Although the U.S. Supreme Court was “once a leader in the world” in the battle for racial equality, recent decisions by the high court undermine its role in solving a “real racial problem” in America, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg explained in an interview with The National Law Journal on Wednesday.
Pointing to recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, and racially biased stop-and-frisk policies, Ginsburg reflected on the perpetuation of racial segregation in America, comparing the challenges with those of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
“Once [gay] people began to say who they were, you found that it was your next-door neighbor or it could be your child, and we found people we admired,” she said. “That understanding still doesn’t exist with race; you still have separation of neighborhoods, where the races are not mixed. It’s the familiarity with people who are gay that still doesn’t exist for race and will remain that way for a long time as long as where we live remains divided.”
But instead of upholding the court’s history as a powerful stalwart against racial discrimination, the Roberts court’s recent decisions upholding affirmative action bans and restricting voting rights have not “helped” the country advance, Ginsburg explained.
“What’s amazing is how things have changed,” Ginsburg said, recalling a landmark 1971 decision in Griggs v. Duke Power Co., in which the Supreme Court unanimously embraced its legal powers to outlaw arbitrary employment discrimination against minorities. “It was a very influential decision and it was picked up in England. That’s where the court was heading in the ’70s.”