Abstract

This essay challenges the conventional wisdom that regards the Supreme Court as a heroic defender of the rights of racial minorities against majority oppression. It argues that over the course of American history, the Court, more often than not, has been a regressive force on racial issues. Klarman draws three lessons from his survey of the Court's racial jurisprudence: (1) the composition of the Court influences whether its racial jurisprudence is progressive or regressive; (2) the composition of the Court is, in significant part, a reflection of national politics; and (3) the Court's constitutional interpretations regarding race – just as on any other issue – broadly reflect the political and social climate of the era and thus rarely deviate far from dominant public opinion.

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