A supreme insult to minorities and women
July 26, 2005
When it comes to diversity in America, the United States has failed to pick representative judges for the Supreme Court.
Although President Bush has a good record in promoting diversity in the upper levels of his administration, he missed an opportunity to change the history of the Supreme Court when Justice Sandra Day O' Connor resigned.
Instead of nominating another woman or a person of color, Bush nominated John Roberts to serve on the court.
There have been 110 judges who have served on the U.S. Supreme Court in the history of this country. A total of 108 have been white.
And the same number have been male. Roberts is set to become the 109th.
African-Americans make up 12 percent of the population. Hispanic Americans make up approximately 13 percent of the population. And Asian-Americans are about 4 percent of the U.S. population. Just these three racial groups together comprise nearly a third of the country.
And women make up half the population.
Were there no women or persons of color who could have served on the court to address this historical problem?
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, R-Texas, says that she, too, was hoping for diversity in the president's pick, but that it was important to get "the very best person." Such a comment seems to imply that there is no lawyer or judge of color in the United States better than or equal to Roberts.
The NAACP criticized Bush's movement "away from diversity on the high court." Some Hispanic organizations and leaders also expressed disappointment.
As for leaders from both major political parties, the discussion of the lack of racial diversity was nearly nonexistent. The failure to speak out on the exclusionary nature of the Supreme Court is a telling omission.
All presidents should be held to a higher standard on the issue of diversity in Supreme Court nominations. The court has lacked diversity for far too long. As the branch of government that is meant to uphold the law for all Americans, it ought to represent us better.
Brian Gilmore is a lawyer and poet with two collections of poetry, including "Jungle Nights and Soda Fountain Rags: A Poem for Duke Ellington and the Duke Ellington Orchestra" (Karibu Books, 2000). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.