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


New Rules, Same Game: Bare Witness for Troy Davis

The state of Georgia is going to kill an innocent man.  The state of Georgia has killed innocent men before.  Troy Davis has been sitting on death row since 1991 when he was convicted of murdering a police officer in Savannah.  There was no physical evidence linking him to the murder and the case against him relied on the testimony of nine witnesses. To date, seven of those witnesses have recanted their testimony; three claimed to have been intimidated by the police and two admit that they never even saw the crime.  Despite this fact, the Georgia Supreme Court, US Court of Appeals and the US Supreme Court have all failed to review new evidence and the recanted testimony that may prove Troy’s innocence.  Troy Davis is one of many blacks, in America, who have fallen victim to false witness, coerced testimony, rushed judgment and justice denied.  The time for us to bare witness for Troy is now.  The time to end this brand of southern justice, which threatens his life and that took the life of Sam Hose during the spring of 1899, is now.

On April 23, 1899 Sam Hose was lynched outside of Newnan, Georgia.  He was chained to a tree; his body was mutilated by a knife, rubbed down with oil, and set on fire.  Reports indicate that 2,000 Georgians watched in amazement.  What was left of Hose was fought over by the crowd.  People took pieces of burned flesh and bones as souvenirs.  About a week before, Hose killed his boss, Alfred Cranford a white Georgia planter, in self-defense.  Based on findings from the investigation, which occurred after Hose had been murdered, it was found he requested time-off and pay in advance to visit his ailing mother.  He was denied this and on the following day Cranford pointed a pistol at him and threatened his life.  Hose pitched an axe at Cranford and killed him.  He went on the run as reports circulated that he allegedly raped Cranford’s wife and severely beat his children.  Sam Hose killed in self-defense and was then lynched.  He was not allowed to address trumped charges or his day in court, nor was he spared cruel and unusual punishment.  That spring day, with 2,000 witnesses, Sam Hose had fallen victim to justice denied.

Today, there are new rules but the game Troy Davis is forced to play is essentially the same.  Troy has always maintained his innocence, no physical evidence ties him to the crime, a murder weapon was never found, seven of the nine witnesses that made the prosecution’s case have recanted and one of the other two have been implicated as the real perpetrator.  While he was granted his day in court, new evidence that has surfaced during his nineteen years on death row is not being heard.  This is a direct violation of his right to due process granted in the Constitution.  His fate currently lies in the hands of the US Supreme Court who will review his petition for this new evidence to finally be reviewed beginning on Wednesday, June 25 and who are expected to deliver an order on June 29.  If our nation’s highest court does not grant his petition, a date for Troy Davis’s execution will be set; a date that has been set for Troy four times already.  This is his last appeal to the US Supreme Court; this is my appeal to you to take action and bare witness for Troy Davis because we have all been witness to justice denied.

Sign Amnesty International’s and the NAACP’s Petition to grant Troy clemency.

Contact Larry Chisolm, Chatham County District Attorney, and urge him to reopen Troy’s case.

Attend/sponsor an event during the Week of Witness for Troy Davis, June 18-June 26.

Click Here to learn more about the truth and brutality of lynching in American History.