The New Black Panther Party Case, the Racial Double Standard, And the Rule of Law
The Nation reported yesterday that President Obama has dispatched the Department of Justice to investigate states that have enacted voter ID laws:
Career lawyers in the civil rights division of the Justice Department, who were frequently sidelined and overruled during the Bush Administration, are reasserting their authority and independence under Obama. They may be the only ones who can halt the GOP’s war on voting.
This is the same Department of Justice that abandoned the open-and-shut case against the New Black Panther Party for voter intimidation.
As whistleblower J. Christian Adams writes in his new book, Injustice: Exposing the Racial Agenda of the Obama Justice Department: “from the advent of the Obama administration in January 2009, it was clear resistance to the case went to the top of the Civil Rights Division and beyond.”
Two presidents, two administrations, two complaints. Who is right? Is the argument over voter rights enforcement merely a political battle that Americans are doomed to re-live with each change of government?
The debate goes deeper than partisanship. It is a clash between two different visions of civil rights and tolerance. One applies the same rules to all. The other imposes different moral and legal burdens according to race.
That double standard goes far beyond the Department of Justice.
For several days, the mainstream media has obsessed over whether the word “nigger” might have appeared on a rock in the Texas backcountry where Republican contender Rick Perry hunted:
The governor’s record on matters of race is attracting new scrutiny after The Washington Post’s account of a secluded West Texas hunting property that Perry and his father leased that has long been known by a name containing a racial epithet.
The name, “Niggerhead,” was painted in block letters across a large rock by the property’s entrance. Perry has described the word on the rock as “an offensive name that has no place in the modern world.” But it remains unclear when or whether he dealt with it while using the hunting camp.
- “Perry built complicated record on matters of race,” Amy Gardner,
Washington Post, October 3, 2011
Yet Barack Obama used the word “nigger” over a dozen times in his first autobiography--not always quoting other people--without causing any fuss from 1995 to the present:
Maybe we could afford to give the bad-assed nigger pose a rest. Save it for when we really needed it.
- Barack Obama, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance,
Three Rivers (1995), p. 82
Adams reveals how that cultural double standard, when applied by government, undermines the rule of law itself. He documents how the New Black Panther Party offered its public support to Obama at a moment when he was trailing Hillary Clinton and struggling to establish an authentic connection with black voters.
In that context, his administration’s decision not to pursue the case against the Panthers looks like political payback.
If the Department of Justice was “politicized” under George W. Bush, as critics alleged, at least it never embraced a double standard as a philosophy of law. And if Americans’ trust in government is at an all-time low, that is partly because there is seen to be one law for the political elite and the rich, and another law for everyone else.
In the administration of justice, a double standard anywhere corrodes the rule of law everywhere. That, more than race, is why the New Black Panther Party case matters.