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The Marshall Project

RBG’s MIXED RECORD ON RACE AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a revered feminist icon. Her legacy on issues such as prisoners’ rights, capital punishment, racial justice and tribal sovereignty has been less examined.

In the days since Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died at the age of 87, tributes have tended to focus on her work championing gender equity and reproductive rights. Her record on issues of criminal justice and race is less examined—and less consistent. The Marshall Project reached out to a range of court-watchers, scholars and prisoners’ rights advocates to ask about Ginsburg’s legacy in these areas. …

RBG on race and racial justice

I have a mixed take: She was willing to, for example, credit a Black queer civil rights attorney on Reed v. Reed, which is the case where the court said that the equal protection clause in the 14th Amendment prohibits discrimination based on sex. She built her argument off of the scholarship of Pauli Murray, and I think that’s something a lot of White people don’t generally do, credit arguments to people of color. I think her understanding of racism as a problem in this country was sound, and I think that’s clear from SHELBY COUNTY V. HOLDER.

But I think when it comes to more modern issues of racial justice including police brutality and Black Lives Matter, I think she failed in that regard. And I’m talking specifically about her comments about Colin Kaepernick. I do credit her with pretty quickly saying she shouldn’t have said that. But I would rather her have said nothing…

—Imani Gandy, senior editor of law and policy at Rewire News

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