When asked in legal circles who is the premiere voice on constitutional law, criminal procedure, and federal jurisdiction, many attorneys will stop and think of one name— Dr. Erwin Chemerinsky
His unpacking of the document that binds our country’s political ethics with civil rights has been heralded by scholars, politicians and pundits alike. This is evident in his book, We the People: A Progressive Reading of the Constitution for the Twenty-First Century (Picador USA), where he contends that slavery, as an institution, has always been protected by the U.S. government. As a result, there continues to be a need to make revisions to the constitution and various acts that would reconcile some of the systemic racism that continues to pervade this country today.
These various acts and the Preamble are about the sovereignty of the people and people are what matters most to Chemerinsky. This is why the recent attack on the Civil Rights Act of 1866 is at the fore-front of his mind.
Chemerinsky has been outspoken about the civil rights case that has put Entertainment Studios owner, Byron Allen in recent headlines. It is about race, access and industry, and whether or not foul play is in the air preventing Allen and his collective of cable networks from further corporate success.
TheGrio spoke with the Berkeley Law dean to ask him to share his thoughts on the Supreme Court Case between Comcast, Charter Communications, and Allen, the role of a Department of Justice guided by Donald Trump and most of all, why should Black people care.
TheGrio: Can you tell us a little bit about who you are?
Erwin Chemerinsky: I am the Dean and the Jesse H. Choper Distinguished Professor of Law at Berkeley Law. I have worked at a lot of institutions, working in academia for over 40 years. I am also the author of 11 books on constitutional law and I’ve argued in the Supreme Court several times about many different types of issues.
Systemic racism does not usually allow for overt racism.
TheGrio: Why are you interested in this case between Comcast and Entertainment Studios?
Erwin Chemerinsky: I believe that this is a very important case. It the most important federal case before the Supreme Court right now. It will determine where or not the court will close the door or continue to protect the rights of Black people.
TheGrio: What does the complaint aim to prove?
Erwin Chemerinsky: The purpose of the complaint is to figure out what are the lines that the federal government will use in determining racial discrimination in contracts. It is also no coincidence that the Trump administration and The Chamber of Commerce are trying to make it much harder to prove that racial discrimination plays a factor in how people do their contracts and conduct their business.
TheGrio: How does one prove racial discrimination if the Supreme Court sides with Comcast, Charter and the DOJ?
Erwin Chemerinsky: It will be hard. The Civil Rights Act of 1866 says in Section 1981 “All persons have the same rights as whites.” It is just a fact that African-Americans have obstacles in contracting that Whites don’t have. The DOJ is wrong to push the need to have express racism when doing deals. Systemic racism does not usually allow for overt racism. Again, this is the most important law that was adopted just a few years after slavery ended to protect Black people. Nowadays, race is more broadly defined to include others who are discriminated against as well.
For more on the origin and impact of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, watch the video below: