Republicans Refuse to Name Courthouse After Black Judge in Overtly Racist Move

Congressional Republicans may eschew robes and burning crosses, but the party’s overt racism is increasingly on display beneath the Capitol dome. The appalling treatment of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson during her Supreme Court nomination hearings was last week’s example. This week is dedicated to a prominent jurist, who was supposed to have a building named for him until the long claws and bigotry took the posthumous honor.

Justice Joseph W. Hatchett took the Florida bar exam, but he was forbidden from staying at the hotel where it was being administered. Jim Crow laws prohibited this. Born in Clearwater, Hatchett was a Black man. He graduated from Howard University School of Law. His legal career included being an assistant state attorney general, a judge at the Fifth Circuit U.S Court of Appeals, a judge at the Eleventh Circuit U.S Court of Appeals and a judge on Florida’s Supreme Court. He was the first Black person elected to be a Florida Supreme Court judge.

Hatchett retired in 1999 from the court and entered private practice. He died last year at the age of 88. widely praised and highly admired jurist. “Joe Hatchett is a person who lives and has lived by the ethical precepts which have historically guided the conduct of truly great judges and lawyers of our past and present,” said former American Bar Association (ABA) President Chesterfield Smith when Hatchett was awarded the Florida Supreme Court Historical Society’s Lifetime Achievement Award. “Joe Hatchett to me exemplifies what is best in an American judge, one who is sometimes lonely, but one who never shirks standing alone.”

Last month, Florida’s two Republican senators — joined by all 27 member of Florida’s House contingent — sponsored a bill to name a Tallahassee courthouse after Hatchett. The bill was expected sail with huge bipartisan support. Naming things is one of the most straightforward and uncontroversial tasks that Congress performs. It often happens on a fast-track with no debate or recorded vote. The Hatchett bill was to join the thousands of others that preceded it, until GOP Rep. Andrew Clyde from Georgia took up its place.

“Since being sworn in last year, Mr. Clyde has drawn attention for comparing the deadly Capitol attack to a ‘normal tourist visit’ and voting against a resolution to give the Congressional Gold Medal to police officers who responded that day,” reports The New York Times. “He also opposed the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act, which made lynching a federal hate crime and explicitly outlawed an act that was symbolic of the country’s history of racial violence. Mr. Clyde also voted against recognizing Juneteenth as a federal holiday.”

Clyde’s “problem” with naming a building after Hatchett? In 1999, Hatchett’s decision upheld long-established Constitutional protections against praying in public schools. Like a pollinating bumblebee, Clyde buzzed from colleague’s ear to colleague’s ear brandishing an Associated Press articleThat ruling. Republican “yes” votes began flipping to “no,” and before long it was a stampede. Many who had co-sponsored this bill in the beginning were among the stampeders. Others simply acted when they saw both the herd wheel & charge. “Asked what made him vote against a measure that he had co-sponsored,” reportsThe Times, “Representative Vern Buchanan, Republican of Florida, was brief and blunt: ‘I don’t know,’ he said.” (Later, a spokesman for the congressman said he’d made his decision “because of the judge’s position against prayer at graduation ceremonies.”)

To pass the House, Hatchett needed a two thirds majority. It was defeated with 187 “no” votes, a tally that included 89 percent of House Republicans.

It would be easy to chalk this debacle up to the “tensions” of the moment, to the ongoing fight over the teaching of so-called “critical race theory,” itself a nonsense issue because no such theory is taught in any public school anywhere.

However, in the aftermath disgracefully racist Brown Jackson hearingsYou would think that Republicans would have the foresight to let the rhetoric settle down, let the bruises go, and let the real nature of these endeavors be revealed. Instead, we have a doubling-down, a dare you-to-stop me search for the next extreme action, and so on. Their racism is overtly on display, and they’re not backing down.

The weaponizing of religion by the GOP’s evangelical base plays no small part in this; everything from Roe v. WadeTo LGBTQ justiceit is passed through an evangelical prism to be deemed a threat against Christianity, and this then justifies the most horrific forms of response.

Worse, therefore — and certainly instructive on how mobs can be incited to do horrific things — was the lemming-like quality to this abrupt and cruel reversal. The fact that so many of Clyde’s fellow Republicans feared what would happen if they answered “yes,” feared what would happen if their racist and/or evangelical voter base got wind of their vote, speaks volumes on the state of play within that party.

A few of them didn’t even need fear as a motivator: They saw a clot of Republicans in a stampede and leaped over the cliff to join them, no questions asked.

No questions asked. Our history is full of instances of horrendous violence and cruelty that were committed by those who fell into mob action’s gravity well. More often than not, members of those mobs would look at the blood on their hands in the aftermath and have no adequate answer to one question: “Why?” In this, Rep. Buchanan’s initial response to why he voted against an uncontroversial bill is instructive.

Others, like Rep. Clyde were aware of exactly what they were doing when he successfully sabotage the honoring a Black man on the basis of the most gossamer excuses. They don’t need justification. Those who support them and their racism provide enough justification. They most devoutly believe their bleak star — bereft of light and promising only darkness — is on the rise. They are no longer hiding behind hushed corners.