Justice Scalia Calls The Voter Rights Act “Racial Entitlement”
African Americans have had the right to vote – on paper – since 1868 when the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution overuled the Supreme Court ruling of 1857 which had reserved the right to vote to citizens and defined African Americans as non-citizens. But that was just theory. There is a difference between the proclamation of a legal right and its actual exercise. Most voting districts in the South employed a variety of methods to try and prevent them from voting, such as giving them literacy tests which were evealuated by the same white officials who tried to prevent them from voting by giving them the test, in the first place. It was not uncommon for even college graduates to “fail” such “literacy tests”. Other methods included sending them away by telling them they had come to the wrong voting precinct or giving them the wrong date and time for voting, or by asking them for picture ID and maybe even mutliple picture ID’s. It took the Civil Rights Movement with the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King to force the government to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which President Lyndon Johnson signed, to ensure that they not only had the right to vote in theory, by virtue of being admitted as citizens – roll of eyes – but also in practice. Since many states, especially in the South, woud often change their voting laws to make it hard for blacks to vote, the Section 5 of the Act required certain states in the South, which had demonstrated such proclivity, to have the Federal Government review and approve such changes before they could be made law.
But, that was then. Now, the states in the South are in the mood for voter suppression – again. On Wednesday, Shelby County, Alabama, asked the Supreme Court to overturn this provision arguing that states no longer try to make it hard for African Americans to vote and therefore this section of the law is no longer necessary. Imagine that. An African American gets elected as President; several states scramble to make it hard for non-whites to vote by a variety of schemes, including requiring them to show picture ID, among others, knowing that many among the poor, African Americans, the youth and elderly, especially black elderly, do not have ID’s, but are frustrated and cannot implement their voter suppression efforts due to that very Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. And what do they do? Right! Go to the conservative High Court and ague that that section is no longer needed and should be overturned. It’s not like any state in the South (wink wink) is trying to suppress black votes. If there is one thing I admire about these people is their shamelessness and gull; they seem to say: I don’t care that I look like an ahole. I will try to do what I want to do. And you know what baffles me? That the Justices actually sit down with serious faces and “consider” such blatant and clear effort towards voter suppression and discuss it like there is nothing wrong, instead of saying: “are you kidding me?” and telling them to get the f. out of the court. I don’t think I, for one, if I were in the courtroom, would be able to refrain from yelling that all relevant and deserved question: are you kidding me?
But, I wish the ridiculousness of this whole episode ended with the Justices actually taking up such nonsense with straight face and “arguing” it. No, it had to get more ridiculous. Somehow, these crazies have to – just have to – remind us all about all the ugly things that went down before: slavery, lynching, Jim Crow. Sigh! You might have already heard that Justice Antonin Scalia called the Voting Rights Act a “racial entitlement”- you know, like welfare or handout which African Americans feel “entitled” to. Yup, we learned on that day that the right to vote which took a movement to win was an “entitlement” – something that had been given for some time, but should not be demanded forever!
That statement speaks volumes, but I won’t write volumes on it here. The argument is that it’s not needed anymore because states have not enacted laws to suppress black votes since its enactment, never mind that the reason they haven’t is that very law that they’re trying to overturn, now. Why would they be bothered by it if they weren’t trying to get around it? Is it a coincidence that after the election of the first African American president several states try to suppress minorities’ votes and when they’re blocked by the law and fail they decide to challenge the law and ask for its elimination? I suppose the Violence Against Women Act, too, is an entitlement and women feel entitled to it! And if it actually succeeds in reducing violence against women, men who used to beat their wives should go to court and say: we haven’t been beating them since that law was passed, so it’s not needed anymore!