The U.S. Supreme (Race) court: Roberts, Scalia and the Voting Rights Act

The U.S. Supreme (Race) court: Roberts, Scalia and the Voting Rights Act March 4, 2013
U.S. Supreme Court
Creative Commons Copyright by JoshBergland19 flickr

There is a wicked irony that as the United States marks the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement, the country’s highest court is edging closer to gutting one of the movement’s greatest victories.

As Americans everywhere celebrate the marches, martyrs, and nonviolent courage of Civil Rights activists in Selma, Birmingham, Atlanta and elsewhere, the Supreme Court seems poised to rollback the Voting Rights Act of 1965, or at least, eviscerate key provisions that make it functional legislation.

The very thing for which men and women braved snapping dogs, fire hoses, lynch mobs and murder might not exist by the time this country finishes its yearlong national commemoration of the Civil Rights Movement.

It is a racist country that can whitewash its civil rights heroes with celebrations while, at the same time, uprooting one of its most important legacies.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia
Creative Commons Copyright Stephen Masker (flickr)

Much attention has been given to Justice Antonin Scalia’s incendiary comment framing the Voting Rights Act as legislation that perpetuates “racial entitlement.” His comment drew gasps from those listening in and even a response by Justice Sonia Sotomayor from the bench. Her insight bears repeating: Voting is not a racial entitlement.

Further, overturning or gutting the Voting Rights Act would actually create systemic entitlement — one that preferences and privileges whites and the wealthy, putting the country on a regressive path to the way things were 50 years ago.

But Scalia’s comment is a distraction. Putting his overt racism on display obfuscates the deeply problematic framing of the issue by Chief Justice John Roberts. Scalia is easily dismissed, and it allows Americans to reject an extreme example of racism and embrace a softer, but still menacing, racist stance toward this issue.

More troubling, though, it appears the country’s highest judge doesn’t understand racism or the purpose of the Voting Rights Act.

Either that, or he understands it perfectly, and that’s why he wants it gone. It wouldn’t be surprising if this was the case, given his history with racism and voting-rights legislation.

Roberts essentially argued that states not subjected to the Voting Rights Act had far worse African-American voter turnout in elections, citing the difference between Mississippi and Massachusetts, noting pointedly that Black turnout exceeds white turnout in the former.

What Roberts fails to see is that this better represents a vindication of the Voting Rights Act, not proof that it is obsolete. Only in a racist country can the success of civil rights legislation be used to argue for it is pointlessness.

Then, later, Roberts asked, “is it the government’s submission that citizens in the South are more racist than citizens in the North?”

And, thus, Roberts fundamentally seems to misunderstand racism and the purpose of the Civil Rights Act.

The Voting Rights Act isn’t designed to judge whether individuals are racist. It isn’t designed to prevent people from being racist. Rather it’s designed to judge whether institutions and social systems are racist. It is designed to prevent them from operating in oppressive and racist ways.

The Voting Rights Act isn’t about whether individuals are racist, but about whether rules and laws related to voting are.

Erosion of civil rights
“Erosion of Civil Rights,” Creative Commons Copright Alan Cleaver, flickr

And today’s conservative activism related to voting is racist, or at least coded racially. Voter identification laws are implicitly racist, disproportionately affect people of color. Moreover, these laws are  racist red herrings, chasing after a fabricated problem of voter fraud in order to restrict the voting of African Americans, Latinos and others. In addition, some states have sought to restrict voting opportunities rather than expand them and these politically motivated restrictions tend to target Blacks and Latinos.

The systemic racism that the Voting Rights Act sought to address and prevent doesn’t simply continue to exist today. It is being reinvented and re-imagined under the guise of preventing voter fraud.

But, in one case, Roberts is correct. These disenfranchising laws and restrictions are no longer confined primarily to the Deep South. Rather, they are widespread and pop up all over the nation.

This is more troubling and should reinforce the need not to weaken or reduce the Voting Rights Act, but to strengthen and expand it.

