the nation squarely on the path away from the shame of racial segregation.
Howard's amicus brief, tracing the history of racial caste in America up to and including the current effects of race, poverty and segregation in Michigan, makes the best substantive case for giving weight to race and ethnicity in the admissions process to both achieve diversity and to make headway against the effects of discrimination. To do otherwise is to ignore what Howard states are the "profound and intergenerational effects of two hundred and fifty years of slavery, followed by a century of Jim Crow, followed by slow progress in the face of continuing discrimination." Shucks, no less than President George W. Bush, as Howard points out, acknowledges that racial discrimination is a continuing problem.
Now to Ed Kwiatkowski.
"The Mafia said, 'You can buy any man or woman with money, women, liquor or drugs, or other men.' For which did you sell your soul to Jews?"
Kwiatkowski, of Detroit and St. Petersburg, Fla., put that question to me in a letter this week. He didn't like my column criticizing people at a recent antiwar forum who held their tongues when Rep. James Moran (D-Va.) blamed American Jews for the impending Iraqi war ["Uncomfortable Silence," March 15].
Kwiatkowski wasn't alone. Several other readers also said that Moran was right to finger Jews as inordinately influential on American foreign policy. And it didn't seem to matter where the writers lived. From across the country and even abroad, they weighed in with a familiar line of argument: Jewish hawks such as Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Elliott Abrams and Douglas Feith have cunningly led America into a war aimed at benefiting Israel; Saddam Hussein gets slammed for what he did to the Kurds, but U.S. leaders are too intimidated by the Jewish lobby to criticize Israel for oppressing the Palestinians; and Israel gets billions of U.S. tax dollars a year because of powerful Jewish influence over Congress, which acts like a committee of the Israeli parliament, etc.
But Kwiatkowski's response managed to stand out -- and not because of the zinger he threw my way. Kwiatkowski, simply put, went everybody else one better. He sent along a thick packet of documents that, at least in my view, reveal the extent to which he is consumed with fear of Jewish domination. How he acquired his material is a mystery. Why is even more disturbing.
One document, on which a sarcastic "Poor Babies Have No Influence" was handwritten across the top, was dated May 2002 and titled "TWENTY SEVEN ISRAELI PUPPETS CONTROL PRESIDENT BUSH." Someone had apparently culled a list of Bush administration appointees and published names of officials thought to be Jewish, as well as a few non-Jews considered pro-Israel or having a "Jewish bias." Colin Powell's name appeared in the second category.
Another document was captioned, "Survey of Jews in Key U.S. Government Positions Under Bill Clinton." In addition to identifying Jews serving in Clinton's foreign policy cluster, the survey also included the names of more than 60 Jews reportedly appointed to senior posts throughout the government, including the Office of Management and Budget, the FBI, the Food and Drug Administration, the Agriculture Department and the White House staff. "Where are the blacks!" was handwritten on the side of the page.
A third document listed Jews serving as American ambassadors, but it was cynically headlined "Ambassadors for Whom?"
The run-up to this Iraq war has laid bare a reservoir of anti-Semitism in the land. All right, so maybe that's not new. But what is different and sobering, at least for me, is the realization that there are people in this country who regard Jews as so dangerous that they bear watching and keeping tabs on their comings and goings in government and in other positions of influence in society.
She, unhappy about not getting into the University of Michigan, and he, unhappy with the success of American Jews: Jennifer Gratz and Ed Kwiatkowski have found scapegoats on whom they can place blame. What great Americans.