The WDET Book Club is reading the U.S. Constitution this summer in an attempt to understand the origins of our country’s modern-day discourse and polarization. Attorney and Law Professor Barb McQuade shapes the conversation to help us understand the document that serves as the basis of our democracy.
“It is extremely important to understand where we’ve been if we want to understand where we want to go.” —Barb McQuade, University of Michigan Law School
Listen: Former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan Barb McQuade on the values and discrepancies of the U.S. Constitution.
Barb McQuade is a professor at the University of Michigan Law School and former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. She says in this moment in our country, studying the U.S. Constitution is necessary because, “It is extremely important to understand where we’ve been if we want to understand where we want to go.” McQuade says the Constitution has been a wonderful tool for advancing issues of inequality through litigation, amendments and lawsuits. “We build on all of those prior decisions to reach where we are … all of those things have slowly evolved to where we are today, but we’re only moving toward a perfect union. We’re not there yet.”
McQuade says one of the great contradictions of our Constitution is the assumption at the time of its creation that none of the rights it granted would apply to women or people of color. “There is baked into the Constitution [the idea] that all men are created equal who are white and have property. I think that’s what’s so interesting about things like the 1619 Project.” She says it’s crucial to look back and inspect our framework through a modern lens. “There’s been lots of criticism around critical race theory and looking back at unpleasant parts of our history, but I think it’s really important.”