But Roberts’ comments, framed in terms of individualism and racism, seem reasonable. As a result, they are more dangerous. Scalia’s inflammatory rhetoric makes Roberts’ comments seem benign and moderate, when nothing could be further from the truth.

Scalia’s comments represent the scabs of overt racism, easily scraped off and discarded as disgusting and worthless. Roberts’ comments represent a cancer that grows quietly and infects the body of our nation with racism that seems all-too-reasonable.

As an Episcopalian, the church calls on its members to confront and stand against racism in the United States. But how does one stand against racism in the land’s highest court? How does one stand against racism when the Supreme Court seems poised to declare laws designed to prevent systemic racism unconstitutional?

Because, suddenly, we have returned to a more hateful era, veiled this time by false notions fabricated by white privilege of colorblindness and reverse racism. Suddenly we have returned to an era where racism by the state can be constitutional. Suddenly, it seems, we are no longer observing the deliberations of the Supreme Court, but those of a court for supremacy.

Suddenly, we are back in an era where the only answer might just be to march again.

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  • Affirmative action and quotas are racist. Voter ID preserves the validity of voting, and if you are too stupid or lazy to get a ID card you shouldn’t be voting anyways.

    • The “too stupid or lazy” trope is actually deeply rooted in racist stereotypes dating back to slavery. So you have essentially proved my point for me in the first comment.

      • Brian T

        David, your characterization of “too stupid or lazy” as a racist stereotype is,I believe, a demonstration of your own racism. People unwilling to get IDs in order to vote are stupid and lazy no matter what their color may be, for you to suggest it is racist to write is absurd. It is tantamount to you saying black people are stupid and lazy, which is an unfair stereotype you seem to be seeking to perpetuate. It is as absurd as the thesis of this article.

      • The context of this conversation is one of race. As my original post noted, the issue with Voter ID laws is that they disproportionately affect (negatively) the poor and particularly persons of color. So the characterization of those who do not have an ID or do not get one is directly tied to the context of this conversation, the facts of Voter ID law and the long and entrenched racial coding (dating back to days of slavery to today) of characterizing someone as “lazy and stupid.”

        Again, context is everything. The context of this conversation is race. That you can be oblivious to the context is revealing.

    • jcon526

      The problem is that you’ve assumed people are “too stupid or lazy”. You haven’t considered that:

      1) Many citizens may not have proper IDs for legitimate reasons (don’t drive, live far away from state offices, elderly, etc.)

      2) Republicans were trying to get the Voter ID laws passed shortly before the election. There’s no guarantee that a potential voter would receive their ID in time or otherwise wouldn’t be held up by bureaucracy.

      3) Furthermore, in some cases, they refused to keep state offices open late to accommodate people who are coming from far away.

      4) Some states charge a fee for photo IDs, which not everyone can afford, especially in such a short period of time before the election.

      5) Most importantly … there was NEVER a serious case of voter fraud that necessitated Voter ID laws being passed so quickly.

      I am actually in favor of creating a Voter ID system, but in a way in which voters may receive legitimate IDs in a fair and timely fashion.

      Trying to enact a system in such a flagrant manner as to discourage certain people from voting is just sickening.

      • emd04

        We have voter ID laws in my state, but the list of IDs that are acceptable is as broad as allowing a utility bill! You need to show ID to get into an R rated movie, to use a credit card, to do a thousand every day things. I cannot understand why people are against something so, so simple. Get an ID. Show it when you vote. Easy.

      • jcon526

        Well as I’ve said, I’m in favor of a voter ID system, but one that is done with timeliness, fairness, efficiency, and consideration for ALL of the voting public.

        I’ve given reasons why it’s not “so simple” for *everyone* in a short frame of time, and the fact that there was *never* a serious case of voter fraud to justify such swift means.

        You don’t think rapidly enacting voter ID laws months before the 2012 election wasn’t motivated by political ambition and repressing the vote? Even if you don’t, for heaven’s sake, they even *admitted* it.

