How Clarence Thomas and Alito are 'cynically' using fake 'racial justice' claims to push a far-right agenda: legal scholar

How Clarence Thomas and Alito are 'cynically' using fake 'racial justice' claims to push a far-right agenda: legal scholar
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas

Long before Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization reached the U.S. Supreme Court, it was obvious that if Roe v. Wade were ever overturned, two of the offenders would be Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Samuel Alito. And sure enough, Thomas and Alito were among the far-right social conservatives who voted to overturn Roe with the Dobbs decision — a decision that is certain to bring a great deal of misery to poor women who suffer unwanted or unplanned pregnancies, including low-income Black women.

To make matters worse, Thomas also wants to the High Court to “reconsider” the Supreme Court’s 1965 ruling in Griswold v. Connecticut — which, for married couples, made access to contraception a constitutional right. Thomas is so radical and extreme that he not only wants to deprive women of access to abortion if they have an unplanned pregnancy — he also wants to deprive them of contraception so that they are more likely to suffer an unplanned pregnancy.

Many abortion rights defenders have been warning that low-income women are going to be in a world of hurt thanks to Roe being overturned — and will be even worse off if the Supreme Court ever overturns Griswold as well. Nonetheless, Thomas and Alito have been masters of fake “racial justice” rhetoric. In an article published by Mother Jones on June 28, New York University law professor/journalist Melissa Murray describes some of the ways in which Thomas and Alito have disingenuously used such rhetoric to push a far-right agenda.

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The High Court’s decision in Dobbs was announced on Friday, June 24, which was only a day after the Court announced its decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen — striking down the “proper cause” part of the Sullivan Act of 1911, a gun control law in New York State. Under the Sullivan Act, someone applying for a permit to carry a concealed weapon had to show “proper cause.” But Thomas, Alito and other GOP-appointed justices ruled that the “proper cause” requirement was a violation of the 2nd Amendment.

“Abortion and gun rights are the twin pillars of the modern conservative legal movement,” Murray explains. “And while this Court, with its 6-3 conservative supermajority, has just overruled Roe and expanded gun rights, they surely recognize that broad swaths of the country object to their vision of the Constitution — which is why this pivot to race is so attractive…. The appeal to race also usefully complicates the traditional ideological alignments, fracturing the coalition of social justice groups, while uniting the conservative legal movement and some unexpected allies under the banner of racial uplift.”

Murray continues, “And perhaps most importantly, pivoting to race provides the Court with the veneer of racial justice that helps to insulate their most egregious decisions from the inevitable public blowback. After all, when progressives decry the dismantling of Roe and the expansion of the Second Amendment, conservatives need only parrot back these new racial talking points to insist that they are the ones who are centering the needs of minority communities.”

In her article, Murray cites quite a few examples of Thomas or Alito falsely claiming that abortion and gun control are harmful to African-Americans.

“The right’s embrace of racial justice may seem curious — particularly given the conservative assault on identity politics, anti-discrimination laws, and voting rights protections,” Murray observes. “But in some respects, this pivot is entirely predictable. It’s not the first time the conservative movement has repackaged some of its core agenda items in the wrappings of racial equity.”

The abortion rights movement isn’t something that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Planned Parenthood, the National Organization for Women (NOW), Emily’s List or the National Abortions Rights Action League (NARAL) have been trying to force on Black women. They have defended abortion as an option, not a requirement. Moreover, it is Republicans, not liberals and progressives, who have a long, ugly history of promoting the racist stereotype of Black women having more babies in order to collect more welfare.

Nonetheless, Thomas and Alito have been claiming that the Christian right’s anti-abortion movement is a social justice movement — a claim that Murray slams as “cynical.”

“The right’s newfound interest in race speaks to the left’s success in centering questions of racial justice in contemporary political discourse,” Murray notes. “When millions of protesters lined the streets to mourn George Floyd and challenge the status quo, they made clear that our political and legal discourses would have to grapple with questions of race and racialized violence. The right’s recent embrace of race — even as it decries identity politics and critical race theory — would be amusing if it weren’t so obviously cynical. The Court has cloaked its radically conservative legal agenda in a mantle of wokeness that conservatives would be quick to denounce — if it weren’t so useful for achieving their most deeply cherished goals.”

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