It finally happened.
Still, despite how that GIF above might come across, I can’t say I’m shocked. In fact, I’m not really shocked at all. Sure. I had moments where I voiced support for some of her statements. I even called her Notorious RBG once because I thought it was kinda catchy.
That said, none of what she said about Colin Kaepernick’s continued protest of the national anthem and the mistreatment of Black folx in this country gave me pause. Nothing she said particularly had me shook. Nothing she said was new either.
So her saying she “respects Colin’s right to protest” but can’t vibe with it? Expected. Her calling the protest itself “disrespectful”? Expected. Her calling his protest “dumb”? Basic…but expected.
Confused? You shouldn’t be. And here’s why:
James Baldwin and Martin Luther King Jr. already told us about her before.
They had the drop on her. The receipts even. They had people like her pegged for what they are and what they remain to be…fence huggers in favor of “convenient revolution”.
Hell, I’m pretty sure the more religious-leaning MLK would have no problem referring to Ruth as the “lukewarm water” that God was in favor of spitting the fuck out in Revelations.
To elaborate, James Baldwin called them “White Liberals”. MLK called them “The White Moderate”. And both of them took issue with their wishy-washy notions about justice, equity, and the fact that they believed that it was their God-given right to sign off on what they thought Black folx should or should not be doing as they fight for liberation.
Baldwin in particular ripped them a new one “Letter From A Region In My Mind”.
On top of pointing out that White Liberals weren’t immune from the “special snowflake syndrome” that all White people experience, he had no qualms with pointing out that they cling to wildly false “American” myths that have to do with “freedom”, “righteousness”, and “liberty” and use these false myths to instruct Black folx on how to “win” (rather than fight for) their freedom (ultimately in an attempt to deter Black folx from utilizing violence like their White forefathers did).
But…he didn’t stop there.
The most damning of Baldwin’s words came when he called White Liberals out by name. Referring to a time when he was invited to a dinner at Elijah Muhammad’s residence, Baldwin expounded upon what he referred to as the cowardice and [willful] “obtuseness” of White Liberals and the quintessential problem with them:
In a way, I owe the invitation to the incredible, abysmal, and really cowardly obtuseness of white liberals. Whether in private debate or in public, any attempt I made to explain how the Black Muslim movement came about, and how it has achieved such force, was met with a blankness that revealed the little connection that the liberals’ attitudes have with their perceptions or their lives, or even their knowledge—revealed, in fact, that they could deal with the Negro as a symbol or a victim but had no sense of him as a man.
For him, it was all fine and dandy for White Liberals as long as they could act like they
knew what was better for Black people. But the minute Black folx tried to assume the role as their [true] equals and reclaim their agency? That shit was a no-go.
MLK had equally scathing things to say about them.
In his famous “Letter From A Birmingham Jail”—aka the moment MLK stopped giving fucks (if he had any to begin with)—MLK came out swinging and referred to the White Moderate as “the negro’s greatest stumbling block in his stride to freedom”.
MLK peeped that they, more so than their conservative counterparts, were so married to the idea of “law and order” that they could not see that it was law and order that was creating the problems. That law and order maintain the structures that make racism structural and hard to break down.
And he was sure to point out that they were more dangerous than any [present day] conservative or KKK member:
I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.”
Like Baldwin, he knew them. People like Ruth. And he read them accordingly.
So, in that same vein, if I am to bring all of this back to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I’d have to say that MLK and Baldwin already dissected her pretty well.
Baldwin’s point about liberals opting to see Black folx as chiefly victims or abstract symbols rather than people rings true if we think about when we’ve heard Ginsburg refer to Black folx and the manner in which she has referred to them. Think about every time she has invoked Thurgood Marshall. She quite literally gives every other obnoxious White Liberal—who can’t seem to keep MLK’s name out of their mouth—a run for their money.
And if we consider the oft-mentioned MLK’s words on the White Moderate’s penchant for asking Black folx to gain freedom on their terms, their preference for “negative peace” and their age-old cop-out of agreeing with the idea of freedom as a goal but not the methods that it would require, Ruth gets indicted on this as well.
Ruth would much rather see Colin Kaepernick shut the fuck up and deal with inequality in America “silently” than see him protest it openly. Because by doing this, especially with as big a sport as Football, he makes the issue hard to avoid and even more impossible to ignore.
In short, it disrupts the “negative peace”—the status quo—that MLK mentioned and probably ruffles Ruth’s old, lily White feathers.
Of course, because our ancestors already graciously read Ruth for us, I could end my piece right here. But then again, that would be a cop-out, especially since I haven’t even told you why I personally believe that The Great White Fave, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was always destined to fail us.
You see…in addition to the tea that MLK and James Baldwin spilled on White Liberals and White Moderates like Ruth, I have some theories as well. And they are as follows:
1. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was buddies with former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
Earlier this year, I discovered—in passing—that Ruth had just so happened to be “close friends” with Scalia.
