Law | Opinion

Peter d'Errico: Flawed book takes on racist premise of Indian law






The U.S. Supreme Court. Photo by Indianz.Com / Available for use under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Professor Robert A.Williams, Jr. is out with a new book that takes on the racist premise of federal Indian law and policy. But does Like a Loaded Weapon: The Rehnquist Court, Indian Rights, and the Legal History of Racism in America succeed in striking its target? Retired professor Peter d'Errico offers a review:
Robert Williams’ book, Like a Loaded Weapon, lays out a critique of federal Indian law as racist, an argument he has developed in many books and articles. For all that, however, the argument misses the critical target and exposes Indian rights to a dangerous counter-argument.

Don’t get me wrong: federal Indian law decisions contain plenty of racist language; and I have no doubt that many of the judges who wrote those decisions harbor racist stereotypes about Indians. But the aim of a critique must go deeper than stereotypes in judges’ minds: it must go to the legal doctrines judges use to supposedly justify their decisions.

The critical elements in any field of law are its foundational doctrines—its basic premise. If you aim to change law you must focus on foundational doctrines. Williams argues that federal Indian law rests on racism, and he quotes from cases to make his point. Unfortunately, his quotations hit all around the basic premise and miss the bull’s eye.

Read More on the Story:
Peter d'Errico: The Limits and Dangers of a ‘Race’ Critique of Federal Indian Law (Indian Country Media Network 4/15)