On Wednesday, an army of Justice Ginsburg’s former law clerks, all dressed in black, honored their mentor by lining up as “honorary pallbearers” on the front steps of the Supreme Court when her casket arrived. It was an impressive display.
However, Christian Mitchell, Illinois’ Deputy Governor, noticed a “jarring lack of ppl of color” among the former Ginsburg clerks.
This wasn’t because African-American former Ginsburg clerks declined to serve as honorary pallbearers. It was because, in her 27 years on the Supreme Court, Ginsburg apparently hired only one African-American clerk — one out of approximately 150. That, by the way, is one more than she reportedly hired during her 13 years as a federal court of appeals judge.
From this record, Mitchell concludes that “even heroes have blindspots.” If Ginsburg had been a conservative, he probably would have concluded that Ginsburg was a white supremacist.
However, the lack of black clerks in Ginsburg’s chambers should not, without more, be viewed as indicating a blind spot or racism. Is there any evidence that Ginsburg ever rejected a black applicant in favor of a white candidate with inferior credentials? Is there evidence of a pattern of selecting white applicants over black ones when the credentials were equal?
If not, then Ginsburg’s only “sins” were color blindness, merit hiring, and skepticism about the wonders of diversity.
It would have been nice, though, if Ginsburg had backed merit-based selections and color blindness, and been less impressed by the diversity-imperative, in cases involving other institutions.