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Like a Loaded Weapon

The Rehnquist Court, Indian Rights, and the Legal History of Racism in America

2005
Author:

Robert A. Williams, Jr.

Like a Loaded Weapon

Exposes the U.S. Supreme Court’s history of racism against American Indians

Robert A. Williams, Jr., boldly exposes the ongoing legal force of the racist language directed at Indians in American society. Building on the insights of Malcolm X, Thurgood Marshall, and Frantz Fanon, Williams argues that racist language has been employed by the courts to legalize a uniquely American form of racial dictatorship over Indian tribes by the U.S. government.

Like the iconic country singer known as Williams Jr., the legal scholar Robert A. possesses a unique talent for creative communication. Like a Loaded Weapon presents a radical thesis and offers a not-so-radical solution.

Law and History Review

Robert A. Williams, Jr., boldly exposes the ongoing legal force of the racist language directed at Indians in American society. Fueled by well-known negative racial stereotypes of Indian savagery and cultural inferiority, this language, Williams contends, has functioned “like a loaded weapon” in the Supreme Court’s Indian law decisions.

Beginning with Chief Justice John Marshall’s foundational opinions in the early nineteenth century and continuing today in the judgments of the Rehnquist Court, Williams shows how undeniably racist language and precedent are still used in Indian law to justify the denial of important rights of property, self-government, and cultural survival to Indians. Building on the insights of Malcolm X, Thurgood Marshall, and Frantz Fanon, Williams argues that racist language has been employed by the courts to legalize a uniquely American form of racial dictatorship over Indian tribes by the U.S. government.

Williams concludes with a revolutionary proposal for reimagining the rights of American Indians in international law as well as strategies for compelling the current Supreme Court to confront the racist origins of Indian law and for challenging bigoted ways of talking, thinking, and writing about American Indians.

Like a Loaded Weapon

Robert A. Williams, Jr. is professor of law and American Indian studies at the James E. Rogers College of Law, University of Arizona. A member of the Lumbee Indian Tribe, he is author of The American Indian in Western Legal Thought: The Discourses of Conquest and coauthor of Federal Indian Law.

Like a Loaded Weapon

Like the iconic country singer known as Williams Jr., the legal scholar Robert A. possesses a unique talent for creative communication. Like a Loaded Weapon presents a radical thesis and offers a not-so-radical solution.

Law and History Review

A powerful critique of federal Indian law.

Perspectives on Politics

Impressive. This is a highly recommended work that provides a thorough analysis of the legal history of Indian rights in the United States.

MultiCultural Review

Williams’s book is of a rare breed for academic writing: thoroughly researched, meticulously sourced, intelligently argued, and passionate to the point of anger.

Law and Politics Book Review

For those who think that American Indians have it ‘pretty good,’ Robert Williams’s new book, Like a Loaded Weapon, is here to remind you that this is far from the case. Williams does more than simply preach to the choir. He goes on to devise a courtroom strategy for redefining Indian law.

News From Indian Country

In his new book, Like a Loaded Weapon, Robert A. Williams, Jr. calls for a revolution. Not a violent revolution, nor even one that involves taking to the streets, but an immediate and transformative political event nonetheless. The Supreme Court must lead the way by overtly turning over two centuries of discriminatory legal rhetoric that perpetuates discrimination in fact.

Cultural Survival Quarterly

Like a Loaded Weapon recalls the dangers of selecting both Supreme Court Justices and historians from a narrow pool of privilege. This book is a must read for lawyers, judges, and educators.

Tribal College Journal

Williams’s analysis of the language of Indian law makes this book a valuable addition to both history and law classes. He offers specific proposals for Indian law advocates. It should be required reading for Supreme Court justices.

Western Historical Quarterly

Like a Loaded Weapon

Contents

Acknowledgments

Introduction

Part I. Discovering a Language of Racism in America

1. “Look, Mom, a Baby Maid!” The Languages of Racism
2. The Supreme Court and the Legal History of Racism in America

Part II. “Signs Taken for Wonders”: The Nineteenth- Century Supreme Court and Indian Rights

3. “The Savage as the Wolf”: The Founders’ Language of Indian Savagery
4. Indian Rights and the Marshall Court
5. The Rise of the Plenary Power Doctrine

Part III. The Twentieth-Century Post-Brown Supreme Court and Indian Rights

6. What “Every American Schoolboy Knows”: The Language of Indian Savagery in Tee-Hit-Ton
7. Rehnquist’s Language of Racism in Oliphant
8. The Most Indianophobic Supreme Court Indian Law Opinion Ever
9. The Dangers of the Twentieth-Century Supreme Court’s Indian Rights Decisions

Part IV. The Rehnquist Court’s Perpetuation of Racism against Indians

10. Expanding Oliphant’s Principle of Racial Discrimination: Nevada v. Hicks
11. The Court’s Schizophrenic Approach to Indian Rights: United States v. Lara

Conclusion: The Fifth Element

Notes

Index