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Left is mute on racial double standard in Kagan pick

By Roland S. Martin, CNN Political Analyst
  • Roland Martin says that there's a double standard in pick of Elena Kagan for Supreme Court
  • Of 29 posts Kagan filled at Harvard Law, 28 were whites, 1 was Asian-American, he says
  • He says left ignores troubling issues about diversity in pick to protect Democratic president
  • Martin: Feminist, civil rights groups should demand answers about Kagan's diversity record

Editor's note: Roland S. Martin, a CNN political analyst, is a nationally syndicated columnist and author of "Listening to the Spirit Within: 50 Perspectives on Faith" and the new book "The First: President Barack Obama's Road to the White House." He is a commentator for TV One Cable Network and host of a Sunday morning news show.

(CNN) -- If a white Republican president of the United States appointed a white male as his next Supreme Court justice, and upon the inspection of his record, it was discovered that of the 29 full-time tenured or tenured track faculty he hired as dean of Harvard Law, nearly all of them were white men, this would dominate the headlines.

It would be reasonable to conclude that the special interest groups that vigorously fight for diversity -- civil rights organizations, feminist groups and other liberal institutions -- would be up in arms, declaring that this person's records showed him unwilling to diversify academia, and unqualified to consider diverse views as one of nine members of the U.S. Supreme Court. There would be widespread condemnations of Republicans having no concern for the nonwhite males in America.

But what if the choice were made by a black Democratic president, and it was a woman? A white woman? A white Democratic woman?

Some of you may not like the fact that I am focusing on the race of the individual, but when diversity is raised, the person's skin color, gender and background are considered germane to the discussion. And if there is silence from black and female organizations, their race and gender matter as well.

We may very well witness this now that President Obama has selected Solicitor General Elena Kagan to replace the retiring Justice John Paul Stevens.

Guy-Uriel Charles, founding director of the Duke Law Center on Law, Race and Politics, has heavily scrutinized Kagan's hiring record as head of Harvard Law School. In a scathing blog post, he has said that of the 29 positions Kagan had a chance to fill, 28 were white and one was Asian-American. And of the group, only six were women -- five white and one Asian-American.

These numbers on the surface are appalling, and would be ripped to shreds by those who value diversity, but my gut tells me that even though Kagan has been tapped by Obama, the normally vocal and persistent voices in this area will be tight-lipped and quiet, unwilling to oppose or heavily criticize the nomination of a woman to the court, and especially one made by an African-American Democratic president.

If that does happen, Republicans will rightly cry foul, saying it represented a double standard -- that the silence was a signal of partisan hacks more concerned about not offending the Obama administration, rather than the ideals they hold near and dear.

They don't want to be seen as going against an ally, and they are more concerned about their access to the White House than the mission they have always valued.

Even before she was chosen, the White House was fighting back against the attacks on her record by Charles, which have been amplified by

According to the site, the White House has disseminated talking points stressing that the real issue is not those who took the jobs, but the offers Kagan made. In addition, they highlight the number of other African-Americans on the faculty, as well as the percentage of minority students during her tenure.

So basically, the White House wants everyone to believe that Kagan made offers, but nearly all of the minorities chose not to go to work for the most prestigious law school in America.

Folks, I wasn't born yesterday.

The real issue will be reaction from the left. It is shameful and disgusting when civil rights organizations, feminist groups and others lose their conviction and sense of purpose when a Democrat gets in the White House. They need to decide what matters: their principles or their politics; their mission or their liberal money; their convictions or chicken dinners in the White House.

Some have already spoken up. The Black Women's Roundtable of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation released a letter Sunday night questioning Kagan's commitment to civil rights, as well as criticizing the Obama administration for its failure to seriously consider African-American female judges.

"As we continue to promote the legacy of our late founding leader and Co-Convener, Dr. Dorothy I. Height, we will always seek to highlight the concerns of Black women, our families and our communities. Thus, as Dr. Height stated in our previous meeting with your Administration, we believe it is time for African American women to be represented in all sectors of government -- including the Supreme Court of the United States, which in its 221 year history has not had a Black woman nominated to serve on our highest court in the land," the letter stated.

"Our trepidation regarding General Kagan is premised on the lack of a clearly identifiable record on the protection of our nation's civil rights laws. As women leaders, we greatly respect General Kagan's intellectual capabilities and highly accomplished record in the Administration and academia. Nonetheless, there is a dearth of a specific emphasis on the civil rights laws utilized in the protection of racial and ethnic minorities and those traditionally disenfranchised in this nation."

Credibility and consistency are vital for any organization. And if the leaders of civil rights and feminist organizations do not demand strong and clear answers from the White House about Kagan and her diversity track record as dean of Harvard Law School, they are failing the people they say they represent.

Demanding accountability about diversity isn't a one-way street meant only for Republicans. Democrats should never get a pass either.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Roland Martin.