“The conventional wisdom that the U.S. Supreme Court heroically defends racial minorities from majoritarian oppression is deeply flawed,” Harvard law professor Michael J. Klarman writes on Scotusblog.com. “Over the course of American history, the court, more often than not, has been a regressive force on racial issues.” The exception was the 1950s and ’60s, when Brown v. Board of Education and other cases fostered “the romantic image of the court as savior of African Americans.” That changed with the appointment of conservative justices by President Nixon.
Klarman writes, “Almost immediately, the new Nixon appointees began to exert tremendous influence on the court's racial jurisprudence.” He cites examples in recent decades, then concludes, “While the last 40 years of conservative hegemony on the court has yielded racially regressive results pretty much across the board, one should not absolve the larger society that the court serves of responsibility for such outcomes. The Supreme Court mirrors society at least as much as it shapes it. The conservative justices could not have foisted such a regressive racial jurisprudence on the American people without their acquiescence.”