Geoffrey Stone, distinguished law professor, former dean of the law school, and former provost of the University of Chicago, finds it “appalling” that
“liberal” has become a pejorative. Part of the problem is that liberals have failed to define themselves and to state clearly what they believe.
He thus proceeds to list ten propositions that he believes define liberalism today. Only two of the ten make any reference at all to racial equality, the second and the fifth:
2. Liberals believe individuals should be tolerant and respectful of difference. It is liberals who have supported and continue to support the civil rights movement, affirmative action, the Equal Rights Amendment, and the rights of gays and lesbians….
5. Liberals believe government must respect and affirmatively safeguard the liberty, equality and dignity of each individual. It is liberals who have championed and continue to champion the rights of racial, religious, and ethnic minorities, political dissidents, persons accused of crime, and the outcasts of society. It is liberals who have insisted on the right to counsel, a broad application of the right to due process of law, and the principle of equal protection for all people.
With regard to No. 2, Stone does not reconcile support for “the civil rights movement” during its long career when it stood for the colorbind principle of treating every individual “without regard” for race, creed, or national origin and its later career when, under the rubric of “affirmative action,” it has come to stand for the opposite principle — taking race into account at every opportunity and distributing burdens and benefits based on it.
With regard to No. 5, he similarly does not reconcile safeguarding the equality of “each individual” with championing “the rights of racial, religious, and ethnic minorities,” presumably as groups, since that is the basis on which the claimed rights of affirmative action and racial preference are based.
Those failures to address irreconcilable principles of racial equality stand out because liberalism’s abandonment of the traditional principle of colorblind equality has played such a prominent role in producing its current philosophical incoherence and causing “the word ‘liberal’ [to] become a pejorative.”