Tuesday, June 25, 2013

On Politics, History, Racism, and SCOTUS

I can't.

I honestly just can't.  I have lost any and all ability to can today, ladies and gentlemen.  And only part of that comes from the fact that I am wading through a dataset that seems intent on destroying me.

The Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965 as a crucial response to the prevalence of Jim Crow Laws throughout the American South.  Jim Crow Laws were, in case you are unaware, a series of laws throughout states and municipalities which, through enforcement of "poll taxes" or "literacy tests" (I use scarequotes here for a reason -- the actual results of these tests or costs of these poll taxes varied greatly depending on the color of your skin), restricted the access of African Americans to the polls, in spite of the Fifteenth Amendment which guaranteed them that right to vote. (Seriously, though.  Track down a copy of the Alabama Literacy Test and tell me if, when someone slapped that down in front of you because they didn't like the way you looked, you would be able to pass and vote. (Though are you really surprised these laws were in effect less than 100 years after many of these same people thought that people were property?))

In 1965, Congress voted to pass measures which restricted the rights of states to impose discriminatory voting regulations which kept a significant portion of the population from being able to go out to the polls.  An essential piece of the legislation included a stipulation that areas with histories of these kinds of regulations, as well as repeatedly low voter turnout and registration numbers (because that doesn't look suspicious at all), would have to get federal approval before making changes to their voting regulations and voting procedures.

Well, today the Supreme Court overturned that stipulation. In a time where voter ID laws have come under intense criticism for their potentially racist limitations on the ability of minorities to vote, a restriction that has prevented actual legally-binding discrimination and a breach of the US Constitution for more than forty years has been overturned by the body responsible for protecting the Constitution.

Do I think the implications of this are as heavily racist as they would have been in the '60s -- no, at least not on the surface.  But I do think it's democratically-questionable.  Note: many of the areas which have been subject to this clause in the past, including Shelby County, AL, which was involved in specifically this Supreme Court case, are predominantly Republican.  Minority votes are, by-and-large, opposed to the Republican party.  Do I think there's going to be a massively racial backlash?  Probably not, because it's typically a bad PR move.  But do I think there's potential for party politics that will, ultimately, have racial consequences to prevent a large amount of the opposition constituency from turning out to the polls?  Absolutely.

Congratulations, SCOTUS.  I can't.

Furiously yours,
Rachel Leigh

P.S., Let's hope they do better on Prop 8/DOMA than they did with this one.  Love is love, my friends.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please let me know what you think!

Project Wonderful