Black News, Entertainment, Style and Culture - HuffPost Black Voices
iOS app Android app More
October 25, 2014

Amnesty: Ferguson Police Committed Human Rights Abuses

Ferguson
AP

Beyond 42: Jackie Robinson and the Quest for Racial Justice

Jackie Robinson 42
ASSOCIATED PRESS

A Racial Disparity Among Working Artists

Painting White
Paper Boat Creative via Getty Images

The DEA Once Turned A 14-Year-Old Into A Drug Kingpin. Welcome To The War On Drugs

Black Person Angry Eyes
Raido VAljamaa via Getty Images

Will Judge Jump Into Fight Over Georgia Voter Registration?

Abrams
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Entire School Holds Early Graduation For Teen With Cancer

Graduation
KLTV

Current And Former NFL Players Say 'No More' To Domestic Violence

Nfl
Patrick Coffee

Alarming Actions Of School Officials Allowed Academic Fraud

Carol Folt North Carolina
ASSOCIATED PRESS

5 Things About Slavery You Probably Didn't Learn In Social Studies

3418198
Jack Delano/Library Of Congress

Report: Chicago Police Are Getting Away With Brutality

Chicago Police
Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images

New Orleans Biennial 'Prospect 3' Leads The Way In Diversity

Here

NYC Doctor Tests Positive For Ebola

New York City
Steve McBeath via Getty Images

Young People Show World There's More To Haiti Than Poverty

Women Artist Haiti
Lucie Cincinatis/Instagram

Industry Group Tries To Rally Black Caucus Against Solar Incentives

Sun
Ross M Horowitz via Getty Images

Trump Rips 'Reckless' NYC Ebola Doc, Demands Obama Resign

Donald Trump
Paul Morigi via Getty Images

Ferguson Protester: Things Will 'Never Be The Same' If Darren Wilson Isn't Indicted

Ferguson
Scott Olson via Getty Images

Chris Paul: Becoming A Mentor Like The Ones Who Helped Me Succeed

Chris Paul
NBA Cares

Do Toni Morrison's Papers Belong At Princeton Or Howard?

Toni Morrison
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Americans Are Really Confused About Which African Countries Have Ebola

Africa
David Santiago Garcia via Getty Images

12 Of The Sketchiest Things The DEA Has Ever Done (That We Know Of)

Drug Enforcement Administration Seal
MANDEL NGAN via Getty Images

WATCH
Mo'ne Davis' Chevy Ad Will Leave You With A Lump In Your Throat

Money Davis
YouTube

No Plea Deal In FAMU Hazing Death Trial

Drumline
rainaraina via Getty Images

30 Numbers That Prove Domestic Violence Is An American Epidemic

Black Woman Abuse
isitsharp via Getty Images

Darren Wilson's Lawyers Say They're Not Responsible For Leaks

Michael Brown Autopsy
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Boko Haram Suspected Of Kidnapping 25 More Girls In Nigeria

Boko Haram
PIUS UTOMI EKPEI via Getty Images

Bloomberg Businessweek's Obama Cover Is 'Too Cool'

Obama Cover
Bloomberg Businessweek

Get Set For The Solar Eclipse

Partial Solar Eclipse
DETLEV VAN RAVENSWAAY via Getty Images

DOJ Condemns Leaks In Michael Brown Case

Michael Brown
AP

Follow HuffPost

    1. HuffPost
    2. Black Voices
    1. HuffPost
    2. Black Voices
    1. Most Popular on HuffPost
    2. Latest News
    3. Black Voices
    4. View all RSS feeds

Tommy Davidson Weighs In On Hannibal Buress' Bill Cosby Takedown

Tommy Davidson
Andrew Toth via Getty Images

'How To Get Away With Murder' Recap: What Would Annalise Keating Do?

