Letters: ‘What Hope Does an Ordinary Black Man Have?’

Readers respond to Jemele Hill’s argument that black men who see themselves in Brett Kavanaugh are missing the point.

Jose Luis Magana / AP

What the Black Men Who Identify With Brett Kavanaugh Are Missing

Updated at 2:40 p.m. ET on October 22, 2018

Many black men, Jemele Hill observed last week, see themselves in the embattled Supreme Court justice. But, she argued, when they do so, they’re not seeing the bigger picture. These men have “every right to be frustrated,” she wrote, “but that’s not because they’ve so often been treated like Kavanaugh—it’s because they so rarely have.”

I’m black and have been falsely accused. And no, no one stood up for me. I was fired, lost my job, and was denied unemployment. When I appealed, the adjudicator got frustrated with my former employer’s handling of the situation, and I was able to get unemployment.

I still had no job, though. I lost friends over it. It was several months of worrying and looking for a job while trying to come up with a way to tell potential employers why I wasn’t still at the previous job.

Jemele Hill talking about Kavanaugh’s privilege and his preppy friends? I can agree that he was treated differently, but I identify more with the terror of (maybe) being caught up in a false accusation and the pain of seeing people on the outside glaring, questioning, distancing themselves, and making assumptions.

Maybe Kavanaugh did what Ford insists he did. Maybe he didn’t. Due process is how we’re supposed to handle these things.

Name Withheld by Request
Portland, Ore.

Jemele Hill writes, “White men don’t ordinarily face the kind of suspicion and presumptions of guilt to which men of color are routinely subjected. If Kavanaugh were black, how many people would empathize and relate to his circumstances?”

To find the answer to that, one need only look back a little more than a couple of decades. Those of us who supported Kavanaugh against unsubstantiated, politically motivated charges took the exact same position toward Clarence Thomas when a similar thing happened to him.

Ree Mehta
Sunnyvale, Calif.

While I completely agree with Ms. Hill’s point that the way black men are treated by the justice system is way different from how Brett Kavanaugh was treated, I believe she misses the point of the anxiety of black men entirely. Black men are right to be distressed at further erosion of due process, because if someone with Kavanaugh’s privilege is not afforded the presumption of innocence by a significant portion of the country, then what hope does an ordinary black man have that his presumption of innocence and due-process rights will be protected and enhanced? We should be striving to give all Americans, regardless of race, class, gender, orientation, etc., the same robust presumption of innocence and due-process rights. The recent attacks on and dismissal of the presumption of innocence by many in our society is a tragedy that will negatively affect black men the most. They are right to be concerned. One needs only to look at this publication for evidence that their fears are grounded in fact.

Jonathan Price
Dallas, Texas

There is no doubt that white privilege exists in our society. The way that Justice Kavanaugh behaved during his confirmation hearing is a prime example of white privilege. This is why it is very important, as black men in America, that we are mindful of our behavior. I know that the deck is stacked against me, my son, and grandson. We have to instill in our children to do what is right and not put ourselves in positions where we can be accused of doing something wrong. This is why I have no empathy or sympathy for Brett Kavanaugh. It just shows me, again, that there is no equal protection under the law. The more things change, the more they stay the same. As black men, we have to be right in an unjust system and always treat women with dignity and respect.

Walter DeBerry
Brooklyn, N.Y.

A reader replies to Ree Mehta:

Ree Mehta wrote: “Those of us who supported Kavanaugh against unsubstantiated, politically motivated charges took the exact same position toward Clarence Thomas when a similar thing happened to him.”

I’m not sure how you can regard either Ford’s or Hill’s charges as politically motivated. A case could be made that the way they were handled was political, but not the charges themselves.

As for unsubstantiated, in both cases there were people ready to corroborate aspects of the charges, but in Kavanaugh’s case, the FBI couldn’t question people who might have been able to substantiate Ford’s allegations, and in Thomas’s case, Joe Biden refused to call witnesses who would have alleged that they too had experienced sexual harassment from Thomas. Those failures to seek the truth were political.

In both cases, politics deemed it expedient to discount a woman’s negative testimony in favor of elevating a man to a lifetime position where he would have the power to affect the lives of millions of American women.

Amy Richards
Pasadena, Calif.