SOTOMAYOr, Ginsburg & Kagan!
The U.S. Supreme Court this week in a 5-3 decision issued a major ruling siding with the unethical practices of law enforcement. Read Justice Sotomayor's Dissent here:
This latest ruling, which was starkly split along gender lines—Justices Sonia Sotomayor , Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Elena Kagan were in the minority—adds another layer of legitimacy to bolster police who attempt to obtain evidence via unconstitutional searches and seizures.
SOTOMAYOR'S DISSENT: Supreme Court’s Male Justices Violate Fourth Amendment Over Sonia Sotomayor’s (below) Devastating Dissent!
Published in truthdig June 23, 2016 by Sonali Kolhatkar.
The U.S. Supreme Court this week in a 5-3 decision issued a major ruling siding with the unethical practices of law enforcement. The court, which (like other branches of government) has historically been dominated by elite white men, built on earlier rulings dating to the 1960s that have supported some police officers’ propensity to target people for the color of their skin, among other characteristics. This latest ruling, which was starkly split along gender lines—Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Elena Kagan were in the minority—adds another layer of legitimacy to bolster police who attempt to obtain evidence via unconstitutional searches and seizures. In the particular case at stake was a Utah man named Edward Strieff, who was found to be in possession of methamphetamines after police arrested and searched him on the pretext of a minor traffic violation. The court ruled that the evidence obtained was admissible even though the police search was not based on reasonable suspicion of the crime. While the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is meant to protect Americans from such “unreasonable searches and seizures,” the nation’s highest court has undermined that right through this latest ruling. Many American cities with large black and brown populations, such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, routinely stop people of color in numbers disproportionate to their populations. The Economist referred to the Supreme Court ruling as “a green light for police.” Justice Sotomayor, the court’s first and only woman of color, in one of her most eloquent writings penned the dissenting opinion, citing the works of historic and contemporary black writers on race and racism including W.E.B. Dubois, James Baldwin, Michelle Alexander and Ta-Nehisi Coates. She railed against a ruling that says “your body is subject to invasion while courts excuse the violation of your rights” and questioned the very fabric of American democracy weakened by a decision that “implies that you are not a citizen of a democracy but the subject of a carceral state, just waiting to be cataloged.” She ended by referencing the dying words of Eric Garner, the black New Yorker whose videotaped death by choking at the hands of New York Police Department (NYPD) officers sparked angry demonstrations nationwide: “We must not pretend that the countless people who are routinely targeted by police are ‘isolated.’ They are the canaries in the coal mine whose deaths, civil and literal, warn us that no one can breathe in this atmosphere.” For every person of color who has been treated with suspicion by authorities because of their race, Sotomayor’s words, given that they emanated from among the highest ranks of government, feel like a salve on a raw and open wound. In New York, the national epicenter of racial profiling, hundreds of thousands of black and brown residents every year have been routinely subjected to searches, the vast majority of which did not even lead to arrests. Finally, frustrated by this controversial “stop and frisk” program, New Yorkers elected Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose campaign platform was based in part on ending the program. Under de Blasio, the number of searches have dramatically dropped. But racial profiling remains a huge problem all over the country, and not just in large urban metropolises. Dozens of states around the country have laws on the books that enable the police practice. For example, The New York Times last October investigated race-based police stops in the mixed-race North Carolina city of Greensboro and “uncovered wide racial differences in measure after measure of police conduct.” The five men on the U.S. Supreme Court—John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy and the supposedly liberal Stephen Breyer—have now made it easier to legally defend such anti-Fourth Amendment laws and practices in court. In issuing the minority dissenting opinion, Sotomayor proved her once-controversial comments to be true: “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”
Donald Trump, the opposite of a “wise Latina,” also had his say on racial profiling this week. In the wake of the June 12 mass shooting in Orlando, Trump said in an interview on CBS, “Well, I think profiling is something that we’re going to have to start thinking about as a country,” in reference to Muslims. He added, “It’s not the worst thing to do,” and went on to cite Israel as a model for how the U.S. could implement racial profiling of Muslims. Incidentally, soldiers in the Middle Eastern nation that has earned pariah status for its immoral occupation and siege of Palestinian territories recently shot dead a 15-year-old Palestinian boy. Israeli authorities, who routinely defend the police profiling of Arabs, are now saying the teenager was “mistakenly” killed. Trump has repeatedly called for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. How he would enact and enforce such a ban defies imagination. But on the issue of racial profiling, the demagogic candidate is not too far off from what federal law enforcement agencies are already doing under the Democratic presidency of Barack Obama. The FBI has longsingled out the American Muslim community for surveillance. It has also aggressively tried to lure Muslims into agreeing to commit acts of terrorism in a manner that many suggest constitutes entrapment. In fact, the Orlando shooter Omar Mateen was interviewed twice by the FBI over suspicions, and the agency even reportedly tried totempt him into agreeing to some sort of illegal activity. And yet the agency was unable to stop his attack at the Pulse Orlando nightclub. In fact, if the government was really interested in reducing the worst type of crimes in our society—mass murders—and it wanted to employ racial profiling as a tool, it might do well to single out white men. A recent analysis of mass shootings in the U.S. found that the majority of such crimes were committed by white men. Journalist Shaun King and analyst Van Jones have both recently countered the unfair practice of racial profiling by contending there is a sound theoretical basis for profiling white men. Ultimately, racial profiling is an intellectually lazy and morally bankrupt approach to crime prevention that often yields few or incorrect results, violates the rights of a large number of innocent people and functions as a bludgeon in the hands of the powerful against the powerless. The strongest defenses of the flawed approach have emerged from the demographic that benefits the most from “otherizing” people of color. But the U.S. is a changing country, and thankfully it will not be long before the Sotomayors of the nation outnumber and outlive the dinosaurs defending violations of our constitutional rights.
Sonali Kolhatkar is the founder, host, and producer of KPFK Pacifica’s popular morning drive time program Uprising, based in Los Angeles, California. She is also the Co-Director of the Afghan Women’s Mission, a US-based non-profit solidarity organization that funds the social, political, and humanitarian projects of RAWA as well as a columnist of Truthdig.
Along with James Ingalls and David Barsamian, Sonali Kolhatkar co-authored “Bleeding Afghanistan: Washington, Warlords, and the Propaganda of Silence” (2006). She has also contributed to “September 11, 2001: Feminist Perspectives,” and “STOP THE NEXT WAR NOW! Effective Responses to Violence & Terrorism.”
In 2004, Kolhatkar was recognized for her work in media by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the Korean Immigrants Workers Advocates, and Sunset Hall (Los Angeles) . In 2004 she also received the Woman Award by the Cal State Northridge Women’s Studies Department.
Kalhatkar’s educational background is as interesting as it is diverse as she holds a Master of Science in Astrophysics from the University of Hawaii, and a Bachelor of Science in Physics and Bachelor of Arts in Astronomy from the University of Texas.