Monday, May 4, 2009

A Justice like Thurgood Marshall

Now that Justice David Souter has announced his retirement from the Supreme Court, I’ve been thinking about the retirement announcement 18-years ago, of Justice Thurgood Marshall. He was salty, and he took no prisoners that day. Me, the “Race Man” in attendance, I was a little put-off by his brusque, almost bitter comments about race.
“My dad told me way back that you can't use race,” Justice Marshall snapped when pressed as to whether or not his successor should be Black. “For example, there's no difference between a white snake and a black snake. They'll both bite. So I don't want to use race as an excuse.” Ouch.
And he was right. Look what we got when President George H.W. Bush scraped the barrel to find a confirmable Black candidate who was compatible with his conservative agenda.
So now, I’d like President Barack Obama to nominate a Black woman, who exemplifies some of Justice Marshall’s finer qualities.
He was a successful trial lawyer, arguing 32 cases himself, before the Supreme Court. His side prevailed in 29 of them! He fought on the side of the downtrodden and dispossessed. I applaud that.
He went to Howard University Law School, not Harvard University Law or the other federal “judicial monastery” Yale Law School!
Because of racism in his home state of Maryland, “The Free State’s” policy when young Thurgood came along, was to pay the tuition for qualified Black students to attend any law school in the world, so long as they did not go to the University of Maryland Law School. At Howard, young Marshall fell into the clutches of a dean who was a cum laude graduate, Harvard Law Review (the “Original Barack Obama”) trained and an Amherst valedictorian—Charles Hamilton Houston. So much for Jim Crow laws.
Current University of Maryland Law School professor and—like Justice Marshall—civil rights lawyer, Sherrilyn Ifill lists a number of other excellent qualities Justice Marshall possessed when he was named to the court in a commentary on CNN.
I still long to see a “real” Black person on The Court. This time, how about a woman who reflects Thurgood Marshall’s principles and ideals?

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