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Tuesday, July 1, 2003 at 1:00am

In 25 years, we hope that Jim Crow won't be necessary. Next month, we feel that antitrust laws can be fully enforced. Every third Friday during the summer months, it will be OK to yell fire in a crowded movie theater.

These statements are no less absurd than Sandra Day O'Connor's declaration that "we expect that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary." From what I can tell, the upshot of O'Connor's ruling is that special treatment for blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans is constitutional, but giving special treatment to Italian Americans, Jews or Asians (to pick randomly three non-preferred groups) will remain legally unconstitutional and socially racist. But, in 25 years, presumably, the Constitution will revert to something more reminiscent of the actual text.

Let me put it another way. In 25 years, my daughter will be just about the right age to go to law school. If she applies 24 years from now, according to the Supreme Court, it will be OK for the University of Michigan to hold my daughter to higher academic standards than it applies to upper-class Hispanics, blacks and Native Americans (assuming that list doesn't grow), but in 26 years O'Connor "expects" that somehow the Constitution will be clear: no more racial discrimination.

Doesn't anybody see what a pernicious argument that is? At least when the Supreme Court normally permits the government to suspend conventional constitutional protections, it requires exigent circumstances

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