No Native Americans among our 860 Federal Judges



Faith-based thinking about racial matters in U.S. society is quite common these days, including much data-less nonsense about this being a “post-racial society” and about “Obama’s election meaning racism is dead” or “minorities are now taking over,” and similar such sentiments. One recent MSNBC report on the recent Supreme Court hearings of Ms. Elena Kagan provides substantial data refuting such notions.

Were you aware that the National Native American Bar Association and the National Congress of American Indians, major Native American organizations, had sent letters to President Obama asking that he consider distinguished and accomplished Native Americans for a position on the Supreme Court, since no Native American has ever served there:

While other ethnic groups and women have made strides in reaching the federal bench, there has never been an American Indian appointed to the Supreme Court or the federal appellate bench, and out of the nation’s more than 860 federal judgeships, not one is currently occupied by an American Indian.

Not a single Native American is serving. We are indeed an exclusionary, highly segregated society still. In our entire history, according to the Federal Judicial Center, only two Native Americans have ever served as federal judges.

The implications of this are obvious:

“There’s just a lack of representation and that lack of representation leads to no voice, no voice whatsoever in the decisions that are being made about Natives,” said Richard Guest, a senior staff attorney with the Native American Rights Fund, one of the Indian groups that have been meeting with White House officials in recent months, urging them to consider an Indian for the Supreme Court vacancy and for other federal judgeships. Heather Dawn Thompson, the immediate past president of the National Native American Bar Association, calls it a “rather frustrating” situation. “For over two hundred years, the United States Supreme Court has sat in judgment over us, over our lands, over our treaties and over our families. Not one single day have we ever had a voice in those decisions,” Thompson’s group said in its letter to Obama.

I remember something in the old American set of ideals about “no taxation without representation,” and revolutionary anger over lack of representation more generally. Well, here is a complete lack of judicial representation.

Programming Alert: “Promised Land”

Fire up your DVR’s.  Tonight, PBS’s documentary series POV is airing “Promised Land” about the struggle over land in post-apartheid South Africa.  It should be quite interesting.  Here’s a brief synopsis:

Though apartheid ended in South Africa in 1994, economic injustices between blacks and whites remain unresolved. As revealed in Yoruba Richen’s incisive Promised Land, the most potentially explosive issue is land. The film follows two black communities as they struggle to reclaim land from white owners, some of whom who have lived there for generations. Amid rising tensions and wavering government policies, the land issue remains South Africa’s “ticking time bomb,” with far-reaching consequences for all sides. Promised Land captures multiple perspectives of citizens struggling to create just solutions.

Enjoy! And, of course, feel free to drop a comment here if you get a chance to see it.