The Rhetoric of Racism in the United States Supreme Court

71 Pages Posted: 30 Nov 2020 Last revised: 4 May 2021

See all articles by Kathryn Stanchi

Kathryn Stanchi

University of Nevada, Las Vegas, William S. Boyd School of Law

Date Written: October 6, 2020

Abstract

This Article is the first study that categorizes and analyzes all the references to the terms “racist,” “racism,” and “white supremacy” throughout Supreme Court history. It uses the data to tease out how the Court shaped the meaning of these terms and uncovers a series of patterns in the Court’s rhetorical usages. The most striking pattern uncovered is that, for the Supreme Court, racism
is either something that just happens without any acknowledged racist actor or
something that is perpetrated by a narrow subset of usual suspects, such as the
Ku Klux Klan or Southern racists. In the Supreme Court’s usage, the law and the
Court are largely innocent in perpetuating racism. The other striking pattern is
the significant modern uptick in the use of “racism” and “white supremacy” to
deny or minimize the harms of racism or engage in blame-shifting tactics. This
Article demonstrates how the Court’s definitions of “racism” and “white supremacy” undercut the law’s potential to achieve racial justice and have removed the
Court as a player in the fight against racism. To rectify this rhetorical (and doctrinal) problem, the Justices on the Court must name racism boldly and directly,
especially when the Court and its decisions bear responsibility for it.

Keywords: racism, critical race theory, rhetoric, language, racial justice

JEL Classification: K10, K19, K39, Y10

Suggested Citation

Stanchi, Kathryn, The Rhetoric of Racism in the United States Supreme Court (October 6, 2020). Boston College Law Review, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3706512

Kathryn Stanchi (Contact Author)

University of Nevada, Las Vegas, William S. Boyd School of Law ( email )

4505 South Maryland Parkway
Box 451003
Las Vegas, NV 89154
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
91
Abstract Views
399
rank
355,020
PlumX Metrics