Op-Ed | Our humanity transcends constitutions
Published: Thursday, October 3, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 3, 2013 02:10
This week, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia spoke as a guest of the Snyder Presidential Lecture Series — a privately funded initiative “intended to invigorate the intellectual environment on campus by providing a forum for the presentation of provocative points of view.” While Justice Scalia’s personal success as a lawyer and judge, his familiarity with the law and judicial procedure and his insight into landmark cases of our time cannot be denied, neither can his personal involvement in the adjudication of cases that have had dire consequences for the quality of life of millions of people. Simply put: the fact that Tufts hosted this man on the same campus as thousands of students whose bodies and communities have been targeted by his decisions is indefensible, and speaks volumes about this institution’s disregard for students of marginalized social identities and the communities they come from.
Throughout his 27-year tenure on the Supreme Court, Justice Scalia has consistently used his voice and power to restrict, resist and reject the rights of the poor, people of color, women and LGBT people. He has openly and enthusiastically announced his opposition to Roe v. Wade and ruled in favor of circumscribing reproductive rights on multiple occasions. In Lawrence v. Texas and United States v. Windsor, Justice Scalia argued for the constitutionality of anti-sodomy laws and Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, stating that such laws are not anti-LGBT discrimination, but rather, morally-informed legislation.
Additionally, Justice Scalia has frequently ruled in favor of limiting Affirmative Action policies, arguing that such policies are only a guarantor for continued racial hatred. He has also dissented to overturning violent immigration policies that utilize racial profiling. This past summer, Justice Scalia ruled to strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, deriding additional federal protection of the right to vote for racially, ethnically and linguistically marginalized persons as a “racial entitlement.” This effectively eviscerated the most important legislation to emerge from the Civil Rights Movement. As a result, several states have implemented Voter I.D. laws and other voting regulations historically implemented for the purpose of disenfranchising senior citizen, women, low-income and racially marginalized voters. The fact that these laws are being reestablished fifty years after Jim Crow does not alter their present purpose or effect.
A self-described originalist, Justice Scalia is not alone in his interpretations and manipulations of the Constitution. He descends from, and is representative of, a political and social tradition which places the most value on those lives and those people who have historically been treated as ‘true’ and ‘real’ Americans. Even in the face of the United States’ rapidly changing demographics, Justice Scalia has been steadfast in his refusal to recognize the rights of all those who fall outside the boundaries of white, cisgender, heterosexual male citizens.
Now, this man, whose decisions have had violent consequences for so many Tufts students, their loved ones and their families, has been welcomed to the same place these Jumbos are supposed to call “home” as an honored guest. This signals nothing short of institutional sanction for his violent and dehumanizing rhetoric, and the systematic disenfranchisement he has eagerly aided and abetted for decades.
This is not to say that the issue is the presence of a conservative speaker on campus. The issue, rather, is the university’s warm welcome of a man who has made a career of limiting the rights of women, the poor, people of color and LGBT persons. The issue is that the university, by inviting Justice Scalia to speak at us in a controlled and highly policed environment, provided yet another platform which empowered his voice and validated his dehumanizing political rhetoric at the expense of brown, black, queer and female people in this community.