CNN Writer: Census Question Case Like Plessy V. Ferguson

One sub-heading in the article is 'White Supremacy 2.0?'

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• June 24, 2019 12:00 pm


A CNN writer compared a pending Supreme Court ruling on whether the Trump administration can add a citizenship question to the U.S. census to the infamous 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision upholding racial segregation.

In a lengthy piece Sunday headlined "In the census-citizenship case, the Supreme Court may once again affirm ‘white rule,'" CNN Enterprise writer and producer John Blake recalled the story of Homer Plessy. A mixed-race man, Plessy sat in a whites-only section of a Louisiana train in 1892, was arrested and convicted, and later saw the Supreme Court reject his argument that the incident violated his rights. The decision created the infamous doctrine of "separate but equal" and effectively green-lit Jim Crow laws.

Blake wrote that the census question dredges up the same themes of legalized racial discrimination:

It's hard today not to marvel at the casual cruelty of the Plessy decision. How could the court accept the transparent lie that blacks lived in separate but equal worlds with whites? And how could they give Constitutional sanction to a blatant display of racism?

You don't have to study history to answer those questions. Watch what happens this week when the US Supreme Court issues its decision on whether the Trump administration can add a question about citizenship to the 2020 census, some legal scholars and historians say.

They say the conservative majority on the court is on the verge of embracing some of the same legal rationalizations that produced Jim Crow segregation in the census case.

The Trump administration has argued the citizenship question will bolster the voting rights of minorities, but Blake extensively quoted opponents who say the administration intends to frighten illegal immigrants and undercount Latinos. The article uses the terms "critics say" and "some say" five times to that effect:

Adding a citizenship question to the census would be a naked grab for white power, some say.

They say the Constitution holds that Congress must count how many people — not citizens — live in the country. That number is used to determine everything from the number of representatives in the House to how much federal funding a state gets.

An estimated 6 million Latino people counted in the 2010 census would not be counted in 2020 as a result of adding the citizenship question, according to a study by Harvard University's Shorenstein Center. Those who oppose the question say many Latinos may not respond to the census because they mistrust the US government and fear strict immigration enforcement. Many also are immigrants who live in regions dominated by Democrats.

The article quotes one supporter of the census question — the Heritage Foundation's Hans von Spakovsky — and four critics of the Trump administration and the Supreme Court's conservative majority. One, author Ibram X. Kendi, said the purpose of the citizenship question was a means to "figure out a way to maintain white supremacy in the race of changing demographics."

Another, author Peter Irons, witnessed oral arguments and said the court's conservative justices were purposefully avoiding the central question of, in Blake's words, whether the citizenship question is meant to "boost white Republican power at the expense of Latinos."

"What the court does — and the court does this often — is evade reality," Irons said. "It allows them to focus on technical questions."

One sub-heading in the article is "White Supremacy 2.0?"

Published under: CNN, Media, Media Bias, Supreme Court