Randall Kennedy has been a contributing editor of the Prospect since 1995. He is the Michael R. Klein Professor of Law at Harvard University and is completing a book on race relations and the Obama presidency.
Four of the nine justices currently on the Supreme Court are at least 65 years old. Chief Justice William Rehnquist, the last of the Nixon appointees, is 75. Justice John Paul Stevens, a Ford appointee, is 79. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, a Reagan appointee, is 69. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a Clinton appointee, is 66 and recently underwent surgery for colon cancer.
No issue more highlights feelings of ambivalence over the proper place of racial distinctions in American life than the delicate matter of transracial adoptions. Opponents of such adoptions insist that allowing white adults to raise black children is at worst tantamount to cultural genocide and at best a naive experiment doomed to failure. In most states, custom reflects and reinforces these beliefs; public policy, formally or informally, discourages cross-racial adoptions or foster placements, to the point where thousands of children are denied placement in loving homes.
A large percentage of black Americans have supported President Bill Clinton with remarkable intensity in his darkest moment of political and legal peril. It is as if, in his vulnerability, he had become more attractive. "We are going to the wall for this President," Henry Louis (Skip) Gates, Jr., declared in August 1998 on Martha's Vineyard, at a ceremony mainly organized by luminaries of the black Establishment: folks such as Charles Ogletree, Christopher Edley, and Leon Higginbotham. In the months since then, black politicians—especially Democratic members of the House of Representatives like John Conyers, Maxine Waters, and Charles Rangel—have been among the most aggressively outspoken defenders of the President.