- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 9, 2003

Has our contemporary civil rights agenda failed to recognize the rise of neoconservative ideology and individualism within the African American community? Yes, many would say. For example, recently, prominent African American leaders were incensed by President Bush’s nomination of iconoclastic California Supreme Court Associate Justice Janice Rogers Brown of California, for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia, citing several apparent reasons why she is disqualified for service, namely her judicial philosophy and her views on affirmative action.

“Bush has not fooled us,” states Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton representing the District of Columbia. “She is cut from the same cloth as Clarence Thomas.” California Rep. Diane Watson adds, “This Bush nominee has such an atrocious civil rights record she makes Clarence Thomas look like Thurgood Marshall.” The Black Commentator argues that “Brown’s nomination is opposed by the universe of civil rights.”

It is acceptable and even encouraged that these various organizations civilly oppose Justice Brown’s nomination based on their opposition to her judicial philosophy and apparent political ideology. However, those who oppose Justice Brown, certainly also agree that she has an individual right to believe her views, and that her views are legitimately within the California state laws and the United States Constitution? Because Justice Brown is a conservative theorist, no reasonable persons would imply that her ideology makes her any less an “African American” than her African American dissenters?

African American Thomas Sowell, a well-respected economist, believes that Justice Brown is opposed by her detractors “Because Justice Brown is black and conservative; she is being denounced as another Clarence Thomas.” He continues, “Anyone who does read Justice Brown’s opinions will discover a wealth of knowledge, a command of logic and an unflinching honesty about the law and about some efforts of her colleagues to compromise legal principles.”

Despite the Congressional Black Caucus’ opposition to her nomination, California citizens overwhelmingly approved of Justice Brown’s job performance and in 1998, reelected her with 76 percent of their vote, the highest of all four justices on the ballot that year. Justice Brown was further affirmed by the American Bar Association’s powerful lobby, receiving a majority vote up and a minority vote down.

Justice Brown was called upon by the Californian chief justice, to write majority opinion more times than any other justice in 2001 and 2002, but has been unduly criticized for writing the majority opinion for Proposition 209. Voters overwhelminglysupported this proposition that dramatically changes affirmative action in California. Justice Brown’s majority opinion was supported by a unanimous Supreme Court.

Perhaps the strongest opposition to Justice Brown’s confirmation is not her legal opinions, but a larger issue over the balance of power in U.S. circuit courts. One writer states, “If all of Bush’s current nominees are confirmed, conservative judges will control 11 of the circuits. By 2004, all 13 could have Republican majorities.”

Justice Brown is an iconoclast because she challenges the cultural elite’s perceived license over “how” and “who” defines “difference” or “otherness.” For instance, Justice Brown’s ideology seems to threaten the intimidating power of black liberal hegemony (also called identity politics), as often referred to by Princeton professor Cornel West, who is not a conservative thinker or apologist. Nevertheless, this insinuates a new socio-political ideological paradigm shift, signaling and renewing intellectual permission to other African Americanswhoaresupporting neoconservative ideology within the African American community.

Justice Brown’s judicial philosophy is consistent with conservatism because she believes that constitutional law limits government intervention in personal affairs and is a protector of individualfreedomandaclear expression of a created order. Philosopher Frank Meyer helps to make this distinction when he writes, “Conservatism therefore, demands both the struggle to vindicate truth and good and the establishment of conditions in which the free will of individual persons can be effectively exercised.” Justice Brown is a conservative and not an activist jurist because she respects the “rule of law.” As M. Stanton Evans observes, “If there is no value system with which we may rebuke the pretensions of despots, what is to prevent the rule of force in the world? If there are no objective standards of right and wrong why object to tyranny?”

Contemporary civil rights activists and elected officials have narrowly defined their sociopolitical agenda. Clearly, we must acknowledge that different opinions and ideologies exist in the African American community which includes true conservatism. We therefore embrace an intellectual and ideological paradigm shift among African American thinkers and intellectuals. We encourage new civil debate and intellectual exchange among African American conservatives and liberals. Justice Janice Rogers Brown deserves an “up or down” vote in the Senate as others before her have had. This is her civil right as an individual African American who believes in judicial conservatism.

Rev. Joseph Norman Evans is senior pastor at the Mount Carmel Baptist Church.

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