  • When the playing field is already wide open for some, they have a hard time understanding why measures must be put in place to make the playing field open for ALL. Racism has been around a lot longer than the Civil Rights Act that supposedly made it illegal to treat minorities like second class citizens. There are still people that were alive well before the Civil Rights movement who actively participated in hindering the lives of minorities…bent on making people’s lives a living hell. Racism is not eradicated just because our President is black. With President Obama running for office just let it be know how much voter suppression was still going on. David Schimelpfenig, you have no idea what you are talking about. I would say your very mindset is the reason why discrimination is still very much an issue in this country as it was some 47+ years ago. Somewhere in the smallness of your mind you think what you say has some validity…which it does not. You are too stupid and or lazy to understand why measures must still be in place to keep the playing field equal and open in education, the work force and within business. Reading is fundamental and a mind is a terrible thing to waste.

    • Sigmund Gordon

      If discrimination, and specifically voter suppression is going on, then why are there no politicians willing to even discuss expanding the VRA?

      Suddenly, we are back in an era where the only answer might just be to march again.

      Who is going to actually do that? Who is going to press for having the VRA expanded to even one more state? So, while this blog post at first seems to support that idea, I am not sure it really does. It seems to be more in favor of the status quo. There seems to be little real interest in expansion. So, rather than actually being used for its intended purpose the VRA is really little more than a mascot. No other abusive jurisdiction need worry that its provisions will ever be enacted upon them.

      • I can’t answer your question about the motivations of politicians. One is they likely don’t think they have the support of the people to expand the VRA (which is why marching would have to be part of the solution not divorced for it).

        I can’t figure out exactly what you are saying here, but to understand this post as in favor of the status quo is a severe misrepresentation. I notice you are very invested in this comment section, but it is not a space for simply spouting off random thoughts whenever they come to you.

        You are begging the question throughout this post. It’s a logical fallacy.

      • Sigmund Gordon

        So, do you agree that no effort will be made to expand VRA? Do you agree there is no interest in expanding whatever protections the VRA has offered to some? It sounds like there are plenty of folks who need the VRA in their state but no one is advocating for them, only for the status quo. If it is so important to maintain important protections for a few areas why not for others? Why don’t others deserve the same protections? I see you offering a little aside that yeah, the VRA should be expanded rather than abolished, but it is offered only far enough to support the status quo. Once the court decides in favor of the status quo then everyone just forgets about all those others who don’t get the benefits of VRA protections. It makes is it all look like phony posturing if no one really is going to work to expand VRA to others who need it as much or more than those who have it.

      • So because you believe that no one is really going to work to expand the VRA, then it should be abolished and all calls to expand it are phony posturing? That isn’t just disingenuous. It’s illogical and the exact method by which the status quo is affirmed.

        Again, I will ask you one more time. Please stop engage in logical fallacies. Each post you simply beg the question. If you would like to create your argument and engage as others have done, that is fine. But begging the question and ad hominem logical fallacies is not something I will continue to let go in this space.

      • Sigmund Gordon

        I am just asking if anyone thinks any effort will be made to expand VRA.

      • I hope so. Regardless, it should be expanded.

      • Sigmund Gordon

        Any suggestions for which states should be included in the expansion?

  • Considering the many counties that were rebuffed under this provision just prior to our last election, it is a fool that believes this is unnecessary.

    Besides, in suggesting we erase section 5, CJ Roberts is proving it has value. If we truly were colorblind and post-racial as he believes, then wouldn’t the law stop working?

    • J_Bob

      Many countries with sterling voting records like Sudan, Libya, Iran, etc.?

      Seems the UK has it’s problems, with women not being able to vote, or told how to vote, in “sharia” areas,

  • Sigmund Gordon

    There need to be actual objective criteria to judge whether only the specific states listed in the Voting Rights Act need to be reviewed. The Voting Rights Act only addresses any possible racism in those few states. All other states are exempt. So the states included in the Voting Rights Act provisions need to be compared to those who were not. Then will we be able to see whether the provisions are appropriate to only to those states originally included for review or whether other states seem to need review.

