This essay examines how the courts intensified Indigenous dispossession and legally disempowered African Americans through misinterpretations of the Commerce Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution. These misinterpretations support corporate interests, US sovereignty, and white supremacy while linking Congress’s plenary power over Indigenous nations to people of color’s civil rights. Hence, the civil rights of African Americans and other people of color are, in part, legally ineffectual promises contingent on expanding US sovereignty and racial capitalism.
Civil Rights, Commerce, and US Colonialism
Lisa Marie Cacho is associate professor of Latina/Latino studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her book Social Death: Racialized Rightlessness and the Criminalization of the Unprotected (2012) won the John Hope Franklin award in 2013 for best book in American studies.