Judge not . . .

Obama Pointing

As a law student here in the District of Columbia, I am acutely aware of just how important the Justice System is to proper governance. We all expect that should we ever be haled into court, we will get a fair and impartial man or woman who will assess the case based on the relevant law and the arguments, and not some nascent prejudice. But that is not always the case. Judges are people. People in America can sometimes [read often] be racist. When the Judge is racist, that is indeed a scary thought.

This post was inspired by the recent happenings in the United States District Court for the District of Montana. Here, a Judge, Richard Cebull, forwarded a racist and extremely offensive email about President Obama. The Bullshit reads thusly:

“Normally I don’t send or forward a lot of these, but even by my standards, it was a bit touching. I want all of my friends to feel what I felt when I read this. Hope it touches your heart like it did mine.

“A little boy said to his mother, ‘Mommy, how come I’m black and you’re white?’ His mother replied, ‘Don’t even go there Barack! From what I can remember about that party, you’re lucky you don’t bark!'”

Despite this not even being that funny, this shit is racist as all Hell. What was even crazier was the Judge’s reaction after the media found out he had forwarded it. In his own words:

“The only reason I can explain it to you is I am not a fan of our president, but this goes beyond not being a fan. I didn’t send it as racist, although that’s what it is. I sent it out because it’s anti-Obama.”

. . . AND RACIST AS FUCK!

Excuse me. I lost my head there. More comments from Cebull shortly after the email became public:

“It was not intended by me in any way to become public. I apologize to anybody who is offended by it, and I can obviously understand why people would be offended. All I can emphasize is I’ve treated people in my courtroom all these years fairly. I don’t think I’ve ever demonstrated racism. Nobody has ever even implied it. I did not forward it because of the racist nature of it. Although it is racist, I’m not that way, never have been.”

Essentially, his defense of his actions can be summed up in three points: 1. I send racist emails but I am not racist. 2. I disagree with President Obama’s policies, so I sent an email implying that he is the product of bestiality. 3. This was a private email, so even though it is racist, because I didn’t intend my racist shit to get out, it doesn’t reflect my views of Black people. From a Judge and former lawyer, this is the worst argument I have ever seen.

The idea of this amount of racism in the judiciary scares me. Judges, and especially Federal Judges, have broad ranging power over plaintiffs and defendants in court. We hope for an impartial system, but can we really imagine that someone who would forward a message such as this is really dispossessing himself of these kinds of notions when he has Black litigants?

Racism in the Judiciary isn’t new. One recalls the words of Roger Taney in the Dred Scott opinion, stating that the authors of the Constitution viewed all Blacks as

beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.

Niggas and flies, I do despise . . .

Luckily, I am confident that that level of racism isn’t as pervasive today as it was in 1857. At least one would hope it isn’t. What is more troubling now and in the case of Richard Cebull is that the Judge doesn’t consider himself a racist. He thinks that his private message shouldn’t reflect his character. Mind you, he forwarded the email from his computer at the Court House. I’m sure you folks in your offices know that rule 1. is not to forward anything potentially damaging from the work computer. Basic common sense in 2012. It is the denial of racism that troubles me more than anything. The idea that someone could not consider themselves a bigot but forward clearly bigoted emails is scary.
One wonders how pervasive this inner denial is. The Federal Judiciary is overwhelmingly composed of White men. The vast majority of them are rather old as well. Being a relic of a by-gone era does not excuse you from being racist. Having Black friends does not excuse you from being racist when you say racist shit and do racist things. Many of our blog posts are about unintentional racism. We as Blacks recognize that oftentimes good, non-racist people do prejudiced things based on bad assumptions or lack of exposure to other cultures. That is not the case here. Sending an email comparing the President of the United States to the product of a White woman and an Animal isn’t a slip up.  If you sent this shit, you thought it was funny and believed in the notions underlying it.

"I can't say I'm really surprised by shit like this anymore."

Continue to Question the World Around You.

. . . and don’t forward racist emails.

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  1. [...] and who is not. Zimmerman’s father is adamant that his son is not a racist. So was judge Cebull. But the thing is, you don’t have to be the Bull Connor style bigot to have your inherent [...]



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