Amongst other things, Judge Philpot’s fictional autobiography (Judge Z) is a thinly veiled racist diatribe. It’s instructive to compare it with his earlier work (Fords Wonderful World of Golf) which describes his dysfunctional upbringing at the hands of his Televangelist father Ford Philpot, and has an unmistakable pervading theme of repressed homoeroticism. The golf-centric book has relatively innocuous racist expressions such as the mocking of ant-apartheid demonstrators who attempt to boycott South African golfers, and even these are balanced by mollifications such as the comically bizarre claim that the young Philpot’s parents abruptly yanked him from a boarding school on catching wind of someone at the establishment uttering the “N” word.
In his latest book, the kid gloves are off. The court cases described are rife with patronizing stereotypes of minorities including promiscuous, over-reproducing African Americans and drugged out Mexican strippers. Black characters are generally depicted as angry, feckless and “fatherless” murderers when they clash with the judge. Of the ten or so divorcing couples described and derided, at least half include a man of color who is demonized as a villain.
While the book attempts to show a diverse community supporting its hero, token minority characters remain as supporting cast, only portrayed positively if they play the role of “Uncle Toms” by acquiescing through, conformist activities such as:
1. Parroting the judge’s ideology in law school seminars or court hearings (Nicole Mason and her Reverend husband),
2. Inviting him to preach at their Church (The congregation of Mt. Gilead Missionary Baptist Church)
3. Being cajoled by the judge to throw an impromptu birthday party for a boy named for slaveholder Jefferson Davis, and son of a racist skinhead (Aaron Morris)
4. Protecting him from physical assault in court (Deputy Clarence Palmer), or
5. Being cured of delinquency by heeding his advice to eschew abortion (Ivory Smith)
The author’s courtroom attitude to black men is obvious through his description of the several young African-Americans who murder each other through the course of the book despite his “mentorship,” as well his alter ego’s observations:
“Judge Z had seen them all in court. All the signs of a bad outcome were there. The gang tats, the drooping pants hanging so low it looked like they had repealed the law of gravity, the hoodies and white T-shirts, the gang signs they flashed to each other. All were black. All were killed by other young black men. … Every year more young black men were murdered in Lexington. All by other black kids. Not by cops. But the cops were always the targets of protests and accusations about police brutality and excessive force.”
His attitude to other minorities is also only likely to have hardened even though he now has to watch what he says publically as a judge:
“I hate to say this because I will be accused at some point in my lifetime of probably making some sort of racially derogatory statement, and this is not what I intended to do whatsoever, Your Honor, but I do think there is a mind- set among the Oriental people, and I’ve had lots of them as clients, they do not understand the truth,” Philpot said during closing arguments of the divorce case in June 1993.
“I think they don’t sit down and think about what is the truth and what is the standard here of what is right and wrong,” Philpot said.“They say whatever they think is going to help them at the time.”
Everyone is entitled to his or her opinions, but the important point here is that Judge Philpot is entrusted to dispense justice to all the people entering his courtroom. In family court, the judge is for all practical purpose the final word when interpreting facts and truth. Even if an appeal is successful, the case just goes back to his court with new instructions because the appellate court will assume that he is being fair even if they disagree on technical matters of law. To change judges or have them recused is almost impossible. For a judge to have such power and be so obviously prejudiced is a cause of serious concern to the Kentucky families that look to him for fairness.