I’m sorry. I’m so very sorry. Back in 1965 when you and so many other brave Americans managed, after years of struggle, to pass the Voting Rights Act, it seemed like our nation had finally begun to turn a corner on the ever-present spectre of Race. It was a gift you gave future generations assuming we would treasure it, or at the very least, keep it.
I wonder if Clarence Thomas, he of Pin Point, GA, had been born a few years earlier and been denied the vote if he would taken beter care of your great work? I note that by the time he was old enough to vote, Section 4 was in full swing.
Buffalo, NY native John Roberts, who came of age well-after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, tells us “Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional.” I wonder if Justice Roberts has ever been denied anything, much less his right to vote.
I could go down the list of the other over-privileged white men who voted with the five-justice majority to gut your outstanding legislation, but suffice to say they were all appointed by Republican presidents. The four who still think the (whole) Voting Rights Act is a good idea? Yes sirs, they were all appointed by Democratic presidents. That won’t surprise you.
You would be proud of Justice Ginsberg. As a Jewish woman of a certain age, I’m pretty sure she knows what bigotry looks like. Maybe that has nothing to do with it, however. Maybe she’s just smart enough to know to stick with a good idea: “Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet,” she wrote.
Part of me wonders why, after nearly fifty years, suddenly Section 4 is “unconstitutional” according to Justice Roberts. But I know why, and so do you gentlemen. Roberts also tells us, “Our country has changed,” and that’s true in many ways. America’s demographics have changed. They’ve changed almost to the point that if those of traditional privilege do not derail the rules you put in place back in the 1960’s, there will be fewer and fewer old white men running the show. I think that scares Justice Robert and his ilk.
The sad truth is that it took Texas – a state where the demographics are changing faster than anywhere else – less than a day to capitalize on the Court’s shameful work. Texas won’t be the last.
So I apologize, Dr. King and President Johnson. I’m sorry that we weren’t tough enough to keep the freedoms you guaranteed for us. We got lazy. Some of us thought that even if a few Republicans were elected, and even if they managed to get a majority of their appointees to the Supreme Court, no decent Justice would do such a fool thing as to take the teeth out of the Voting Rights Act.
We were wrong. We’ll try to do better.
Everblog’s Deborah Ludwig wrote a fine explanation of the issue when the Court considered it earlier this year. You’d be well served to read her article here.