Civil Rights, Commerce, and US Colonialism

Lisa Marie Cacho

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63–82
JournalSocial Text
Issue number2 (135)
StatePublished - Jun 2018


  • African Americans
  • indigeneity
  • civil rights
  • Commerce Clause
  • economies of dispossession


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