You probably have already seen it make headlines. SCOTUS struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act.
And I, who reads history books for the hell of it, who researches time periods, culture, attitudes therein just for fun, feel like I’m sitting back and watching the history of this country in rewind mode. Horror doesn’t quite encompass what I’m feeling. Numbness doesn’t either. Hell, the closest I come to comparing my own emotions about this would be the Star Wars III scene where Padme Amidala is watching the entire Council celebrate the creation of the Galactic Empire, knowing that this is the collapse of freedom as she knows it. “This is how liberty dies,” she said. “With thunderous applause.” While there’s no thunderous applause, there is a court decision, a legal act that only a subsequent decision in the same court can overturn, that puts a wrecking ball into the progress of this country when it comes to voters and discrimination.
The November primaries were not that long ago. I got up at 4am just to be one of the first people to cast my vote. And if you remember the November primaries, minorities faced all sorts of backlash throughout the country – why? Because they wanted to vote. Attempts to intimidate voters off the line? Check. Attempts to curtail same-day registration? Check. Closing down polling centers to force people into hour-long queues to get them to give up and leave? Why, thank you, Florida, if I remember, that was you. And now, Texas (why the hell is it always Texas?!) is redrawing its districts in an effort to – surprise to no one – curtail minority votes.
And Texas, for the record, is seeing its white non-Hispanic majority dwindle down. Another election or two and that state will be bluer than the Caribbean in the summer.
Guys, don’t give me crap about voter ID having anything to do with proof of citizenship. Citizenship gets verified when someone registers to vote. The voter registration card is effectively all the ID you need, and barring that, guess what: voter rolls are required at the polls. So by the time one gets to their polling place, they’re either there or they’re not. If they must register same day – again, gets verified. There’s no need for a voter ID law. And in that same decision, the SCOTUS has upheld Section 5,
Let’s call a spade a spade here, and it’ll be unpleasant, and I don’t really give a damn how unpleasant this is, but I have to say it. It’s about race. This court case was all about race, any way you slice it. It’s all about non-white people being in charge and having the opportunity to influence who’s in charge. It’s all about the fact that there’s a black man in the White House who got there by popular and electoral vote alike, held onto his seat by the same vote, and proved that he has the brain and the acumen to hold the office, and the old white male Christian “majority” of the Republicans can no longer get what they want just on the presumption of their own privilege of being old, white, male, and Christian. It’s about the fact that minorities, whether black, Latino, naturalized citizen, or female in combination with any of the above being anywhere near a position of authority. It’s about the fact that old white Christian males are so insecure in their positions that they feel threatened by every little thing that doesn’t fit into their narrow little comfort zones.
This decision has put a serious dent into forty years of progress; progress and a law that people had been arrested for, killed for, imprisoned for, and lynched for in their quest to get that law on the books. This country has a very long and very ugly history of racism, and if anyone has ever thought that we’re a “post-racial” society, they are deluded. They haven’t seen the racist anti-Obama rallies when he first got elected in 2008. They haven’t seen the birthers effectively bully the President into releasing his birth certificate just because of his middle name, all the while the rest of the country quietly knew that if he were white, it would’ve been considered the height of disrespect. They haven’t see the assassinations of Malcolm X and MLK, who pointed out the deep injustices of racism in their time. All these things happened. They are American history. They are recent American history, if you consider this country’s age, and nothing can paint that history out of the national canvas. Racism is everywhere, even now, in every stereotype that a politician spouts in the media, in the pop culture stereotypes that people get paid money to perpetuate, and in every time that a celebrity has a Freudian slip that shows their actual mentality (yes, Paula “Butter” Deen, I’m looking at you). It’s there, and being immune to it doesn’t erase it one bit. Just because you’re not seeing segregated water fountains a half-century after Brown v. Board of Education got settled doesn’t mean that there aren’t people, everywhere, who miss those days. And unfortunately for the rest of the country, those people are the ones in charge. Case in point, when Georgia high school kids who wanted to have an integrated (that is, a non-segregated) prom, their principal called it a “publicity stunt”. I don’t know which was worse: the segregated prom being there to begin with in the sunny year of 2013, the principal’s response, or the fact that I could actually say, “It’s Georgia” by route of explanation on why there’s a segregated prom in 2013 and people would not think it any unusual an explanation. Same way as I can say, “It’s Texas” to recent anti-birth control spoutings, and no one is surprised.
Truth be told, few things are more disturbing than seeing a Supreme Court – a diverse Supreme Court, considering its history – decide to do away with a provision to one of the most important laws that this country had enacted.
It’s my personal opinion that Clarence Thomas should be censured at the very least; he benefited directly from the anti-discriminatory provisions that this law had set into place, and frankly, I expected him to know better. It’s thanks to that law that he is on his Supreme Court seat. He is decidedly against same-sex marriage, conveniently forgetting that his own marriage was illegal half a century ago too. And he had drawn a concurring opinion on a law that he had directly reaped the benefits from. I don’t think there are words to adequately express my contempt for him and for Antonin Scalia, whose remark on “racial entitlements” should’ve, ideally, warranted a slap across the face, from Thomas first. But apparently, Thomas is that much more comfortable in the bubble – that the Voting Rights Act and the Brown v. Board of Education decision, and other anti-discriminatory laws had helped him built – than to look at the world outside.
Gee, ya think???
And what gets at me is that we, the under-40s, the college grads, the people starting their families or their careers, or both, the people who went to the polls en masse after being thoroughly disenchanted with the state of affairs as it was, are all pro-equality. We have made leaps and bounds in progress, we have been the cause of change – as a people, not as individuals – and I’m pretty sure that there is quite a good bit of outrage at this decision, not just in my generation but in our parents and grandparents, who were likely there for the original change; when the Voting Rights Act was signed. I’m hoping that the outrage will be enough to make some sort of an impact. Unfortunately, I’m good at US history, and unfortunately, I know the next steps down the slippery slope. Because this plus the decision on silence being an indicator of guilt – nice one, SCOTUS, no one revoked the Fifth until now – is starting to raise the little alarm in the back of my mind that says, you’ve seen this all before. Your parents know what this was like. You know you’ve been there.
Yeah. Unfortunately. Deja vu is a bitch. So is history.