Judge Brown and the new racism

Posted: Nov 03, 2003 12:00 AM

For 200 years the Senate carefully considered the professional track record of any judge nominated for the federal bench.

That changed three years ago when ranking Democrats decided to turn the Senate Judiciary Committee into their own personal meat grinder. Despite having nearly one hundred federal judgeships to fill, these Democrats resolved to torpedo most of President Bush's nominations. This partisan blood oath-as opposed to careful consideration of the Jurist's record-now decides who presides over our federal courts. At least one major implication is that the dearth of federal judges (one eight of all federal judgeships still remain to be filled) will undermine the administration of justice in this country.

The latest victim is Justice Janice Rogers Brown, the first black woman to sit on California's Supreme Court. Brown has been nominated for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, a position that is widely regarded as a stepping stone to the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice Brown's track record is impeccable.

Nonetheless, the Democrats have dug in their heels in opposition. Unable to criticize Justice Brown's professional conduct, the Democrats have taken to attacking her through a series of reductive and increasingly racist smears.

First the Senate Judiciary Committee criticized her "right-wing" statements in speeches, as though the roles of public speaker and judge are even remotely comparable.

Then the New York Times editors wrote that, ''she has declared war on the mainstream legal values that most Americans hold dear. And she has let ideology be her guide in deciding cases.'' But even a cursory review of her record makes clear that Justice Brown is firmly entrenched in the mainstream, as evidenced by the fact that she wrote more majority opinions than any other Justice on the California Supreme Court. Most insidious is the suggestion by certain democrats that Justice Brown is "not black enough." Senator Chuck Schumer of New York criticized Justice Brown for voting against ''minorities'' and ''low-income'' people. Schumer makes no mention of specific cases where Brown ruled against "minorities" and ''low-income'' people who actually deserved to win. He just oh so casually insinuates racism. In effect, Schumer is criticizing Brown for treating the constitution as colorblind (wasn't this one of the major goals of the civil rights movement?).

Now a handful of racist, Democrats in the Senate-and the black leaders they drag in tow-are joining in on the race baiting. "…She makes Clarence Thomas look like Thurgood Marshall," sneered Rep Diane Watson (D-CA). A joint press release by the NAACP and People for the American Way calls Justice Brown a "far right dream judge."

And Hilary Shelton, director of Washington's chapter of the NAACP, said President Bush nominated Justice Brown solely "…to get some kind of credit because she is an African-American woman…." The Black Commentator called Justice Brown a "Jim Crow era judge, in natural blackface." A cartoon posted on their web site, www.blackcommentator.com, was even more insidious. It depicted President Bush referring to Brown as "Clarence," while introducing her to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Secretary of State Colin Powell and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.

Just like that, all of Judge Brown's hard work-she rose up from a segregated Alabama community to achieve personal and professional success -- dissolve beneath the hurtful and reductive label of "Uncle Tom." This is no different than using the "N-word" to sum up an individual.

This is the approach the Democrats take every time a conservative minority is nominated for a position of prominence. This is what I call, "new racism." It's about systematically preventing conservative blacks and Hispanics from achieving positions of prominence in this country. It's about summing up complex human beings by the color of their skin. And it sends the damaging message that because we share the same skin color, we all need to think, act and vote the same way.

American Blacks and Hispanics are complex human beings. They should be allowed the intellectual freedom to arrive at those views and values that are the best mesh with their individual personalities. Whites can vote for whomever they chose. But minorities are told that they must be liberals or they're traitors to their race. This is one more assault on intellectual freedom and diversity, conducted by patronizing Democrats who still feel they know what is best for blacks and Hispanics.

"I have only one agenda when I approach a case, and that is to try to get it right," Brown told the Senate Judiciary Committee at her confirmation hearing. It's a shame that at this late date, ranking Democrats on the Judiciary Committee are more interested in the hue of her skin.