Annalise Keating How To Get Away With Murder
Craig Sjodin via Getty Images

Adam Sandler Gets Animated About Shaq's Penis

Sandler
TBS

Why Jasmine Guy Used That Accent On 'A Different World'

Jasmine Guy Whitley Gilbert A Different World
NBCU Photo Bank

Amber Rose Tweets Sweet Message To Wiz Khalifa After Split

Amber Rose Wiz
C Flanigan via Getty Images

Dave Chappelle And Paul McCartney Are Killing Wyatt Cenac's Career

Wyatt
TBS

Halle Berry Wants You To Take Your Clothes Off

Scandale
Scandale

Comedian's Idea For New Redskins Logo: A Sunburnt White Person

Dan Snyder
Twitter

How To Look Like Gugu Mbatha-Raw's 'Elle' Cover

Gugu Mbatha Raw
Paola Kudacki for ELLE

Marching Band Covers Beyoncé's 'Single Ladies,' Deserves A Ring On It

Fsu Single Ladies
YouTube / Karrissa Wimberley

Kanye West Takes Kim Kardashian On Surprise Birthday Getaway

Kim Kanye
Chelsea Lauren via Getty Images

Zoe Saldana Wants This Word To Disappear

Zoe Saldana
Albert L. Ortega via Getty Images

Alfonso Ribeiro Injured Doing The Carlton Dance

Alfonso Ribeiro Fresh Prince
NBC via Getty Images

CaCee Cobb And Donald Faison Expecting Second Child

Cacee Cobb Donald Faison
Matt Sayles/Invision/AP

Revisit The Grit And Glamour Of '70s and '80s NYC

Angel

'Racism Insurance' Is The Full Coverage Policy A LOT Of People Need

Racism Insurance
YouTube / Dear White People

Exploring The Graffiti Hidden In New York's Abandoned Military Base

Tilden

Hannibal Buress Opens Up About Bill Cosby Rape Jokes

Hannibal Buress
Cindy Ord via Getty Images

13-Year-Old Kim K Answers All Your Questions

Kim K
Youtube

London Richards Is Your New R&B Obsession

London Richards
Jared Thomas

Diddy And Nas Set For Alicia Keys' Annual Black Ball

Diddy And Nas
Richard Bord via Getty Images

WATCH:
Baby Spinach Has Never Sounded More Hardcore

Ice Cube
ABC

'Saturday Night Live' Gets More Diverse

Leslie Jones Nbc
NBC

Black Scholars Coming Out Against Obama Nominee Elena Kagan

Comments (23)

I started the day thinking about Elena Kagan, Barack Obama's most recent nominee to the Supreme Court. I was wondering how in the world the president could appoint someone who has no experience on the bench, given the number of highly qualified judges he had to choose from. Then I was informed that this might be a good thing, since the Republicans don't have a judicial record to scrutinize. No problemo.

I then noticed that Kagan has past affiliations with the University of Chicago, Harvard Law School and Goldman Sachs, and that she was appointed to her position at Harvard by Lawrence Summers, the head of the President's Council of Economic Advisors. I was starting to get uncomfortable at that point, because Kagan's appointment would mean that the entire Supreme Court would be filled with Harvard and Yale grads, which effectively says that every other law school in the country need not apply (so much for having a meritocracy). I also saw a very disturbing pattern of cronyism, elitism and Wall Street loyalty that lets us know that perhaps the president of hope and change is not quite what we ordered, making backroom deals with his buddies, all for the sake of keeping American power-locked into tiny social circles.

I lost my support for the Kagan nomination when I noticed her terrible hiring record for minorities while serving as dean of the Harvard Law School. Out of 29 hires the school conducted during her tenure, 28 of them were white. Some argue that this was simply due to a weak hiring pool (as if no black professors want to apply for jobs at Harvard University) or minorities not accepting her offers (why would any black law professor ever accept a job at the leading law school in America?). If you presume that blacks are intellectually equivalent to whites and that the hiring process at Harvard is fair and unbiased, there would be a roughly .2 percent chance that you'd get 28 out of 29 white hires. Yes, that outcome has about a 1 in 500 chance of occurring in a fair hiring system. In other words, Harvard Law School has been found guilty of serious, pathological and chronic racism in its hiring of minority faculty. Kagan was the ring leader in this incubator for racial intolerance. I hope I don't sound too harsh.