  • Bradley Byrne

    I am a lifelong Episcopalian and a lifelong resident of Alabama. I think the author misses the context and central point of Shelby County’s case. The case does not seek to invalidate the 1965 Voting Rights Act – it seeks to invalidate Section 5, which only applies to southern states and few local communities. I and the vast majority of Alabamians support the Voting Rights Act, but the premise of Section 5 is that one part of the country is inherently racist and the rest of the country is not. Justice Roberts asked the Solicitor General if it was the government’s position that the south was more racist than the rest of the nation and the SG said “No.” So why single out one part of the country? If requiring pre-clearance is appropriate for one part of the country why is it not for the entire nation? Is this a type of prejudice – regional – which is equal in it’s pernitiousness to racism? To quote out Lord, “Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone.”

    • jcon526

      If it offends you, then the law should be expanded to all fifty states.

      And it’s not prejudice if the states in question actually DID systemically discriminate against minorities.

      It’s not about being without sin … it’s about ensuring that all Americans have the right to vote without the system being unfairly stacked against them.

      In a sense, the words of Jesus should be applied to those who were being pre-judged and denied the right to vote … not to justify state governments who once used their power to deny minority voters only to imply ‘we’re better now’.

      • Sigmund Gordon

        Okay, but shouldn’t the court at least consider expanding the VRA to those places who appear to have structures that are causing worse outcomes elsewhere, or do the historical failures of those who were originally required to make amends mean that no other states will ever have to deal with the problems they have?

      • If you read the post, I do say that the VRA needs to be expanded. But just because it needs to be expanded doesn’t mean it should be gutted if it cannot be expanded. That’s poor policy making.

        It’s not punishment for historical failures. It’s ongoing protection for voters.

      • Sigmund Gordon

        Okay, the Congress overwhelmingly voted to continue the VRA. But would any vote to expand it, as in making it apply to their own state or district? I am guessing that by voting to continue it, they are in effect choosing not to discuss anything about it whatever. It is a sort of policy of containment. Would it even be politically possible to discuss it or the actual state of affairs in those states which are not currently affected? How would people react in those areas when it is revealed that they are doing worse, maybe even much worse? Would Congress be capable of developing an objective way to decide which areas the VRA would be expanded to include? I am guessing that they rubber stamp the VRA because they really do not want to touch it at all. What do you think?

      • jcon526

        Again, yes. I think that the law should be expanded.

        It doesn’t appear that the court is doing so, by absurdly calling it a “racial entitlement” and uselessly speculating whether some states are worse than others.

        The worst idea is to repeal it.
        A better idea would be to expand it.

        The consolation prize would be to keep it, as is.

    • Thanks for commenting. I am a native Alabamian and went to college in the Birmingham metro area, so it is nice to hear from home. Also, I am aware of the context and the article certainly reflects that. The problem with Roberts’ comments is that it frames it explicitly in terms not of regionalism, but in terms of individuals in different regions. The VRA isn’t meant to address the racism of individuals, and this is significant. Roberts’ question is disingenuous and a red herring to what the VRA does. It also misunderstand the kind of racism — systemic and institutional — that the legislation addresses. The VRA doesn’t make people any more or less racist.

      If you read the entire post, you’ll notice that I agree that Section 5 doesn’t need to simply apply to the South and other communities (not all of which are Southern). It needs to be expanded. The voting legislation, as I’m at pains to point out in the post, currently making the rounds in states throughout the country is rooted in the same racism the Civil Rights era, just disguised, reinvented and repackaged to make it palatable. (See Lee Atwater’s revised Southern Strategy) So, it’s not the Section 5 is superfluous. It’s that it’s too narrow as to *only* include certain regions/communities.

      Shelby County, as Sotomayor notes, isn’t the best county to be bringing the suit, as their record with the VRA is far from sterling.

