Put the fake outrage on hold for a minute America.
The Supreme Court’s decision on the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is not a blow to civil rights as Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) suggested.
“What the Supreme Court did was to put a dagger in the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965,” Lewis said. “This act helped liberate not just a people but a nation.”
In 1965, this legislation was necessary. John Lewis knows this. He played an active role in America’s civil rights struggles. His skull was fractured in Selma, Ala., during the now famous “Bloody Sunday” march.
But it is no longer 1965. That’s what the Supreme Court said.
The Voting Rights Act was written to combat voter discrimination, mostly in the southern states. The bill required those states to seek federal approval before they made any changes to their election laws whether that be redistricting or altering polling place locations. The nine states (including Arizona) no longer have to seek federal approval to make those changes. They can do it on their own.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion for the Court. In that decision he wrote, “Congress — if it is to divide the states — must identify those jurisdictions to be singled out on a basis that makes sense in light of current conditions. It cannot simply rely on the past.”
In other words, the act is out of date.
As the New York Times summarized Roberts’ decision:
The chief justice recalled the Freedom Summer of 1964, when the civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were murdered near Philadelphia, Miss., while working to register black voters. He mentioned Bloody Sunday in 1965, when police officers beat marchers seeking the right to vote in Selma, Alabama.
“Today,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote, “both of those towns are governed by African-American mayors. Problems remain in these states and others, but there is no denying that, due to the Voting Rights Act, our nation has made great strides.”
He also said Congress could revisit the Voting Rights Act by passing new legislation, one that doesn’t use data from 40 or 50 years ago when the black voter registration rates were only, “6.4 percent.”
There’s also another silver lining here proving how much America has changed since the Voting Rights Act passed: Paula Deen. She’s been dropped by the Food Network, QVC and Smithfield Foods, all because she admitted using a racial slur during a court deposition.
This type of behavior is not acceptable in this country anymore.
So I imagine if some town decided to make it hard for minorities to vote the outcry would be loud and tremendous. Sometimes, we are capable of self-policing. With this decision, the Supreme Court put its faith in the American people.
Lewis’ attachment to the Voting Rights Act is sentimental. He fought for it. He was injured during his fight. But he should take comfort in the fact that his fellow countrymen have learned from his struggles and from the Civil Rights movement and will no longer tolerate things that seemed so common 50 years ago.
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