It’s time to tear down the Supreme Court because it is a threat to Black life
OPINION: The highest court in the land is an anti-democratic force in America, a white Christian nationalist operation that needs a replacement before it kills us.
Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
The U.S. Supreme Court is an illegitimate institution that is a threat to the lives of Black people and other marginalized groups in particular, and those who are not white Christian supremacist men. Now is the time to shut the whole thing down now and start from scratch before more people die.
The recent decisions coming from this court are all the proof you need that we are in danger. Consider the overturning of Roe v. Wade and the end of safe, accessible abortions and a woman’s right to control her own body in about half of the states. This decision will have a disproportionate impact on Black women, who are twice as likely to lose a baby to premature death, and three to four times more likely to die from complications during pregnancy. One study predicts that an abortion ban will increase Black maternal deaths by a third, the highest increase of any group. Black women, who have the highest rate of abortions, followed by Latinx women, already face systemic racism, poverty and a lack of health care access.
Consider the court’s recent ruling that was a direct jab at the separation of church and state and allows taxpayers’ dollars to pay for religious schools. White Christian nationalists have used religion to maintain racial segregation and developed the concept of school vouchers following the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education desegregation decision to fund whites-only segregation academies.
This court struck down New York’s 108-year-old gun control law and proclaimed that people have a constitutional right to walk around carrying concealed weapons in public. The ruling will impact states that account for a quarter of the U.S. population, undermining larger cities’ efforts to curb an epidemic of gun violence and address the threats to Black lives.
A conservative majority just weakened the enforcement of Miranda rights and the ability of people to sue the police for failing to warn them of their “right to remain silent” during an arrest. And the Supreme Court said that innocence was not enough to overturn the conviction of a Black man who was convicted of murder and rape and is sitting on death row. If innocence is not enough for this court, then what is? And what is justice, for that matter?
This court is a Jim Crow, Christian-fascist monarchy that is fulfilling the hopes and dreams of the modern conservative movement and the promise of white minority rule. Republicans are using the courts to promote an agenda of highly racist, unpopular, undemocratic and obscenely cruel policies. With each passing day, people wonder if they will awaken to find that the U.S. Supreme Court has taken away another basic human right. What’s next? Banning contraceptives? Same-sex marriage? Interracial marriage? Stealing elections? Will Black people find themselves picking cotton for free tomorrow?
In his concurring opinion in the Dobbs decision overturning abortion rights, Justice Clarence Thomas said the quiet part out loud and urged the court to reverse past decisions that granted privacy rights under the 14th Amendment.
What we have is a radical and extremist Supreme Court with warped priorities, little-to-no accountability other than impeachment and no ethics rules to rein in its members. The highest court in the land erected barricades to protect itself from protesters, yet will not protect schoolchildren from armed gunmen. This is a court that will investigate the leaking of a draft opinion banning abortion but will not investigate Ginni Thomas—the wife of Justice Thomas—much less force the justice to recuse himself. Ginni Thomas allegedly pressed Trump’s chief of staff and 29 Arizona officials to overturn the 2020 election. Ginni also reportedly has close ties to her husband’s former law clerks, including former Trump attorney John Eastman, who is at the center of the Jan. 6 hearings for his efforts to keep Trump in power.
Meanwhile, Justice Thomas—who has desecrated the legacy of Thurgood Marshall for over 30 years, and has brought shame to the Gullah-Geechee people who birthed him—was the only justice to vote against releasing White House documents to the House Jan. 6 committee that may implicate his wife.
Thomas has decried a lack of respect for institutions such as the Supreme Court and said the court shouldn’t be bullied into making particular decisions. But how can we respect an institution that is illegitimate, corrupt and pathological?
All judges have their own opinion, but they are supposed to be fair and seek justice. The conservative justices—several of whom were placed on the court through the breaking of norms, a sketchy confirmation process and while lying under oath—openly flaunt their Republican Party affiliation. Handmaid Justice Amy Coney Barrett argued last year that the Supreme Court is not a “bunch of partisan hacks” as she spoke at the McConnell Center at the University of Louisville, sitting next to Sen. Mitch McConnell, the man with the receipts for her Supreme Court seat.
The fact is the six-member majority of the Supreme Court is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Republican Party and the billionaire donors who paid for them. As Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) has noted, a dark-money, Koch Brothers-funded group called the Judicial Crisis Network (JCN) waged a $2.5 million ad campaign to derail the nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. JCN spends millions of dollars each year “to sway state judicial elections and attorneys general races, helping to uphold state laws backed by conservatives, nurture like-minded talent in the states, and advance pro-business, limited-government legal agendas aligned with its donors’ leanings.”
At the heart of this network is Federalist Society Co-Chairman Leonard Leo, who controls the vetting of conservative Supreme Court candidates and, and leads the $250 million effort from undisclosed donors to reshape the courts in the mold of the extreme right. Leo promotes voter fraud conspiracy theories and leads GOP voter suppression efforts.
Republican success in capturing the Supreme Court was decades in the making, and Democrats failed to take the crisis seriously. Biden put together a Supreme Court reform commission that amounted to nothing. Expert testimony before that commission revealed the U.S. Supreme Court is the oldest and most outdated judicial system in the world. The court is an outlier in the international community in terms of its outsized power, lifetime tenure and the ability to nullify laws and rights under a Constitution that is nearly impossible to amend.
With a court that is not designed to meet the demands of a modern society or protect the rights of Black people and other groups, exactly what are we doing? The highest court in the land is a corrupt body in need of change, but is reform enough? Can we really reform the court that gave us Dred Scott v. Sandford and Plessy v. Ferguson, and has terrorized Black people for most of its history? Is trimming the green mold on a rotting piece of meat the answer, or do you find an entirely different means of sustenance?
Since the Supreme Court never protected Black people, the goal should not be reform to bring us back to the way things were, but rather to take us where we should be. America never was a true democracy, and as civil rights lawyer Sherrilyn Ifill reminds us, “Remember that we have never seen the America we’ve been fighting for. So no need to be nostalgic. Right on the other side of this unraveling is opportunity.”
And while Black people should be proud of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black woman selected for the court, there is no pride in having a Black woman sit powerless on a court as it presides over the removal of Black people’s civil rights.
Corrupt, toxic and illegitimate, the Supreme Court is an anti-democratic force in America, a white Christian nationalist operation that needs a replacement before it kills us. Not all coups and insurrections take place with lynch mobs. Sometimes the legalese of a court opinion is enough.
David A. Love is a journalist and commentator who writes investigative stories and op-eds on a variety of issues, including politics, social justice, human rights, race, criminal justice and inequality. Love is also an instructor at the Rutgers School of Communication and Information, where he trains students in a social justice journalism lab. In addition to his journalism career, Love has worked as an advocate and leader in the nonprofit sector, served as a legislative aide, and as a law clerk to two federal judges. He holds a B.A. in East Asian Studies from Harvard University and a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. He also completed the Joint Programme in International Human Rights Law at the University of Oxford. His portfolio website is davidalove.com.
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