      I think it is dangerous and inaccurate to frame measures that prevent systemic racism as a kind of reverse racism. If you are attempting to say that requiring Shelby County and others to submit to Section 5 is equivalent to the systemic racism and oppression directed historically and currently at persons of color, I will let that stand on its own for its lack of engagement/knowledge with historic and current racism. It reveals, if that is what you are saying, some significant blindspots.

      No one is condemning Shelby County or other groups. It is white privilege that sees measures that protect persons of color as a condemnation of their own group/government/view. All that is being asked is that municipalities ensure their voting measures do not support systemic racial disenfranchisement. As a Christian and an Episcopalian, joining with those protections and standing against disenfranchisement is an embodiment of the Gospel.

      Here are a list of measures the General Convention has passed regarding racism. I would highly recommend Anti-Racism training for everyone, following TEC resolutions. It is not for the faint of heart, but for those willing to question their own assumptions and implicit racism. It helps to fully admit our own racism and confront it.

      • Bradley Byrne

        If it applies equally to all parts of the nation, and consistetly, then Section 5 would be safe from Supreme Court action. But, there would be little support in Congress for making every state, county and municipal government in the nation go through the time, expense and hassle of the pre-clearance process. So the majority of the country makes the minority do what the majority itself objects to doing. Is that right? Of course not. And, that’s Justice Roberts’ point. That’s logic and not racism.

        Section 5 is no longer truly about racism. Indeed there are more African-American elected officials in Alabama than in any of the states which Section 5 doesn’t cover.

        I don’t argue that we should all repent of our sins, and racism is a particularly ugly sin. We should also repent of our other sins, and subjecting a particular part of our nation to prejudice (and Section 5 is on its face prejudicial) is a sin as well, needing equal repentance.

        As for my “blind spot”, I have lived long enough to have seen many of them in myself and have had to ask for forgiveness. God spreads around His grace so that we are forgiven of our “blind spots”, past and present, and He challenges us to examine ourselves so that we see them (and question ourselves when we “see” them in others), so that we truly repent. I lived in Alabama in the sixities as a child and it would be easy for me to reprove the adults of those years for their racist acts and omissions. But then I remember that Jesus said we should not judge others so that we will not be judged.

      • So essentially, if Sec 5 of the VRA needs to be expanded, and there isn’t the will to do it in Congress, then we should simply do away with the section and the voter protections it affords? That isn’t logical. That’s policy by meat cleaver. Is it right to remove voter protections — that work and continue to be needed in Shelby County and elsewhere where it currently is in place — simply because there would be little support in Congress to expand them as it needs to be? Of course not.

        Further it creates a victim and martyr complex, based in white privilege, to see voter protections as some kind of oppression and prejudice of a minority. It isn’t based in reality to see the VRA as regional prejudice against the South.

        Your comments about racial make-up of elected officials is overly simplistic and is the equivalent of one saying, “I’m not racist because I have black friends.” But to play the numbers and tokenism game, it should be noted clearly that Shelby County has a population that is about 70 percent white and 26 percent black. This is double the national population percentage of African-Americans. Shelby County Commissioners, who decide policy for the entire county, are ALL white (as are all the other elected county officials like the probate judge, sheriff, etc). And this is not simply a Shelby County anomaly. The complexities of elections and gerrymandering make such broad brush appeals meaningless. At the very, very least, this argument doesn’t hold water for a municipality like Shelby County who is bringing the suit.

        Again, I am baffled that anyone — especially one who lived through the 1960s in Alabama — can see voter protections and think it representative of prejudice against oneself and region. Where you see prejudice and sinfulness, I see protection and enfranchisement. I am stunned that anyone could compare the racism (and its related injustices) in this country to the requirement for government entities to submit to pre-clearance as a voter protection.

        Certainly, God forgives our blindspots. But that of course doesn’t mean we should ignore them. With racism, we are all caught in a culture embedded with latent and implicit racism. We are all shaped by it (warped by it). We can’t help to be. The question becomes is what we do with that knowledge when we see it.

