In yet another slap of facts to the face of those quick to whine and complain, but too laid-back to do much research, the latest reports from the Federal Courts Register have articulated a rarely known but easily found bit of information: President Barack Obama, in two years, has nominated and gotten approved a higher percentage of non-White federal judges than any previous president of the United States.
That percentage would have been even higher had not partisan politics from Republican senators severely slowed the process of ratification of President Obama’s nominees.
As of September 2011, at least 96 Obama nominees to the federal court (federal district, circuit and Supreme) have been confirmed, including two women to the Supreme Court, 20 circuit court judges, and 74 district court judges. President Obama also elevated a current female justice to be chief judge of federal claims court, doubled the number of Asian Americans on the federal bench, nominated the first Native American to a federal judgeship, and appointed the first African American female member of the federal circuit court in Ohio (who had also been the first African American female federal bankruptcy judge). There are 55 nominees already submitted to the Senate awaiting ratification votes, and at least 94 more federal court vacancies. In all, there are more than 810 federal court justices appointed by sitting presidents, based on the confirmation of the U.S. Senate.
One senator can block a judicial nomination from getting a full Senate vote to confirm or deny the appointment, and Republican senators have utilized that authority vigorously with this president. Yet, a truly outstanding record has still been achieved thus far, and it should only multiply in the future.
Of those nominated and confirmed, according to the White House, 21 percent are African American, 11 percent are Hispanic, 7 percent are Asian American, and 47 percent are women.
Just by comparison (although this is from higher numbers based on eight years in office), the younger George Bush did 18 percent minority appointments of federal judges and 22 percent women (out of 322 appointments), and Mr. Clinton did 25 percent minority and 29 percent women (out of 372 appointments). Experts on the federal court have said that 3 out of 4 of Obama’s judicial appointments have been either women or ethnic minorities, and he is the first president in history not to have appointed a majority of White males to the federal bench. Thus far, more than 70 percent of Obama’s federal appointments to the bench have not been White men.
In other words, Obama seems committed to diversifying the federal courts. He has already nominated more ethnic minorities and women to the federal bench than the number there when he took office.
But what does this matter to the Black poor, hungry and both underemployed and unemployed?
The latest government statistics on overall American poverty and the crisis in Black poverty rates is very sobering. If we listen to the shrill squeals and chirps of Black ‘nabobs of negativity,’ the president and his administration are doing little, if anything, to relieve the suffering of the Black poor.
But they are dead wrong.
Besides a chronic shortage of currency, which people adjust to on the streets, and consistent healthcare discrepancies, the primary creator and perpetuator of Black poverty and the principle albatross around the necks of the Black middle class is called the criminal just-us system. With more than 1 million Black folk incarcerated, on parole or probation, with thousands more facing serious time behind bars daily, it is the lack of enough compassionate justices and legal interpreters of case law and punishment that is a stark problem for the Black poor.
Already, the Obama administration has advocated and signed legislation that severely reduced that 100-1 ratio on first offense sentencing for crack versus powder cocaine, a Rockefeller Law mainstay thought to be a major reason so many young Black males have so quickly gone to federal prison. The other part of that equation is to change the makeup of those who hear the cases and sentence those convicted.
The president does not have the authority to change the legal profession, nor to completely overhaul a system that has, in more ways than one, maintained slavery by another name in America. But what he does have authority over he is utilizing to do some major good.
Those who say they are speaking for the Black poor, here’s a bit of advice: Give them some real, accurate information on who is doing what to help them help themselves. For example, you could give seminars or workshops around the theme that for more than 140 years in the American nation–a time period for numerous legal lynchings and Black death penalties–this country had no women or African American members of the federal bench.
No Black federal judges, imagine. Even though the color of one’s skin nor one’s ethnic experiences are guarantees of fairer treatment or more compassionate justice (is Clarence Thomas enough of an example?), it is certainly a safer bet than all-White judges and juries in far too many situations. The court as a hostile environment for Black folk–poor, mainstream or well-heeled–is a much documented fact of the “Black Experience” in America.
So, please, stop masquerading as bell ringers in the night for the poor; you clearly are not.
Instead, if you want to do some good for them, then use the light of day to provide some hope and proper evidence of progress for them. Basically, just stop lying, and that’ll help a lot, too.
Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). It is the step-parent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.
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