Though it would have been great if President Barack Obama had introduced a Black woman earlier this week as his U.S. Supreme Court justice nominee to replace the retiring John Paul Stevens, we really can’t argue with the president’s choice, U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan.
True, Kagan’s record on civil rights has been wafer-thin. But she did clerk for legendary Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.
Marshall was the lead counsel of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case, which was a major sea change in the Civil Rights Movement that lit the way for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other soldiers of the movement.
As a member of the high court, the activist justice wrote decisions that sounded the clarion call for fairness and justice for all Americans of all races and creeds. He was highly critical of his colleagues in the later stages of his distinguished tenure for favoring the powerful.
We hope Kagan’s time as clerk for this great Civil Rights lion will positively influence her future opinions on cases that come before the court that impact African Americans and other minorities who have seen the hard won civil rights gains wither on the vine of justice under the careless handling of the current Conservative-heavy Court.
Kagan’s expected ascension to the nation’s highest court will put the number of female justices at three. The other two are recently confirmed Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
While this may bode well for women and their issues, many African Americans have expressed apprehension, if not outright disappointment in the president for overlooking qualified African Americans in favor of Kagan.
We believe it is most important at this point that President Obama’s appointee be someone who will be open-minded—and yes empathetic to all Americans regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or economic status who felt ignored and disenfranchised by the previous administration or the Republican controlled Congress, whose eight year dominance over high court appointments created a sense of bias that favors corporations.
We implore our brothers and sisters, especially those active in the civil rights community, to give Kagan a chance to prove that she did indeed absorb some of the characteristics, philosophy and sensibilities of her mentor and will use them positively to render opinions that will sway the court to do the right thing for the benefit of the people and not special interests.
There should be another appointment during the Obama term. Another African American should increase the substance of the Court.