Mind you, this is the same Scalia who’s favorite pastimes included attempting to gut important Civil Rights legislature via pseudo-academic reasoning (probably as a way to dress up racism. It is, in fact, the liberal and elite way) and failing students as a professor based on the Blackness of their skin.
Dude was a bigot. A BIG bigot. And his bigotry was palpable because he was able to assume a position of power (Supreme Court Justice no less) that allowed him to exercise that bigotry on a national scale.
This, lovers of the Zoo, is exactly how systematic racism and oppression works. It’s an A+ example. Matter of fact, if I ever decide to look up systematic racism in a dictionary again, I would not be shocked if I saw Scalia’s ugly mug next to it.
So, as you can see, when someone says they considered Scalia a close friend (like in Ruth’s case), I’m gonna have a lot of questions and make a lot of assumptions. Did Ruth agree with his bigotry? If no, did she ever call him it out on it? Or would that have been too uncomfortable?
In fact, let’s ask a tougher question:
Why remain friends with him? At all? Especially if we are to assume that you do not agree with his bigotry?
Granted, I already know the answer to this, but just in case you don’t, I will point out that your other, other fave, Daniel Radcliffe, already answered it for you.
2. She’s a “Do Just Enough” Liberal Ally.
Still, even with her ties to Scalia, she’s still the goddamn Notorious RBG (formerly anyway). While at the ALCU, she co-founded the Women’s Rights Project. She taught at Columbia, became its first tenured female professor, and co-wrote a law school casebook on sex discrimination—the first of its kind at the time. She’s presently an esteemed Supreme Court Justice and apparent “pupil” of Thurgood Marshall.
She has been a vocal champion for women and reproductive rights. She has been a huge proponent of Roe vs Wade. She has been blunt about what she thinks a Trump presidency would do to the Court—and the country. She has even stated on multiple occasions that “America has a racial problem.”
Of course, all of these things, when spelled out, are the bare minimum. They are…just enough.
For all of Ruth’s talk about women’s rights and reproductive rights, I do not recall her parsing how these things might disproportionately affect women of color or trans folx (unless we’re talking about her unsavory population control comments).
The Orange One™ indeed has no business running for any political office (not that actual politicians fare any better, but I digress), but I’ve never heard her ponder out loud about what another Clinton presidency might do to or mean for people of color who have rightful beefs with that family (skeptical? Ask any Haitian or Haitian-American. Especially right now).
And as for Ruth stating the obvious about racial relations in America?
Good for her. She can clap for herself. In fact, lemme find the nearest bakery and hook up ‘ol RBG with some cookies since that’s what we’re about, right?
Honestly, I’m tryna search for what exactly made Ruth notorious. In fact, I’d rather give that type of reverence to Sonia Sotomayor after reading her sharp statement in favor of Black lives. I saw no such statement issued from Ruth, let alone in that blunt and straightforward a manner.
In fact, if we are to even be topical, let’s bring up #NoDAPL. Considering that this human rights issue has been making its round in this country’s court system for awhile now, where are her statements condemning these oil opportunists? Where are her statements in support for these Native revolutionaries? Are they not “peaceful” enough for her? Is theirs a peace that is not “negative enough” or does she just not care?
She has been MIA on all of these pressing human rights issues and yet…he has time to comment on Colin Kaepernick’s protest and not the multitude of wrongful deaths and executions (most recently Korryn Gaines, Philando Castile, and Terence Crutcher) that made it so he had to do something.
That takes some goddamn nerve.
3. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a White Woman.
Even though Ruth had some brief (and maybe even consistent) periods where she would say something awe-inspiring and progressive, she still, at the end of the day, is a White woman.
As a result, she is prone to leaning back onto White Feminist™ tendencies to get the job done. And while I have discussed White women and White Feminism™ at length, there is one thing I forgot to mention when it comes to the issue of supposedly progressive White women:
No matter how daring, informed, “intersectionally feminist”, or progressive they are…they could always opt out.
It’s gonna hurt for some of y’all to hear that, but it’s factual.
No matter how adamant a progressive White woman is about “leveling her privilege” and going toe-to-toe with White supremacy, if she ever got tired, or if she ever just decided that “it was too hard”, or if she ever wanted to be petty and decided that her oppressed compatriots weren’t “grateful enough” to her for her basic efforts, she could literally say “fuck it” and be welcomed back into the White supremacist fold with open arms.
Of course, she’d have to return to being second fiddle and she’d be saddled with the task of cutting out the holes in her husband’s KKK hood, but that would be a small price to pay for all of that glorious privilege.
And that’s the problem with White allies, really. Particularly the “liberal” and “moderate” kind.
There’s always this voice in your head (quadruply so if you are anything but straight, male, cis, and White) that tells you to watch your back when joining forces with them. There’s this instinct to keep them at arm’s length in case they ever decide to revert back to White supremacy.
And above all? You tend to never really be disappointed if and when they do end up reverting.
Such is the case with Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Notorious RBG no more.
Images From: Slate, NY Times, Raw Story, Giphy, Tumblr