Georgetown Should Not Fire Ilya Shapiro for a Bad Tweet

Georgetown University’s Black Law Students Association demandingIlya Shapiro was fired from her new job at the university as director of Constitution Studies at Cato Institute. Shapiro had been scheduled to begin work next week as the Georgetown Center for the Constitution’s executive director. However, a poor-worded tweet by President Joe Biden about his pledge to appoint an African woman to the Supreme Court has put him in serious trouble.

Shapiro also agreed that the tweet wasn’t great.

Shapiro explains, “I regret the poor choices of words that undermine my message about no discrimination against people for their gender or skin colour.” There are reasons.

Shapiro posted the following on Wednesday

Objectively best pick for Biden is Sri Srinivasan, who is solid prog & v smart. Being the first Asian American (Indian American) has many benefits. Unfortunately, we won’t get more black women because she isn’t in the most recent intersectionality hierarchy. We can be thankful for the small things.

Biden claimed that he would only consider it because[ing]Black women will not be allowed to run for President of the United States. His nomination will continue with an asterisk. The Court will take up affirmative actions next term, which is quite fitting.

I sincerely and deeply apologize for some poorly drafted tweets I posted late Wednesday night. Race issues are a sensitive topic, which is why affirmative action debates are often fraught. In my intention was to express that I believed that exclusion of Supreme Court potential candidates, Chief Judge Srinivasan included, was not right and detrimental to long term reputation of Court. This was not meant to disparage a group of individuals, or question their humanity. The dignity and value of a person is not dependent on their immutable characteristics. My friends and family know I believe these feelings. If you have any doubts or questions about me, I will be glad to answer them.

My motivation for joining Georgetown was to support your noble mission of educating students, educating the public and engaging in the fight for legal ideas that will lead to justice, fairness, and equality. It is something I long to do. This week’s tweets, while poorly written and framed, do not advance this mission. I also sincerely apologize. I am capable of and will improve the way I communicate my views, regardless of who disagrees with or agrees with me about a variety of policy and legal issues.

Shapiro was openly honest that his wording was misguided. However, it is incorrect to state that Shapiro had stated that the Supreme Court would have poor justices if black women were included as a group. Rather, he indicated that he thought the absolute best choice—from a progressive standpoint—was a specific judge, Sri Srinivasan (an Indian American and member of the Hindu faith, which would also be a first for the Court). Shapiro expressed regret that Biden was committed to selecting a justice according to a particular demographic profile.

It is a valid opinion. It is worthwhile to ensure that the Supreme Court better represents the nation’s diversity. However, there are other ways of achieving this goal. (Currently, eight of the nine justices attended law school at either Harvard or Yale—Biden could look outside the Ivy League, for one.) Criticizing the notion that Biden would have his main and most important criteria based upon racial/gender lines is acceptable.

While the phrase “lesser-black woman” wasn’t particularly ugly, some are misinterpreting it as a call for Shapiro’s dismissal. While Georgetown residents are entitled to ask for more exact words from someone as powerful and respected as Shapiro, they should not be surprised that the university has accepted his apology. Georgetown administration would have to fire Shapiro if they were to admit that Shapiro is racist and sexist.