Democrats, Where Is Our Thurgood Marshall?

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Democrats are in a pickle, to say the least. It is an election year, and there’s much debate, particularly surrounding red state Democrats. Will they, or won’t they? Will they appeal to their base? Or do they believe their base will be with them no matter what? Should they show some concession to those who are not in their “base”? After all, they represent all of their constituents not just the ones that voted for them. All of this debate centered around the judicial branch of government—the part of the government that should be politically neutral. But we know that these lifetime appointments have a substantial impact, especially for Black people. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall represented that impact.

After winning the monumental case of Brown vs The Board of Education, Justice Marshall had a record of voting in favor of women’s right and against the death penalty. Since then, things have progressed, regressed or have stayed the same. We’re still fighting school segregation, but at least integration doesn’t require the National Guard. And the courts have shifted decidedly to the Right with no clearer proof than the existence of Clarence Thomas – a man who has ended up being the anti-thesis of Marshall (ahem…Anita Hill…ahem). But that still hasn’t circumvented the social progress we’ve made outside of the rulings of the court (a Black president elected without the majority of the White vote) and by the court (marriage equality). Now, the Right is exercising a power grab, threatening individual and civil rights under the guise of state rights, placing the responsibility of civil rights on state legislators…not the constitution. Sounds familiar? (Ahem…the confederacy…ahem). This approach stands in direct conflict to history. History shows that the marginalized gained their rights by agitating those in power and by demanding moral reconciliation. America only excelled when it was morally challenged, not when it was left to chance and the changing times.

Organizations like The Heritage foundation would have you to think that they’re reconcilers of what is moral. Now, I’m not naïve. I know that the argument of morality will not hold up against the law in its current form and in this political climate. Nor do I think the Right (The Heritage Foundation) honestly wants the court to favor morality over the law. What they’re really concerned with is upholding a power structure. They think that their religion of morality is the constitution. The same religious morality that overlooks the immorality of discrimination. This is why it’s important for the Democratic base (Black folk) to switch gears and start thinking long-term. When Democrats do gain power, who do we want to see on the courts? What should be the priority? Who do we want them to appoint?

The “big tent” party is held together by a diverse group of people largely because of civil rights. (Something the free market has failed and continues to fail to address.) As Thurgood Marshall once mentioned, “You do what you think is right and let the law catch up.” As much as it gives Right-wing constitutionalist hives, America has excelled only when its moral center is challenged and upheld for people the constitution wasn’t meant to protect in its original interpretation. So, for 2020 and beyond, Democrats, where is our moral center? Where is our Thurgood Marshall?