Ginsburg’s law clerks line up to mourn and everyone stays hush about jarring lack of color

September 23, 2020 | Frieda Powers | for

The Deputy Governor of Illinois called attention to the elephant in the room as the memorial service for the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg got underway.

Christian Mitchell, the Democrat serving under Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker’s administration, noted the “jarring lack of ppl of color” in comments on social media about the law clerks who had gathered to honor Ginsburg who passed away last week at the age of 87.

Ginsburg’s former law clerks served as “honorary pallbearers” and formed a dramatic backdrop on the front steps of the Supreme Court as her casket arrived on Wednesday. After a private ceremony, members of the public are allowed to pay their respects as the late justice lies in repose at the Supreme Court.

As her casket arrived, an “army of law clerks” were present, “dressed in black and standing silently,” CBS News reported.

Over her 27 years on the high court, Ginsburg had reportedly hired more than 100 clerks, and many came out to honor her on Wednesday.

One hundred former law clerks to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg stand on the steps of the US Supreme Court to await the arrival of her casket. (via @lawrencehurley.)

— Amee Vanderpool (@girlsreallyrule) September 23, 2020

But there seemed to be something “noticeable” about the collection of clerks gathered on the steps of the Supreme Court.

Something will be noticable but not noticed by the media.

— 𝘚𝘵𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘯 𝘑. 𝘋𝘶𝘧𝘧𝘪𝘦𝘭𝘥 (@StevenJDuffield) September 22, 2020

“Incredibly moving watching the army of #RBG’s clerks escorting her body to lie in state,” the Illinois deputy governor tweeted Wednesday.

“Equally moving to see the jarring lack of ppl of color.

Incredibly moving watching the army of #RBG’s clerks escorting her body to lie in state.

Equally moving to see the jarring lack of ppl of color. Even in a life that did so much for us and for women, who are well repped.

We’ve got much work to do to be in the halls of power.

— Christian Mitchell (@cljmitchell) September 23, 2020

As the media seemed to ignore the optics, Mitchell pushed back on criticism as he clarified that he did not “discredit” Ginsburg

My tweet didn’t discredit her; noting how much she did for POC! 💯

I take your point Marti but split focus is ok. Take Thurgood Marshall, who hired more than a dozen female law clerks, including Elena Kagan. That’s 12 times RBG’s clerks of color. Even heroes have blindspots.

— Christian Mitchell (@cljmitchell) September 23, 2020

Newsone managing editor Bruce Coleridge-Taylor Wright noted that it was “hard to ignore how RBG only had 2 Black law clerks over her decades as a judge.”

In an article titled, “Examining Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Complicated Legacy On Race,” he wrote:

But that high praise for Ginsburg infamously resulted in part with her having only had two Black clerks in total during her decades as a judge. That included one clerk during her 13 years on the D.C. Circuit Court — a duration where the National Review reminded its readers “she had never had a single black law clerk, intern, or secretary. Out of 57 employees, zero blacks.” That unfortunate trend continued after she became a Supreme Court Justice, when she “hired only one black clerk among the more than 100 clerks she has had.”

Ginsburg even faced criticism over her hiring record during her 1993 confirmation hearings and, was called out when newly confirmed Justice Brett Kavanaugh bucked the trend by hiring female and black clerks once he began his tenure on the high court in 2018, the same year Neil Gorsuch hired a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation as a law clerk.

Meanwhile, as the media seemed to generally ignore Ginsburg’s record on law clerk hires, many on social media did express their thoughts

In all her years working in the DC circuit, Ginsburg didn’t hire a single black intern, secretary, or law clerk. Not one.

Once she was appointed to the Supreme Court she hired hundreds of clerks. How many were black? A single one.

— frankly vulgar (@mozsfashynipple) September 19, 2020

Paul Watford is the only one of approximately 150 law clerks hired by Ruth Bader Ginsburg who was black, and Watford looks like the secret son of J.K. Simmons and Meghan Markle.

— Steve Sailer (@Steve_Sailer) September 21, 2020

Seeing Justice Ginsburg’s law clerks on the steps of SCOTUS to greet her one last time is incredibly powerful – but also a rather pointed reminder that she had only one Black law clerk in nearly 30 years on the high court.

— Michael Li 李之樸 (@mcpli) September 23, 2020

Yep. And zero before that for her 13 years on the D.C. Circuit.

— Hernandez Stroud (@hernandezstroud) September 23, 2020

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