      • Sigmund Gordon

        What about equal protection? Shelby county residents get the VRA protections, but many others don’t. The ball is in the Court’s court. What should they do about the equal protection aspect by which many other places need protections but are only willing to vote it onto others not on themselves? Is it just too bad for them? Isn’t that a system racism as well?

      • Bradley Byrne

        Prejudice is prejudice. If you discriminate against a woman because of her gender, it is sinful. If I discriminate against you because you live in California, that too is sinful. In both cases the offender ignores the other’s basic humanity,and the value God places on every individual, because of a label. Jesus broke through the labels of His time, including “geographic/cultural” labels like “Samaritan” and “Roman”. You would label my four children, and their generation who were born into and grew up in a desegregated Alabama, as racists because of the acts and ommisions of people two generations above them. Does that seem fair?

        In reply to Mr. Zac Henson, since he doesn’t know me he makes a number of erroneous assumptions about me, again based upon regional prejudice. He offers an opportunity to “redeem” myself, but I have already been redeemed by the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. I have no power to redeem myself at all; but I do have an obligation to follow His will, which includes opposing racism, sexism, and all prejudice.

      • How are you or other individuals in the South (or even entities) being discriminated against? Again, I don’t understand the victim complex of being embattled despite holding positions of cultural and political power and privilege in society. Less prejudice, more preferential option for the oppressed and marginalized.

        I wouldn’t label your children anything. I grew up in the desegregated Alabama — elementary, middle, high school, college. I am not labeling you or anyone a racist. I am inviting us all — myself included — to explore how a racist society (which is all of America — the VRA needs to be expanded) has warped and shaped us, and in which ways we continue to be complicit in it.

        I think we share a different set of understandings. I see our societies as still racist. You seem to not think so. This is why I pointed you to anti-racism, which TEC continually advocates for. Not because I feel I am superior to you, but because I feel I am wounded in a similar way as you. As a person of the South who has been subjected to cultural, political and systemic racism.

        I am not accusing you. I’m inviting you to explore with me our common woundedness and to explore our common complicity in acts of oppression. I am inviting you to explore with me the ways in which the racism that existed in the 60s has transformed and become implicit in society, how it still exists and how we are still called to stand against it. As Enriching Our Worship calls us to explore — the evil done on our behalf.

        We may not see eye to eye on this, and I don’t expect us too. But I don’t want you to mistake me from someone who doesn’t understand where you are coming from or someone who is from the outside labeling you.

        The most liberating thing I have ever done is see how the racism of Alabama (and racism isn’t limited to Alabama; it just happens to be my cultural context) shaped and warped me — against my will — and began the long process of confronting it.

        I wish you peace and grace in your efforts to stand against racism, sexism and prejudice. All I ask is that you spend time among those communities listening to them about how these things still affect them in a society that projects itself as post-racial, etc.

      • Bradley Byrne

        Peace and grace to you as well, David. I will continue my work (since 1987) in our beloved state to help those who are locked away in the slavery of illiteracy. They are black and white, but mainly poor, and they deserve so much better.

      • Sigmund Gordon

        “As a Christian and an Episcopalian, joining with those protections and standing against disenfranchisement is an embodiment of the Gospel.”

        I don’t follow. I thought the Gospel is the forgiveness of sins. Social justice is following the law of love, loving your neighbor etc. and specifically not the Gospel.

      • The Gospel is Jesus, the Incarnation: (from Luke — quoted from Isaiah) “8 ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
        because he has anointed me
        to bring good news to the poor.
        He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
        and recovery of sight to the blind,
        to let the oppressed go free,
        19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’
        20And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ ”

        The Gospel is rooted in ancient Judaism’s notions of Jubilee and a shalom society. So we are called to be and enact the Gospel (“social justice”).

      • Sigmund Gordon

        But if it is something we are commanded to do, then it is law. Jesus sets us free from our sins. That is the Gospel, right? The scripture is fulfilled as we are forgiven. We just receive the forgiveness. God does the forgiving. We love and serve our neighbors but that is not the Gospel.

      • I don’t view the Gospel on those kinds of individualistic notions. I believe the Gospel (good news) is much larger than that.

