“I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.” – Ruth Bader Ginsberg

The United States Supreme Court has made some terrible decisions over the course of our history as a nation. Most of those terrible decisions reaffirmed discriminatory and abusive practices that normatively excluded people from rights and protections for which they were not already included or simply ignored. Injustices were often rationalized and justified with state’s rights ideologies, prejudiced and dogmatic philosophies of public good, and a desire to appoint personhood to entities that often subjugated the actual personhood of individuals.

Let’s take a look at some of those terrible decisions, many of which had to be corrected by constitutional amendments and later court rulings.

1857 Dred Scott v Sanford: the United States Supreme Court made clear in the landmark racist decision that racial equity was not on the table: with a 7-2 ruling, the Court determined that African Americans, free or slave, were not included nor meant to be included as citizens and thereby were not given the rights and protections afforded by the United States Constitution.  Moreover, the Court struck down the Missouri Compromise as an unconstitutional overreach of power by Congress, indicating that the Legislative Branch had no actual authority to regulate slavery in the states. Chief Justice Roger Taney’s majority opinion on the decision reaffirmed white supremacy as American as apple pie while believing the decision would settle the slavery issue once and for all. It most certainly did not.

1883 the Civil Rights Cases: the United States Supreme Court consolidated five civil rights cases to rule that although the 14th Amendment protects from racial discrimination in public accommodations, private businesses can be racist and discriminate, striking down the Civil Rights Act of 1875 where Congress entitled everyone to equal access to accommodation, transportation, and theater regardless of race.

1896 Plessy v Ferguson: the United States Supreme Court normalized institutionalized racism with another landmark decision of racial segregation: the “separate but equal” doctrine of ideological racist gaslighting.

1905 Lochner v New York: the United States Supreme Court reaffirms the right of a business to exploit workers by striking down a New York law that bakeries could only require employees work no more than ten hours a day (under the guise of a right to work yourself to death… if your employer requires you do so).

1918 Hammer v Dagenhart: the United States Supreme Court strikes at Congressional power to ban child labor in favor of the States’ right to determine whether or not children could be exploited by industrialists in factories and mines.

1927 Buck v Bell: the United States Supreme Court approved eugenic practices with an 8-1 ruling, enabling the forced sterilization of (presumably) intellectually disabled women by the State who were deemed feeble-minded imbeciles: women who should not be permitted to “parent socially inadequate offspring” so that “society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind.”

They really said that cringe-worthy shit in their decision to violate a woman’s right to bodily integrity and reproductive choice.

1944 Korematsu v United States: the United States Supreme Court upheld the internment of Japanese citizens of the United States, finding that racist fear of our own citizens during times of war outweighed individual rights of Liberty and Justice for all.

1986 Bowers v Hardwick: the United States Supreme Court upheld discriminatory hetero-normative cultural hegemony and the homophobic criminalization of consensual sexual activity between gay and lesbian people.

2000 Bush v Gore: the United States Supreme Court stopped the recount of contested ballots in the state of Florida for a United States Presidential Election effectively handing the election to George W Bush instead of permitting the completion of the democratic process wherein we count all of the votes.

2008 Exxon Shipping Co v Baker: after 19 years of litigation as Exxon was finally going to be held responsible for the Exxon Valdez oil tanker running aground in Prince William Sound, Alaska, causing an enormous environmental disaster in an ecologically sensitive area, the Supreme Court struck down the $5 billion in damages and ruled the company could not be subject to punitive damages in excess of actual ones, making the total damages Exxon would have to pay a dismissive $500 million (in a year when Exxon made a record profit of $45 billion).

2010 Citizens United v Federal Election Commission: the United States Supreme Court ruled that political donations were protected as Free Speech, overturning a century of campaign finance restrictions and thereby providing a contemporary justification for the openly obscene endorsement of unlimited wealth and corporate money directly influencing politics, weakening democracy, and strengthening political corruption.

2013 Shelby County v Holder: in another landmark racist decision, the United States Supreme Court gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act preventing racial discrimination in access to voting under the premise that those integral parts of the Act were out of date and no longer necessary.

May 2, 2022: a leaked draft of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s majority opinion striking down the landmark 1973 Roe v Wade decision that Constitutional Rights protect a pregnant woman’s Liberty to choose to have an abortion without excessive government interference, preparing to strip women of fifty years of Liberty, Freedom, Privacy, Agency and Personhood in decisions concerning their own reproductive rights. Suggesting the right to regulate abortion lies with the State instead of with pregnant Women, the current United States Supreme Court – while not the first to engage in openly sexist bias engendering injustice – prepares to become the first Court to discriminately strip people of acquired and repeatedly affirmed rights.

And much like the terrible, racist Court decision in 1857, it is a mistake to believe this ruling will settle the issue once and for all: it most certainly will not. The decision will intensify debate over the issue and likely deepen the country’s political divide.

I suggest you buckle up, America; it’s going to be a helluva bumpy ride.

“The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her wellbeing and dignity. It’s a decision she must make for herself.” – RBG