WASHINGTON — In Newton County, Georgia, 35 miles southeast of Atlanta, we have a classic, pathetic example of what happens when the president of the United States goes about railing against ''quotas,'' ''unfair preferences'' and ''reverse discrimination.''
The result is that no minority person can earn anything without some white person saying that, under his rules, it belongs to him.
It means that once-peaceful communities become poisoned by paranoid notions that the empowered majority is being rooked by those who in truth have little power.
In Newton County High School, where 70 percent of the 2,000 students are white, a black boy named Johnathan Henderson compiled a grade-point average of 96.96 out of a possible 100. Most school officials figured he was a shoo-in to be named valedictorian.
Ah -- but there was a white transfer student named Thomas Allgood III who, along with his parents and friends, figured he should be named valedictorian. After all, his GPA was set at 74/100ths of a point above Johnathan's.
A Solomon-like school board, trying to avoid the racial hTC polarization that now falls so meanly out of cries of race discrimination, figured it would avoid conflict by naming both students as valedictorian.
Then a Newton High secretary revealed that Thomas' 97.7 grade-point average might not be kosher -- that it contained an element of ''reverse'' race-norming. The boy had two years of non-numerical ''pass/fail'' grades at a private school. The secretary said that a former Newton High principal had ordered her to give numerical grades to Thomas so he could win academic honors. So ''pass/fail'' arbitrarily was turned into perfect or near-perfect grades.
Noting that this was how the white guy got a fraction of a point above the black guy, the school board decided that the black guy would be the valedictorian.
So Thomas and his lawyers went into U.S. District Court, arguing that the school board was taking what he deserved and giving it to the black guy. This raised racial tension in the school, with black students threatening to boycott tonight's graduation ceremonies unless Johnathan Henderson were the valedictorian.
A federal judge yesterday ruled that the two boys will share the honor. It tells us how deep the racial sickness in America has become when a federal judge has to decide who is the class valedictorian. But in these increasingly tough economic times, when mean-spirited ''leadership'' is gushing from the White House, we can expect more verbal, legal and even physical warfare over SAT, LSAT, Labor Department and other tests that someone thinks prove that some black kid is getting a scholarship, a seat in law or medical school, that ''belongs'' to some white kid.
In this atmosphere, the ''old boy'' networks that have always written and scored the tests, those who have written and interpreted the recommendations for job promotions as supervisors and social cronies, will be in total control again. And all America will become the loser -- in big and ugly ways.
Carl T. Rowan is a syndicated columnist.