Sotomayor and racial politics

My new FT column praises Sonia Sotomayor but questions her decision in the New Haven case, and argues in any event that the law on affirmative action needs to be adjusted.

During the election campaign, Mr Obama touched on the controversies surrounding affirmative action and racial discrimination. He said it was time to start emphasising the principle of colour blindness, and that help for disadvantaged people would be better targeted not by race but by individual circumstances - not according to whether people are black or brown, but whether they are poor or badly educated.

It is true that poverty and poor education are racially correlated. It is also true that bigotry has not disappeared. On the other hand, bigotry has surely subsided. The US now has a black president. In principle, a black student stuck in a failing inner-city school has no greater, or smaller, claim on the nation's conscience than a white or Hispanic student in the same position. The US needs to think less in racial terms. That is an achievable ambition for Mr Obama.

(Incidentally, the piece describes her as the daughter of an immigrant. A stupid mistake, for which I apologise. Her parents were from Puerto Rico.)

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