My Response to the Supreme Court's Decision Today to Uphold Trump's Travel Ban
Since the 1950's, the Supreme Court has held a special - and largely unearned - place in the hearts of liberals and progressives. We read about the Court rejecting loyalty oaths or upholding the right of assembly or separation of church and state or recognizing an interracial couple's or same sex couple's right to marry. But we ignore or forget that often these decisions come years (sometimes many years) after lawsuits were first filed, and years after social movements have already effected change that is merely being ratified by the legal system.
More often, the Supreme Court has been a reactionary force: a panel of justices chosen from those elite lawyers and judges who have demonstrated a lifetime of loyalty to a legal system that is inherently pro-corporation and white supremacist. They are appointed for life with no accountability to the people. In its history the Supreme Court has upheld slavery, defended the rights of white supremacists, protected corporations from liability for killing consumers, protected perpetrators of crimes against humanity who "retire" on US soil, and permitted leaders of the peoples' movements to rot in jail.
Those of us in the legal profession who use the tools the system gives us to fight injustice and oppression do so knowing that we do battle on the terrain chosen by the oppressor, relying, as Audre Lourde put it, on the master's tools. We do not allow ourselves the illusion that the courts are going to free the people. We fight these battles because we must, because even if it is a rearguard action, it is a necessary one.
But you - the activists in the streets, the organizers, the leaders - you need to understand and integrate this understanding in everything you say and do: the legal system of the United States exists to protect the ruling class. It is not your friend and it is certainly not your liberator. Your power comes from the people and nowhere else.