• David M. Rubin

ROGER WICKER, THE AFFIRMATIVE ACTION SENATOR

Just to establish the bona fides of our subject, Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker was the ONLY member of the United States Senate to vote "No" in January of 2015 on the question of whether climate change was real. He thought (and perhaps still thinks) it's a hoax.

Wicker is the White man who slithered out of Senatorial obscurity to declare that any Black woman put forward by President Joe Biden for a seat on the Supreme Court would be there as an affirmative action candidate, and therefore unqualified. In making such an absurd claim, Wicker fired the first Republican shot signaling that any confirmation fight for a Black female Supreme Court nominee will be racist and nasty.

If he had any sense of self-awareness, Wicker would look in the mirror and ask himself how much he owes to his Whiteness in his ascent to the United States Senate. The only possible answer would be that Wicker is an almost perfect creature of White male affirmative action.

Wicker was born in 1951 in Pontotoc, Mississippi. His father was Fred Wicker. Fred was a 1948 graduate of the University of Mississippi School of Law. (He was inducted into its Hall of Fame in 2014.) He built a legal practice in Pontotoc, eventually becoming county prosecuting attorney for 12 years and a state Senator representing Pontotoc.

This paid off when Mississippi Governor John Bell Williams appointed him in 1970 to be a circuit judge.

Fred's son Roger attended segregated K-12 schools in Pontotoc. Mississippi schools resisted integration until 1970, around the time Roger headed to Ole Miss as an undergraduate. Only eight years earlier, James Meredith had integrated Ole Miss, although it took 30,000 United States troops, federal marshals and national guardsmen to put down the riots in Oxford meant to stop him.

By the time Roger arrived at Ole Miss, fewer than 200 Black students were enrolled in a community of about 6000 undergraduates. The climate on campus was so hostile to Black students that the FBI, also hostile, was monitoring the activities of the Black Student Union. W. Ralph Eubanks wrote about this period at Ole Miss in The New Yorker:

[T]hey had grown weary and impatient in the face of persistent racist harassment: threatening notes pushed under their doors, loud knocks in the middle of the night, accompanied by taunts and racial slurs, [and] physical intimidation.

Upon graduating in 1973, Wicker followed his father, now a prominent circuit court judge, to the law school, graduating in 1975. The law school did not have a Black graduate until 1967, and no female Black graduate until 1970. Very few Black students would have been in Wicker's law classes.

Wicker then parlayed his father's legal roots in Pontotoc into a seat in the Mississippi State Senate, and then into election to the U.S. House of Representatives from Mississippi's First District. When Senator Trent Lott resigned from the Senate in 2007, Wicker was appointed to the Senate seat by White Good Ole Boy Republican Governor Haley Barbour.

After receiving that White affirmative action gift from Barbour, Wicker was elected to a full Senate term in 2008.

Which brings us to Wicker's obtuse complaint that a Black woman must be the recipient of affirmative action to be chosen by Biden.

In 2004 Wicker's mother Wordna passed away. Wicker was quoted in the Daily Journal (serving readers in Northeast Mississippi) saying that his mother was "very interested" in "making sure that young black people got every opportunity."

Unless, apparently, that opportunity includes a seat on the Supreme Court of the United States. I doubt Wordna Wicker would be proud of her privileged son today.

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