      • Sigmund Gordon

        What about a person who feels terrible guilt for his sins? Is there no assurance for that individual? What about the repentant on death row? Does he just go to his execution awaiting his terrible fate in eternity?

      • Sure there is assurance for that individual. But I don’t want to reduce something as big and revolutionary as the Gospel to individual assurance. I encourage you to expand how you see the work and life of Jesus.

      • Sigmund Gordon

        Can you explain this larger idea?

      • I already did, but I’ll repeat it again verbatim from above:

        The Gospel is Jesus, the Incarnation: (from Luke — quoted from Isaiah) “8 ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
        because he has anointed me
        to bring good news (Good News = Gospel) to the poor.
        He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
        and recovery of sight to the blind,
        to let the oppressed go free,
        19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’
        20And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ ”

        The Gospel is rooted in ancient Judaism’s notions of Jubilee and a shalom society. So we are called to be and enact the Gospel (“social justice”).

      • Sigmund Gordon

        Totally confused. I don’t understand at all.

      • Not surprised.

  • Zac Henson

    At face value, both Mr. Henson and Mr. Byrne are right, but I want to focus on Mr. Byrne because I find his arguments intriguing, though I believe he misrepresents the Court to some extent – the Court particularly Scalia have made this case a referendum on affirmative action, etc.

    Byrne’s argument is that Section 5 is essentially marginalizing the South because it targets the South and not other areas. I agree with this. There is a long history of casting the South as racist, backwards, sexually deviant, violent, and stupid. One needs to look no further that Hee Haw or Deliverance to see popular representations of this belief. However, I do not believe that the intentions of Mr. Byrne are to somehow free the oppressed or fight for the marginalized considering that he supported HB56 and probably supports Voter ID laws, though I do not know this for a fact.

    No, Byrne’s argument is a carefully carved narrative of white supremacy couched in the language of resistance to oppression, a powerful story to tell. It relies on the age old strategy of bestowing privileges to a middle strata of the population, poor and middle class whites, to control, manage, oppress, and marginalize those on the lower strata. His argument is not about defending poor and middle class whites against “internal orientalism” or geographic marginalization, but of maintaining the distinction between the two to augment political power. His narrative sort of makes him, in Michael Eric Dyson’s words, a “raging parody of a Marxist,” in which oppression becomes a political tool of the oppressors.

    Byrne can however redeem himself, by stating here that he would support new expanded Voting Rights legislation that encompassed the whole country and included gerrymandering, Voter ID, etc. My sense is that he will not make a principled stand on this, instead choosing only to exploit his white constituency. As a final word, I believe that the South is a marginalized geographic place and that something needs to be done about it, but people like Mr. Byrne, who don’t fight for the rights of everyone, undermines the fight to build the South into what it could truly be. To me, this is disgusting.

  • yippeekayay

    This is pure partisan rationalization. In a word, it’s utter nonsense. This is the sort of leftist bloviation that allows us to moralize and pontificate about the ills of systemic racism (usually only to be found in the more conservative institutions) rooted in our twisted perception of black slavery two centuries ago while entirely ignoring the reality of today. When I say reality, I mean real happenings, not theories about what might have happened or possibly might happen in the future. If we look closely at the reality of the last election, we find stories like the Black Panthers excluding all white and Republican voters from polling booths in Pennsylvania until after voting was concluded; we come across people like the black woman in Ohio bragging on YouTube that she voted for Ohbummer 12 times. We find stories like the folks in Southern Virginia who said that busloads of black folks from Florida showed up to vote in their counties and precincts in Virginia. It seems fairly obvious that if there’s growing racism in America it’s not flowing from the allegedly old white male establishment. It also seems fairly obvious that voter identification laws are designed to prevent real occurring voter fraud. If that fraud is being perpetrated primarily by one racial group, it’s still first and foremost fraud. Get a grip and quit selling your intellect to the highest bidder. Scalia is a genius and I’d take his analysis over yours any day of the week.