The White Supremacist Constitution

57 Pages Posted: 29 Apr 2021

See all articles by Ruth Colker

Ruth Colker

Ohio State University (OSU) - Michael E. Moritz College of Law

Date Written: April 29, 2021


The United States Constitution has been a document that, during every era, has helped further white supremacy. White supremacy constitutes a “political, economic and cultural system in which whites overwhelmingly control power and material resources, conscious and unconscious ideas of white superiority and entitlement are widespread, and relations of white dominance and non-white subordination are daily reenacted across a broad array of institutions and social settings.”** Rather than understand the Constitution as a force for progressive structural change, we should understand it as a barrier to change.

From its inception, the Constitution enshrined slavery and the degradation of Black people by considering them to be property rather than equal members of the community. The Civil War Amendments did not truly abolish slavery and only prohibited a limited band of state action. Radical Reconstruction was short-lived as white supremacy quickly eviscerated any political gains that Black voters had achieved.

The Supreme Court has interpreted the Civil War Amendments consistently with their white supremacy roots. Rather than serve as an effective instrument to help eradicate the badges, incidents and vestiges of slavery, the Constitution has become a tool both to ban voluntary race-affirmative measures at the federal, state and local government level while also precluding Congress from enacting strong abolitionist measures. The Court has enshrined the views of Andrew Johnson, a fierce proponent of white supremacy, into its basic structure.
This Article challenges us to imagine how resistance lawyers might seek to use the Constitution to help eliminate white supremacy while also generally recognizing the limitations of the use of the judicial system, including the specific limitations of the U.S. Constitution, for that purpose. Only then might we achieve a truly radical reconstruction.

Keywords: white supremacy, race discrimination, Constitution

JEL Classification: K3

Suggested Citation

Colker, Ruth, The White Supremacist Constitution (April 29, 2021). Ohio State Legal Studies Research Paper No. 612, Utah Law Review, 2022, Available at SSRN: or

Ruth Colker (Contact Author)

Ohio State University (OSU) - Michael E. Moritz College of Law ( email )

55 West 12th Avenue
Columbus, OH 43210
United States
(614) 292-0900 (Phone)
(614) 292-2035 (Fax)


Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics