Black Robes, White Privilege: Racism and Sonia Sotomayor’s Nomination to the Supreme Court

 

Photo Credit: AP
Photo Credit: AP

Today begins the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Nominee Sonia Sotomayor.  I thought it relevant to re-post this blog that started “A Voice for Freedom” blog as I feel this analysis is the most prevalent issue facing her confirmation and one of our nation’s most pressing concerns.

 

In 1896 Justice Henry Billings Brown, after hearing Plessy v. Ferguson, authored the Court’s majority opinion effectively establishing the “separate but equal” doctrine.  This decision ushered in the era of Jim Crow, relegating people of color to second class citizenship while putting the burden of disadvantage squarely on their shoulders.  In his opinion, Brown found that, “…the underlying fallacy of the plaintiff’s argument to consist in the assumption that the enforced separation of the two races stamps the colored race with a badge of inferiority. If this be so, it is not by reason of anything found in the act, but solely because the colored race chooses to put that construction upon it.”  Henry Billings Brown’s identity as an affluent white man influenced his decision in Plessy v. Ferguson and because of it generations of Americans of color endured discrimination and injustice to an extent white Americans will never know.  Brown’s story is an example about how our highest court has institutionalized racism and white privilege.  Today, white conservatives are on the attack of President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor.  Her story and potential appointment to the land’s highest court threatens to further deconstruct that privilege and continue moving the court towards racial justice. Continue reading

“Your solutions for black America:” Lincoln and CNN Perpetuating a “Problem People”

The September that Abraham Lincoln set foot on the battlefield of Antietam to issue the Emancipation Proclamation he met in the White House with Bernard Kock to discuss colonizing a small island off the coast of Haiti with free blacks.  The day before he signed the Emancipation Proclamation into law, January 1, 1863, Lincoln signed a contract with Kock to send nearly 500 black Americans from Washington, D.C. to that island as part of his continued efforts to colonize parts of Latin America and Africa with black Americans.  Had the colonization scheme worked, history would have dubbed our sixteenth president as “The Great Colonizer.”  Lincoln’s solution for black America, then referred to as the “Negro Question,” was based on the premise that blacks were a troublesome people.  Today, CNN has reframed that question for its “Black in America 2” special; visitors to the program’s website can now click on the “Your solutions for black America” tab and upload their answers to a question premised on the idea that African Americans are a problem people. Continue reading

Black Robes, White Privilege: Racism and Sonia Sotomayor’s Nomination to the Supreme Court

In 1896 Justice Henry Billings Brown, after hearing Plessy v. Ferguson, authored the Court’s majority opinion effectively establishing the “separate but equal” doctrine.  This decision ushered in the era of Jim Crow, relegating people of color to second class citizenship while putting the burden of disadvantage squarely on their shoulders.  In his opinion, Brown found that, “…the underlying fallacy of the plaintiff’s argument to consist in the assumption that the enforced separation of the two races stamps the colored race with a badge of inferiority. If this be so, it is not by reason of anything found in the act, but solely because the colored race chooses to put that construction upon it.”  Henry Billings Brown’s identity as an affluent white man influenced his decision in Plessy v. Ferguson and because of it generations of Americans of color endured discrimination and injustice to an extent white Americans will never know.  Brown’s story is an example about how our highest court has institutionalized racism and white privilege.  Today, white conservatives are on the attack of President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor.  Her story and potential appointment to the land’s highest court threatens to further deconstruct that privilege and continue moving the court towards racial justice.  Continue reading