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November 27, 2014

Response to Ferguson: Systemic Problems Require Systemic Solutions

Ferguson ASSOCIATED PRESS

Decades of segregation and inequality in Ferguson, as well as most American metropolitan areas, have fostered a racial inequality exacerbated by the criminalization of not just poverty, but the criminalization of black and brown bodies. Too many whites are too willing to believe that a black body poses a threat.

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Comments (22)

I've mentioned repeatedly that Elena Kagan is a terrible choice for the Supreme Court. She has, through her record, repeatedly signaled to the world that she cares almost nothing about creating opportunities for black or brown people. But rather than simply hearing it from me, Kagan is hearing a similar message from black lawmakers, who are expressing their own concerns about her lack of support for true civil rights. Yes, Kagan worked for Thurgood Marshall, but the idea that she could work so closely with Marshall, yet not find a reason to hire one single tenured or tenure-track black faculty member during her time as dean of Harvard Law School shows just how committed she is to her blindness on issues related to racial equality.

Politicians are more diplomatic than I am, so I was glad to see that members of the Congressional Black Caucus decided to step in and take over where the Black Women's Roundtable and other African Americans left off. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the CBC and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), chairwoman of the CBC Judicial Nominations Taskforce, have proposed five questions for Kagan during her hearings. Lee and Holmes-Norton also issued the following statement:

"The Congressional Black Caucus believes that Elena Kagan possesses outstanding academic and professional credentials, and applauds President Obama for nominating a person who understands the real-world consequences of judicial decisions. However, the CBC has questions about the nominee's views on issues of particular importance to African Americans."

Their questions are as follows:

1. In a 1997 memorandum to President Clinton, you supported reducing the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine to 10:1. Do you support eliminating the sentencing disparity?

2. In a case pending before the Supreme Court in 1997, Piscataway Bd. of Education v. Taxman, in which a school district used its affirmative action policy to lay off a white teacher instead of a black teacher with the same seniority, the then-solicitor general wrote a memo that suggested filing a brief arguing that the teacher should not have been laid off in this particular case, and that if the court adopted this position, it would not have to address whether Title VII "always precludes non-remedial affirmative action." You wrote on that memo, "I think this is exactly the right position -- as a legal matter, as a policy matter, and as a political matter." Are race-based remedies ever permissible? If left to you alone, would you have applied the "mend it, don't end it" affirmative action policy to race-neutral remedies only?

3. Please explain why you apparently opposed the formation of a commission on race by President Clinton during his second term.

4. During your tenure as dean of Harvard Law School, the law school faculty grew by almost 50 percent, with the hiring of 43 full-time faculty, including 32 tenured or tenure track. Of those 32, please explain why only one minority, an Asian American, and only seven women were hired, and, of the 11 non-tenure-track faculty, why only three minorities -- two black and one Indian -- and only two women were hired.

5. While dean, you apparently offered faculty positions to several minority candidates who turned down the offers. How many were African American?

What the CBC doesn't mention in its questioning is that during her time as solicitor general of the United States, Kagan also failed to hire one single underrepresented minority. That's right, not one single black, native American or Hispanic person was considered to be qualified for the job. It's not hard to see why black unemployment is nearly double that of white Americans when people like Elena Kagan are doing all the hiring.

Bottom line: Kagan is wrong for the Supreme Court. It also doesn't hurt to mention that in the 211 years that the Supreme Court has been in existence, we've had, wait, how many black female justices? Oh yeah, that's right --- ZERO. When do we call racism for what it is and stop taking the leftovers? Perhaps it's time to stand up. If President Obama is not in a position to stand up to this injustice, perhaps we can help him out and do it for him.

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.

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