WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) – President Barack Obama’s nominee to succeed Justice John Paul Stephens on the Supreme Court–Solicitor General Elena Kagan–is not a popular choice among the President’s Black supporters.
The NAACP gave the nominee a lukewarm endorsement, after a debate by the organization’s Board of Directors. Black women were openly disappointed. A group of 28 women signed a letter to Mr. Obama just one day before the Kagan nomination was announced, urging him to consider a Black, female nominee.
“After a careful and thorough review of Elena Kagan’s record, we have unanimously voted to endorse her nomination,” NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous said in a statement. “Elena Kagan has demonstrated a commitment to civil rights and equal justice under the law throughout her career. Kagan drew her inspiration from NAACP former counsel and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall who she considers a hero and mentor.”
The Black Women’s Roundtable complained in a statement May 10. “As women leaders, we greatly respect Solicitor General Kagan’s intellectual capabilities and highly accomplished record in the Administration and academia,” the group’s statement reads.
“The Black Women’s Roundtable supports efforts to maintain a proper balance on the Supreme Court that protects 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.”
Others complain about Solicitor General Kagan’s hiring record while she was Dean of the Law School at Harvard. Her “hiring record is a slap in the face for people of color, and that African Americans have no reason to support her.,” said Dr. Boyce Watkins of Syracuse University in a statement.
“How low does her total have to be before we call it for what it is,” said Dr. Watkins, Resident Scholar for AOL Black Voices. “If you hire 29 people, with 28 of them being White, that’s what they call systematic racism. There’s no other way to slice it, since the number can’t be any worse than zero. Harvard gets a large number of applications from qualified minorities every single year, but they have a history of always finding a reason that the Black or Brown person is not qualified.”
Harvard Law Professor Charles Ogletree, defended his former Dean. “I am writing to follow up on some of the concerns I am hearing about my colleague Elena Kagan’s civil rights record and whether she would be a fit candidate for the U.S. Supreme Court,” Prof. Ogletree wrote May 12 for The Root.com.
“While it is certainly up to the President to find the ideal person and to look at a number of factors in reaching a decision, I hear criticisms of Elena Kagan that are contrary to my knowledge of her during the last 25 years or so, and that do not adequately represent her record,” his statement said.
“Throughout my time here, I have watched Dean Kagan work to address the issue of faculty diversity. As dean, she was quite responsive in trying to push more diversity on the Harvard Law School faculty and student body. While some have criticized the fact that many White males were hired at the law school, Dean Kagan was very supportive of women and men of color,” he continued.
“Dean Kagan pushed the faculty to extend appointments to African American and Latina some of whom chose to remain at their respective institutions rather than accept a position at Harvard Law School. We also have current candidates under consideration for tenured appointments who were visiting scholars at Harvard Law School during Elena Kagan’s deanship,” said Prof. Ogletree.
Mr. Obama praised his nominee. “Elena is widely regarded as one of the nation’s foremost legal minds. She is an acclaimed legal scholar with a rich understanding of constitutional law,” Mr. Obama said before introducing her at the White House May 11. “She is a former White House aide with a lifelong commitment to public service and a firm grasp of the nexus and boundaries between our three branches of government. She is a trailblazing leader,” the President said.
“During her tenure at the White House during the Clinton administration, Ms. Kagan worked on issues such as strengthening hate crimes legislation and civil rights enforcement.” NAACP Pres. Jealous said.
“As a law school Dean, she worked to ensure a diverse student body and faculty. And as Solicitor General, Kagan has vigorously defended the nation’s equal opportunity and civil rights laws,” Mr. Jealous said.
“It is no accident that during her tenure as dean of the Harvard Law School, the percentage of African American students rose from 9.3 percent to 11.6 percent. The percentage of Hispanics in the entering class was 6.4 percent, while it had been 4.6 percent prior to her becoming dean,” Mr. Jealous continued.
“The number of African American students admitted, particularly Black men –given the national decline in African American males in colleges and universities–is impressive. Her record demonstrates a legal scholar who clearly values the precept of equal opportunity as a right that is protected by our constitution,” Mr. Jealous said.
But she would not be a good appointment to the Supreme Court, NNPA columnist George Curry warned April 22. “…from her time at Harvard (Ms. Kagan) is renowned for accommodating and incorporating conservative views, the kind of ‘post-ideological’ attribute Obama finds so attractive,” Mr. Curry wrote, quoting legal authority Glenn Greenwald.
“The most disturbing aspect of a possible Kagan appointment,” Mr. Curry added, “is her admiration of the Federalist Society, a network of conservative and libertarian students, law professors, attorneys and judges whose goal is to advance the conservative agenda by pushing America’s legal system to the right.”