I am not sure how bad Kagan's hiring record would have to be for us to call it for what it is: racism. Does the number have to be less than zero before we accept the fact that she and her hiring process at Harvard University are affected by the same social diseases that have plagued our country for the past 400 years? Think about it for a second: Are black people so accustomed to consistent disrespect that we can push ourselves to support the nomination of a person who doesn't feel that there is a black person on earth qualified to receive a tenured faculty position at Harvard Law School? Would she support a black nominee who refused to hire white women? I think not. You've heard some of this from me before, so I digress. One thing I will say, however, is the excuse that Kagan was somehow powerless to decide who to hire in the law school is a comment that would only be made by someone who doesn't understand that deans are almost always involved in the hiring process, and that they can find ways to get what they want. As Solicitor General, Kagan also failed to hire under-represented minorities, and in that case, she was clearly the boss. It's time to stop making excuses and stop racism when we see it.

It turns out that I wasn't the only black scholar who had a problem with Kagan's nomination to the court. Dr. Marc Lamont Hill wrote an interesting piece citing Kagan's inability to fill the large shoes left by retired justice John Paul Stevens. In the words of Dr. Hill, "The choice of Kagan is even more disappointing when examining the other viable option. Diane Wood, a highly respected judge who currently sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, has a long and successful record of defending the Constitution from the onslaught of right-wing jurists. Also, like Justice Stevens, Wood has also demonstrated the ability to persuade conservative judges to change their opinion on controversial cases."

Dr. Wilmer Leon of Howard University has a more balanced view, stating that the verdict is still out on Kagan:

"Over the years, presidents have nominated and the Senate confirmed individuals with an expectation of ideological allegiance or judicial temperament that would serve or advance particular interests. History has shown that once an individual swears the oath, dons the robe and takes their seat a different perspective can emerge."

There are some scholars who've been highly critical of Kagan, primarily noting that her record of not hiring minority applicants gives little reason for us to trust her commitment to fair hiring practices as a Supreme Court justice. Professor Guy Charles at Duke University has taken an especially strong stand, noting that it is unacceptable that her hiring record can be so disrespectful to minorities, and that she can still be nominated to the Supreme Court. According to Charles and his co-authors in an article on Salon.com: "When Kagan was dean of Harvard Law School, four out of every five hires to its faculty were white men. She did not hire a single African American, Latino, or Native American tenured or tenure-track academic law professor. She hired 25 men, all of whom were white, and seven women, six of whom were white and one Asian American. Just 3 percent of her hires were non-white -- a statistic that should raise eyebrows in the 21st century."

Professor Charles also mentions in the article that he and his colleagues received responses from the White House with data that didn't deny the basic numbers, but attempted to (unsuccessfully) portray Kagan in a different light. I got some of the same data from the White House in my in-box, and so did nearly everyone else who might speak on the issue. One of the things I can't stand about politicians is that rather than actually making things right, they would rather try to talk you into believing that the wrong thing is the right thing, or that one issue should be traded out for another. I simply can't do it, and it must be called what it is: When you hire 29 people from a highly diverse and well-qualified applicant pool, and none of them are black or brown, then you have either pursued a racist hiring agenda or you have perpetuated and refused to challenge an undeniably racist system of hiring. Either way, you have failed America and do not deserve a spot on the highest court in the nation. If Kagan doesn't have the intellectual capacity to convince her colleagues at Harvard that 29 out of 29 non-black or brown hires is an embarrassing outcome, then I doubt she can convince her fellow justices to support civil rights for people like me.

When it comes to the Supreme Court nomination of Elena Kagan, I simply cannot get on board.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and the author of the new book, 'Black American Money.' To have Dr. Boyce's commentary delivered to your e-mail, please click here.

Comments: (23)

Add a comment

Page 1 of 3

Most Commented Articles

Daily Drama

The Best Clips From TV's Hottest Shows


More Daily Drama >>

Get Closer to BV

  • slider Image
  • slider Image
  • slider Image

BLACK MUSIC NEWS
The latest news and updates on a multitude of music stars.
Check It Out!

BLACK MUSIC NOTES

       

MEN OF MCCAFÉ SEARCH
McDonald's continues its nationwide search to find five community-service minded black men during this year's CIAA tournament.


LOOKING FOR A FEW GOOD MEN

       
 

Find a Message Board

Discover conversations on everyone from Barack to Beyonce. There are nearly 50 forums, so click on a category below and find the right one for you.