The announcement of Elena Kagan could not really be called a surprise, since the White House went out of its way to all but announce her as their pick over the last week. The Obama Administration dropped hints by the dozens to their favored reporters, who dutifully shared their information with the rest of us. I had come to accept it as a done deal, even though I had been a little perturbed at the way the D.C. pundits only mentioned three or four names from the president’s short list, as if the rest of the names on it, like Georgia’s own Leah Ward Sears, were invisible.
It wasn’t until I called a friend of mine, an African American lawyer here in Atlanta who had been a diehard Hillary supporter and then a reluctant Barack Obama supporter after he became the Democratic nominee, that I realized that others felt the same way. “First he puts a Hispanic woman on the court. Fine. He’s paying back the Hispanics for their support,” she said. “Then he puts a white woman on the court. Okay – he’s paying them back for coming over to his side after Hillary lost. I see that.
But why do I have to be last? Why do black women always have to be last? I don’t think he cares.”
She was audibly hot by the time she got to “I don’t think he cares” – hot enough that I knew better than to keep teasing her about Kagan’s appointment.
My friend is a former corporate bigwig who has been around the block long enough to know how politics works at its most basic level. Granted, as an individual, her personal support came late in the game, and she has always been more than a little skeptical of Obama, even after signing on with him in August. But the vast majority of African American women, professional or otherwise, have been some of the president’s staunchest supporters since the South Carolina primaries, helping him to win extra delegates in many primaries, and many states in the general election.
President Barack Obama, the nation’s first African-American president is unperturbed by Kagan’s blind-eye to racial and gender diversity at HLS, in spite of the fact that the young Obama protested this very same issue during his time of matriculation there.
What are we to make of these jaw-dropping statistics, not to mention the White House’s inexplicable defense of the indefensible? And there are so many more questions, many of which are heartbreaking for me, who walked the streets knocking doors, volunteered at Obama’s local campaign headquarters, and wrote numerous pieces in support of candidate Obama.
On Elena Kagan: Is the Supreme Court Not a Civil Rights Issue? Dr. Pamela D. Reed
So I asked my friend, who also grew up in the South, if she had considered the racial implications of seating another African American on the Supreme Court for a black president who has his eye on re-election in a deeply polarized nation, a country that is just starting to get used to him being in the White House. “I don’t care,” she said. “The only way he can get me back is to put a black woman on the Supreme Court and some black women on the federal bench. As far as I’m concerned, he just put his momma on the Supreme Court.”
She sounded genuinely hurt. Betrayed. Disgusted. I myself was flabbergasted, because I’d never thought of Kagan’s appointment in quite that way.
The Black Women’s Roundtable supports efforts to maintain a proper balance on the Supreme Court that protect the interests of all while simultaneously ensuring the Court is finally representative of all Americans in this society. Needless to say, we are disconcerted by the perceived lack of real consideration of any of the extremely qualified African American women as potential nominees.
As we have throughout history, African American women played a significant role in the 2008 election because we were especially aware of the impact this presidency would have for generations to come. As the late Dr. Dorothy I. Height, founding board member of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and co-convener of BWR, stated in our previous meeting with the Administration, we believe it is time for African American women to be represented in all sectors of government – including the Supreme Court of the United States, which in its 221 year history has not had a Black woman nominated to serve on our highest court in the land.
Black Women’s Roundtable Speaks Out On Obama’s Court Pick The Black Women’s Roundtable