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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Boyd: Law book or J. Crew catalog — is there any difference?

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If you want to know how some white Americans feel about Black Americans, specifically Black American women, say you’re going to nominate one to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS).

It didn’t take but two seconds for conservative pundits and lawmakers to dismiss this move as affirmative action gone wrong.

“No. 1, I want a nominee who knows a law book from a J. Crew catalog,” Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy said to Politico. “No. 2, I want a nominee who’s not going to try to rewrite the Constitution every other Thursday to try to advance a ‘woke agenda.’”

That’s not offensive at all.

The implication is a Black woman wouldn’t know the law, would wear an Angela Davis afro with an afro pick — the one with the clenched fist — in her hair, as well as hold her fist high in the air, and allow Black people to skirt the law to right past wrongs. I’ve found, if anything, Black people in high positions of power are harder on Black people because they fear the white gaze. They fear accusations of favoritism toward other Black people from their white colleagues and supervisors.

It’s not like Biden said he’s nominating me to be the Supreme Court justice to replace Justice Stephen Breyer. I’m just going to go out on a limb here and guess that Biden will nominate someone who actually knows law, has practiced law and has possibly been a judge before. You know, someone qualified to do the job.

But there couldn’t possibly be a qualified Black woman in this country.

I don’t remember conservatives having this same energy when former President Donald Trump vowed to nominate a woman to the Supreme Court. At a rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina, on Sept. 19, 2020, Trump said, “I will be putting forth a nominee next week. It will be a woman.” Amy Coney Barrett was sworn in on Oct. 26, 2020.

According to two YouGov polls, 55% of Republicans wanted Trump to nominate a woman to the Supreme Court in 2020; 13% want Biden to nominate a Black woman in 2022. In 2020, 78% of Democrats wanted Trump to nominate a woman; 72% want Biden to nominate a Black woman in 2022.

When Trump wanted to nominate a woman, that she was white was implied. However, we have to be specific when it comes to Black people or no one would consider a Black person — of either gender.

I know this because white men selected white men from 1789 to 1967 and no one complained. No one accused white male justices of bias toward other white men (even though this happens all the time, hence only white men nominated to be SCOTUS justices).

Obviously, I wasn’t around in 1789, nor was I around in 1967, but I don’t remember much in the way of calling for race neutrality in my history or government books. I don’t remember hearing these admonishments to choose the most qualified person, regardless of race. I don’t remember accusations of identity politics lobbed at Trump when he chose Barrett. That’s what “Sunday Night in America” host Trey Gowdy accused Biden of. Gowdy even suggested a Black woman who “can compete no matter the pool of applicants.” He said this judge “was elected out of all the candidates because she was the most qualified, not because she was a Black woman.” He added, “There’s a difference between picking someone who is supremely qualified and happens to Black and picking someone because she is Black.”

I find it interesting he used the adjective “supremely.” Who said this SCOTUS nominee won’t be a supremely qualified Black woman?

Sean Hannity, Gowdy’s colleague on Fox News, said on his radio show, “there’s never been a president that has made race and gender the defining factor.” Wrong and wrong. First, the correct word would be who after president, Hannity, and second, other presidents have, in fact, used race, gender and even religion as important criteria for their SCOTUS nominees.

I’ve already provided one example of Trump choosing Barrett. A Washington Post article from Oct. 15, 1980, quotes presidential candidate Ronald Reagan as saying, “It is time for a woman to sit among our highest jurists” during a press conference. Reagan nominated Sandra Day O’Connor. Reagan also wanted to nominate an Italian American, according to his White House counsel, Peter Wallison. He nominated Antonin Scalia. President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1955 said he wanted to nominate a “fine, prominent Catholic.” He did with William Brennan Jr. O’Connor, Scalia and Brennan became Supreme Court justices.

Kennedy, Gowdy, Hannity and others are just loud and wrong, and their rhetoric is laced with racism. The Black woman chosen will know the difference between a J. Crew catalog and a law book. I’m sure of it.

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