African-American Oral Histories
Clip 4: Transcript
Laws and Courts
Running Time: 4 min 2 sec
NK: I had the impression initially that you wanted to go to Law School to change the law and maybe, when people are young you have these great dreams.
GB: And I was wrong, about what I could accomplish. The world has changed. It’s gotten [to be] a very conservative, very hostile world that we live in right now. The opinions that are coming out of the courts are really bad and sad, and I'm not a good enough lawyer to change the things the way that I’d want to, because right now the courts are result oriented. And it takes someone who’s really a genius or whatever to pull the fat out of the fire here, because it doesn’t matter from what I have seen, how good your scholarship or whatever. It depends on what side you’re on or what have you.
I can give you an example. I was reading this court of appeals opinion the other day and a woman was sexually harassed nine times in fourteen days. They said it was not sufficiently pervasive to constitute sexual harassment. So I’m thinking, “Well, do you want her to bring a gun to work and blow the guy away?” You know, what kind of a social policy is it just because you want to support the employer? You come out with this thing and say that nine times in fourteen is not enough? It's absurd. There's nothing I can do about it because they’re putting these result oriented judges on the courts, and people who look like me, and think like me, are people they’re going to decide against. It’s the bottom line. So I made a big mistake. I was thinking that, the courts even before, you know, one of the big ironies, the great strides that we made were strides that the courts allowed us to make, and even very conservative judges looked at the law and just implemented the law, whether Sweatt v. Painter, Brown v. Board of Education. Where people just looked at the law and said, “This is what the law says.” Johnny Cochran told me once that what a lot of these judges are doing now, and particularly the judges in this circuit, “They're engaging in intellectual mischief.” And that’s really true, because you find some fiction not to follow the law. If you’re going to confine me and limit me to some very bad law to begin with, at least be able to live up to it and not just come up with some fiction or technicality why I can’t avail myself of the law. Because years ago like with what the NAACP did is it took the separate but equal doctrine and decided, “Well we’re not going to change it right now. Let’s just enforce it.” So when you put the Thurgood Marshall Old Texas Southern Law School and compared it to the University of Texas Law School, there’s no way you can compare the two. You just had to be honest about it.
I’m afraid if Sweatt v. Painter were heard today, that the judges would say that it’s an equal law school or that even Texas Southern would be greater because of low class student faculty, or faculty student ration or whatever. They would come up with some fiction to justify the decision. And so that’s one of the big differences that we have, you know. There were a lot of judges, and ironically Republican judges in the 50s and 60s, Minor Wisdom and people like that, that were the ones that were the real champions of minorities here, in the 5th Circuit and throughout the country. That they could see the real ills of the South, and so they were the ones who stood up and implemented affirmative action and things like that, and which has now become a buzz word or a divisive word. And it’s really ironic that it was the Republican Party back then that was really the biggest supporter of the African American community in the South there in that regard.
“Oral Narrative as History.” Students received class credit for this work, and were under the supervision of Dr. Martha Norkunas, director of “The Project in Interpreting the Texas Past.”
Every effort has been made to transcribe the audio recordings exactly. On occasion a word, or phrase, was difficult to hear and this is indicated by a question mark in brackets.
Gary L. Bledsoe
Date of Interview:
February 24, 2004
W24th Street, Austin, Texas
Digital Voice Recorder, Olympus .dss format