Janice Rogers Brown’s Equal Justice, by Craig DeLuz

One of the most contentious of President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees was California Supreme Court Associate Justice Janice Rogers Brown.  Highly rated by the American Bar Association, Justice Brown is praised by her peers on the California Supreme Court, liberal and conservative alike.  No one disputes her qualifications, but racial and ideological controversy surrounds her.

Nominated to the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the recent Senate deal on nominations opened the door to the full Senate vote that confirmed her in June.

On May 10, 2005, as the Senate fight on judges was heating up, the San Francisco Chronicle reported on a press conference held by so-called civil rights groups.  According to the Chronicle, Brown was accused of being “hostile to anti-discrimination law.”  President Bush was charged with “exploiting racial divisions in promoting her nomination.”  Eva Paterson, president of the Equal Justice Society, said, “They’re hoping that people will feel uncomfortable opposing an African-American woman whose father was a sharecropper.  It is not racist to oppose her.”

Paul Turner of the Greenlining Institute, a “multiethnic” public policy group, added, “She is hostile to equal opportunity and diversity policies, and her opinions show a radical right-wing agenda.”

Judge Brown’s nomination was a lightning rod for liberals because she’s black and doesn’t subscribe to the typical liberal thinking expected of them.  According to liberals, blacks can’t be successful without the government’s help, so the government must take care of us.  Blacks can’t excel in school, so standards must be lowered.  Blacks are victims of a racist system, so we shouldn’t be held responsible for our actions.

As a successful black woman with humble beginnings who possesses a conservative world view, Janice Rogers Brown challenges those perceptions.  Liberals are justifiably worried that, by her example, blacks will break free of what I call psychological slavery.

Not all liberals, however, are worried.  In a May 8, 2005 commentary in the Sacramento Bee, liberal associate editor Ginger Rutland wrote:

“I find myself rooting for Brown.  I hope she survives the storm and eventually becomes the first black woman on the nation’s highest court… I want her there because I believe she worries about the things that most worry me about our justice system: bigotry, unequal treatment and laws and police practices that discriminate against people who are black and brown and weak and poor.”

While it’s good to know Rutland supports Judge Brown, she does so for the wrong
reasons.  More important than standing up for the “poor” and minorities is standing up for the rule of law.  Judge Brown believes the law should be applied equally, regardless of race or socio-economic background.  Rutland and the rest only seem interested in selective justice, not equal justice.

Incidentally, I understand why Rutland thinks the way she does.  She grew up in an era where race was the great divide.  As a member of the first generation born during the wave of civil rights legislation in the 1960s, I grew up under “Equal Justice Under the Law.”  This has afforded me opportunities previously denied my parents and even some of my older brothers and sisters.  For those only ten years older than I am, race was often all that mattered.

But I’ve learned from my experience as a parent and educator that most people will rise to expectation levels set for them.

Liberals believe in lowering the bar for minorities.  They act as if minorities are incapable of succeeding on a level playing field.   In contrast, conservatives believe that, given that level playing field, all Americans can compete and succeed if they choose.

Does race still matter today?  I most emphatically believe it does, more than most conservatives are willing to admit.  But it doesn’t matter as much as most liberals would have us believe.  Contrary to Rutland’s assertions, there is no rich white man waiting around every corner to oppress me.  While blacks suffer injustice disproportionately, not every injustice is based on race.

The issues we must deal with today – the breakdown of the family, violence in our neighborhoods and lack of parental involvement in our children’s education -disproportionately affect blacks, but we must address these ourselves.  Only after our houses are in order can we confront white America.

Too many blacks don’t want to hear that message.  They’re content to believe rich conservative white men are the source of all our ills and that black conservatives like Judge Brown and myself are nothing more than “Aunt Jemimas” and “Uncle Toms.”  I can’t speak for Justice Brown, but this Uncle Tom has left the plantation.

Judge Janice Rogers Brown and I dare to think for ourselves, and so should others.


Craig DeLuz is a member of the national advisory council of the black leadership network Project 21.  Comments may be sent to [email protected].

Published by The National Center for Public Policy Research. Reprints permitted provided source is credited. New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21.

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