Georgetown University Law School Professor Rosa Brooks has drawn accolades and criticism for her appearance on MSNBC’s “The ReidOut” after declaring that Americans are “slaves” to the U.S. Constitution and that the Constitution itself is now the problem for the country.
Brooks was criticizing gun rights generally and, by extension, the Second Amendment decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen:
“I was thinking, boy, those sounds are like the sounds you hear in war zones. And there are people all over the world who have lived during armed conflicts, and when does the mortar fall on your house, when does the soldier or the tank come down the street and just kill you. We are now living in that world, too, and we have brought it on ourselves. We can’t say, oops, it’s the Russians’ fault. They shouldn’t have invaded us.
This is us. This is 100% us, and it’s because we are essentially slaves to a document that was written more than 230 years ago by a tiny group of white slave-owning men. And we cannot break out of the bondage that we have imposed on ourselves from feeling like we have to– everything by our Supreme Court is decided in reference to this ancient document which is just not serving us well. It is causing enormous problems and enormous tragedies at this point.”
Brooks is not alone in saying that the Constitution is the work of racists and is the source of many of our problems. CBS recently featured Boston University Professor Ibram X. Kendi, who proclaimed that the Second Amendment was little more than “the right to enslave.”
MSNBC commentator and the Nation’s Justice Correspondent Elie Mystal has called the U.S. Constitution “trash” and argued that we should ideally just dump it. Mystal, who also writes for Above the Law, previously stated that white, non-college-educated voters supported Republicans because they care about “using their guns on Black people and getting away with it.”
It appears that the Constitution became the problem when a majority of justices dared to follow an opposing interpretation. That is not how a constitutional system works. You do not support it so long as it yields to your demands or views. It is a crisis of faith that I have previously discussed but it is most alarming when voiced by law professors.
Recently, I criticized fellow Georgetown Law Professor Josh Chafetz who supported more “aggressive” protests targeting justices “when the mob is right.” Such voices are common at Georgetown and other law schools. What is not common are conservative or libertarian voices including the voice of Professor Ilya Shapiro who was effectively forced off the faculty due to a controversial tweet.
As discussed earlier, the Madisonian democracy is based on the premise that, despite our factional divisions, the Constitution creates an interest in all groups in preserving the system. While the Constitution does not guarantee that your views will prevail in Congress or the courts, it has proven the most stable and successful democratic system in history. We are all invested in that system which has achieved transformative changes over time in our laws and our society.
Professor Brooks is correct when she says that “This is us. This is 100% us.” It is about a common article of faith not with our government but with each other. These are the voices of the faithless. However, most Americans retain a faith in the Constitution. It is in our DNA precisely because it is about us and our common commitment to live by these constitutional principles that have long defined us.