amazing attorney, law professor, lawyer, author, and activist made
her transition on January 7, 2022, even as Black folks and our allies
were engaged in the legislative battle to solidify our voting rights.
In the middle of the struggle, a beacon, a woman who loved voting
rights and fair representation more than life itself, was taken from
us. Lani Guinier was a woman who turned chicken spit (or something)
into chicken salad. In a unique act of personal and political
betrayal, Former President Bill Clinton first nominated Guinier to be
Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, then bowed to right-wing
pressure to withdraw her nomination. If Guinier had had her way, she
would have preferred to defend her record against inaccurate attacks.
Instead, she went on to write brilliant books and provocative
articles. Her theme, often the tyranny of the majority.
loonies on the right who vilified Guinier might take a more careful
look at her work. They called her a "Quota Queen" and
ridiculed her views on cumulative voting as "anti-democratic."
Cities like New York and San Francisco now use ranked-choice voting
to elect leaders. Both London Breed in San Francisco and Eric Adams
in New York won their seats thanks to ranked-choice voting. Legacy
Guinier. Some Republican minorities that attacked Guinier might find
some solace in her views. She wrote that a 51-49 split should not
mean that the 51 percent gets all the power. Instead, there have to
be methods of power-sharing.
McConnell (R-KY) and his cronies don't get that. They want it all.
Guinier wanted to find a way to share power, manage compromise, and
ensure that the 49 percent had a say. Republicans have so rigged the
rules that they flex majority muscles even when they are in the
minority. Democrats have forgotten how to fight back, complacently
leaning into an unfair process that includes filibusters,
gerrymandering, and downright theft.
Guinier was inspired by Constance Baker Motley, the first woman to
work for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, when she was
hired in 1946. Guinier was twelve when she learned of Attorney Motley
and saw her as an inspiration. Lani Guinier had many others to
inspire her, including Elaine Jones, Director-Counsel of the NAACP
LDF from 1993 through 2004, and the first woman to lead the
organization. Guinier benefited from Elaine Jones' mentorship and, as
an LDF attorney, won 31 of the 32 cases she prosecuted.
not trying to write an obituary. I'm just thinking out loud about an
amazing woman who blazed trails, made a difference, shrugged off
adversity, and fought passionately for the Black vote. As she makes
her transition, we are struggling. One of her contemporaries, fellow
Harvard Law grad and civil rights attorney Gail Wright Sirmans,
observed that we "recycle our struggles." From the end of
enslavement, the issue of Black voting rights has been a challenge to
our nation. There were grandfather clauses and poll taxes, and when
they were eliminated, there were other hurdles to clear.
is not just a Black thing. To discourage disabled voting, some
polling places have been put on a hill, challenging to navigate in a
wheelchair. People can't bring absentee ballots to their grandmothers
and grandfathers to discourage elder voting. To prevent youth voting,
students who spend the majority of their year in their college town
have to clear hurdles to have the right to vote. Not to mention the
shenanigans, the robocalls that say voting will be the next day, the
threat that immigration officials will show up at a voting place to
check citizenship, the ways that polling places change at the last
Guinier was down for this fight, and she was aware of the attacks on
our right to vote. She represents a long line of Black warrior
lawyers like Constance Baker Motley, Elaine Jones, Sherrilyn Ifill,
Kristen Clarke, Barbara Arnwine, and others. These sisters are
warrior lawyers. Lani Guinier was among the best of them.
warrior lawyers are necessary in these times. We count on them to
strap on their armor and prepare for this next fight. There are no
rights without voting rights. There are no rights without voting
rights. President Biden, step up. You said you had our backs. Vice
President Harris, continue to speak up. Lani Guinier, rest in peace
and power. Guide our leaders, through your spirit, to do the right