Blacks See Bias in Delay on a Scalia Successor

Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Martin, MSN, February 17, 2016

As he left Martha Lou’s Kitchen, a soul food institution here on Wednesday, Edward Gadsden expressed irritation about the Republican determination to block President Obama from selecting Justice Antonin Scalia’s replacement on the Supreme Court.

“They’ve been fighting that man since he’s been there,” Mr. Gadsden, who is African-American, said of Mr. Obama, before pointing at his forearm to explain what he said was driving the Republican opposition: “The color of his skin, that’s all, the color of his skin.”

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After years of watching political opponents question the president’s birthplace and his faith, and hearing a member of Congress shout “You lie!” at him from the House floor, some African-Americans saw the move by Senate Republicans as another attempt to deny the legitimacy of the country’s first black president. And they call it increasingly infuriating after Mr. Obama has spent seven years in the White House and won two resounding election victories.

“Our president, the president of the United States, has been disrespected from Day 1,” Carol Richardson, 61, said on Wednesday as she colored a customer’s hair at Ultra Beauty Salon in Hollywood, S.C., a mostly black town near Charleston. “The words that have been said, the things the Republicans have done they’d have never have done to another president. Let’s talk like it is, it’s because of his skin color.”

Reflecting on the Supreme Court vacancy, Bakari Sellers, a former state representative from Denmark, S.C., likened the Senate treatment of the president to the 18th century constitutional compromise that counted black men as equivalent to three-fifths of a person.

“I guess many of them are using this in the strictest construction that Barack Obama’s serving three-fifths of a term or he’s three-fifths of a human being, so he doesn’t get to make this choice,” Mr. Sellers said. “It’s infuriating.”

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For Hillary Clinton, who is increasingly relying on nonwhite voters to ensure her success against Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the court issue could be especially crucial. Should Mrs. Clinton defeat Mr. Sanders, who has electrified many liberals, she will need a motivating issue to bring Mr. Obama’s loyalists to the polls. She moved swiftly Tuesday to tap into the anger of blacks over the opposition of Senate Republicans to Mr. Obama’s naming a replacement for Justice Scalia.

“Now the Republicans say they’ll reject anyone President Obama nominates no matter how qualified,” Mrs. Clinton said in remarks before a predominantly black audience in Harlem. “Some are even saying he doesn’t have the right to nominate anyone! As if somehow he’s not the real president.”

Doing so, Mrs. Clinton added, is in keeping with a longstanding pattern of mistreatment.

“They demonize President Obama and encourage the ugliest impulses of the paranoid fringe,” she said. “This kind of hatred and bigotry has no place in our politics or our country.”=

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But in the aftermath of Mr. McConnell’s statement on Saturday, a growing chorus of black voices is complaining that such a refusal to even consider a Supreme Court nominee would never occur with a white president.

“It’s more than a political motive–it has a smell of racism,” said Representative G. K. Butterfield, Democrat of North Carolina, the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.

“I can tick instance after instance over the last seven years where Republicans have purposely tried to diminish the president’s authority,” Mr. Butterfield said. “This is just really extreme, and leads me to the conclusion that if this was any other president who was not African-American, it would not have been handled this way.”

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