Beware those persons of privilege who say they do not see race or gender. Unless two people have equal power, forcing them to play by the same rules is to give preferential treatment to the strong. First you must ensure people have equal footing, then you may remove the laws that protect the weak from the strong. Those who want the same rules for the lion and the lamb, are probably lions.
Voting Rights Act of 1965 was a linchpin of the civil rights movement. But some are arguing that America is now “post racial” and no longer needs those protections. Many cite the fact that we have a black president as proof that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is now obsolete.
The case before the court, coming out of Shelby County, Ala., concerns Section 5 of the act, which requires some states and jurisdictions (mostly in the South) to seek permission from the federal government before they can implement any law related to voting. If a voter-ID law, redistricting plan or other election law is seen as worsening the position of racial minorities, then the Department of Justice or a federal court in Washington will not allow the voting change to go into effect. Earlier this year, for example, a federal court struck down Texas’s recently enacted voter-ID law and Congressional redistricting plan on that basis.
Even if one accepts the argument (and I don’t) that racism is no longer a major problem in America, it seems that a nation with a three hundred and fifty year history of slavery and oppression would have more humility about its own judgment on matters of race. And, of course, the idea that racism is dead would be a joke if it weren’t so deadly.
Since Obama was re-elected America has hemorrhaged with racist responses. Voter suppression efforts this year were a pandemic. My own state of Texas now has enough signatures to request seceding from the union as a result of the election. In fact, Texas’ people of color were protected by the Voting Rights Act of 1965 just last year when redistricting plans threatened to rob some minority populations of representation.
What irony it will be if Obama’s re-election were the bromide that convinced Americans to remove another linchpin from the civil rights laws and from what Madison called “the tyranny of the majority.”