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Columbia Journal of Race and Law





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In the current moment in the legal struggle for racial justice in the United States, the Nation appears at risk of repeating its history. The country stands at a time of some hope but more cause for pessimism. The current United States Supreme Court has exhibited hostility towards key legal priorities of the racial justice movement, and all indications point to this trend continuing or getting even worse. Leading commentators on race issues have suggested that the United States is headed back to the post Reconstruction era, sometimes referred to as “Redemption” in reference to southern states’ reassertion of white supremacy in their state governments, along with obliterating civil rights gains, after 1876. In that period the Court undid much of the legal work of advocates of racial equality during Reconstruction. Public intellectual and New York Times opinion columnist Jamelle Bouie has written, for example: “if the civil rights movement was Second Reconstruction, then—if we need a name for today’s push against its key measures—you could do worse than the Second Redemption.” The Nation’s justice correspondent Elie Mystal argued: “We have literally been here before, when the Supreme Court remained inert as the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments were violated with impunity.” According to Mystal, “the conservatives on this [C]ourt have now aligned themselves with the very worst courts that have propped up white supremacy throughout American history.” And The Atlantic staff writer Adam Serwer, after pointing out a number of analogies between the opinions of post-Reconstruction courts and the Roberts Court, forecast: “Not since the end of Reconstruction has the U.S. government been so firmly committed to a single, coherent program uniting a politics of ethnonationalism with unfettered corporate power. As with Redemption, as the end of Reconstruction is known, the consequences could last for generations.”



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