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The Roberts Court

Today the Court fashions a dagger out of ’40-years of facts’ dating back to the Civil Rights Movement and hands it to a dysfunctional Congress thereby affording the House of Representatives the power of inaction to kill the Voting Rights Act. This tactic of poisoning the well of progress to quench thirsts of freedom, justice and equality goes as far back as the legacy of current efforts to limit and to curtail the exercise of the franchise. Following the lead of the Court many States and locals are now revising their Jim Crow tactics to nullify the voting power of persons whose lives have been colored by differences of race, sex, gender, sexual orientation, faiths and ethnicities. Not all change is progress, especially when the persons and interests opposed to that change remain in their intent and purpose the same.

Dear John,

In 1896 the Court championed as ‘valid’ the exercise of legislative power’ in the “establishment of separate schools for white and colored children”. ‘The political rights of the colored race’ in the post-Civil War era were touted by the Court to lend credence to court sanctioned ‘separate but equal’. The Court pointed out, ‘separate but equal’ as a valid practice proven consistent with the constitution even in those States where “the political rights of the colored race have been longest and most earnestly enforced.” It took 58 more years for the Court to understand that not withstanding the so-called political rights of the colored race in some States during last half of the nineteenth century, separate but equal deprived ‘colored’ citizens of ‘the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.’

Today the Court fashions a dagger out of ’40-years of facts’ dating back to the Civil Rights Movement and hands it to a dysfunctional Congress thereby affording the House of Representatives the power of inaction to kill the Voting Rights Act. This tactic of poisoning the well of progress to quench thirsts of freedom, justice and equality dates as far back as the legacy of current efforts to limit and to curtail the exercise of the franchise. Following the lead of the Court many States and locals are now revising their Jim Crow tactics to nullify the voting power of persons whose lives have been colored by differences of race, sex, gender, sexual orientation, faiths and ethnicities. Not all change is progress, especially when the persons and interests opposed to that change remain in their intent and purpose the same.

Shelby County v. Holder: Justice Roberts – Opinion of the Court

jrobertshOur decision in no way affects the permanent, nation- wide ban on racial discrimination in voting found in §2. We issue no holding on §5 itself, only on the coverage formula. Congress may draft another formula based on current conditions. Such a formula is an initial prerequisite to a determination that exceptional conditions still exist justifying such an “extraordinary departure from the traditional course of relations between the States and the Federal Government.” Presley, 502 U. S., at 500–501. Our country has changed, and while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.

“In 1898, the Supreme Court encouraged the disenfranchisement movement by ruling, in Williams v. Mississippi, that the suffrage provisions of the state’s 1890 constitution did not violate the Fifteenth Amendment, since they did not “on their face discriminate between the races.” Eric Foner – Forever Free p. 207

The Court recalls, the ‘congressional failure’ to enforce the Fifteenth Amendment. “The first century of congressional enforcement of the Amendment, . . . can only be regarded as a failure.” This ‘congressional failure’ defines 100 years during which the wealth and power that waged a civil war against the United States of America, reconstituted itself after losing that war. The social, political and economic interest representing this wealth and power organized closed societies that necessitated a series of civil rights movements to open.  The century long ‘congressional failure’ to enforce the Fifteenth Amendment was a continuation, in lieu of the Civil War, of a power struggle and structure buttressed by color coded gerrymandering that continues to enthrall the current Congress. 

The Dangerous Myth of Appomattox

The ‘Civil Rights Movement‘ and ‘Jim Crow‘ were not ahistorical anomalies that can be confine to a simplistic dichotomy – then/now – using a headcount of black elected officials and voter turn-out. The Court’s version of this quantitative dichotomy is the liking of ‘voting discrimination’ to an ‘expiring driver license’ . This is not so much an insult as it is insight into an understanding on the Court that ‘voting discrimination’, indeed discrimination in general has an expiration date. When types and kinds of discrimination out live their purpose they do not expire. They inspire reformed efforts to achieve aims that outlive historically specific types and kinds of discrimination. There is a bulwark of wealth and power actively subordinating the ability and capacity of specific categories of difference to historically specific domination in the sum and structure of social relations.

Plessy v. Ferguson: Justice Brown –

Opinion of the Court No. 210 Argued: April 18, 1896 Decided: May 18, 1896

Henry_Billings_Brown-Plessy JudgeIf he [Plessy] be a white man and assigned to a colored coach, he may have his action for damages against the company for being deprived of his so-called property. Upon the other hand, if he be a colored man and be so assigned, he has been deprived of no property, since he [Plessy] is not lawfully entitled to the reputation of being a white man.

It was intimated, however, in that case [Slaughterhouse Cases] that this amendment [the Thirteenth Amendment] was regarded by the statesmen of that day as insufficient to protect the colored race from certain laws which had been enacted in the Southern States, imposing upon the colored race onerous disabilities and burdens and curtailing their rights in the pursuit of life, liberty and property to such an extent that their freedom was of little value; and that the Fourteenth Amendment was devised to meet this exigency.

Laws forbidding the intermarriage of the two races may be said in a technical sense to interfere with the freedom of contract, and yet have been universally recognized as within the police power of the State. State v. Gibson, 36 Indiana 389.

We consider the underlying fallacy of the plaintiff’s argument to consist in the assumption that the enforced separation of the two races stamps the colored race with a badge of inferiority. If this be so, it is not by reason of anything found in the act, but solely because the colored race chooses to put that construction upon it.

“The Supreme Court, it is often said, follows the election returns. And as support for Reconstruction waned in the North, the Court began to emasculate the legislation and constitutional amendments of the 1860s. The first pivotal decision, in the “Slaughterhouse Cases“, was announced in 1873.” Eric Foner – Forever Free p.194

The ‘slave’ was not the only ‘thing’ ‘freed’ from plantations and slave societies. The ‘master‘ and the modes and means of subordinating and dominating ‘the Negro’ were also freed. The slave society evolved into disparate closed societies as the control and regulation of the ‘free Negro‘ required State monopolies of violence to re-institutionalize the subordination and domination that was specific to the social mobility of Native Americans, slaves, women, poor whites, freed blacks and Asian immigrant workers.  The wealth and power fighting the Civil War by other means were as they are today motivated by the pursuit of just enough  political  power to bestow legitimacy on the agenda of  a pseudo “ruling class of citizens” opposed to the progressive pursuits that have improved ‘the State of Our Union‘. This is the ‘current condition’ for which the Voting Rights Act met the “current need”.

The power of former slave States to act as laboratories for adjusting the structure and privileges of citizenship to diminish the reality of freedom for the ‘free Negro‘ and other minorities of difference was virtually unchecked and unlimited. Over the centuries ‘the Negro’s’ struggle for freedom, justice and equality has been in one way or another determined by a struggle for power that began with the abolition not of slavery, but of the conditions of the servitude that continued to determine the social, political and economic lives of ‘former slaves’ for many decades after the legal end of slavery. Now the Court deems it necessary to remove one of the most significant checks on the power of those intent on infringing the capacity and ability of targeted minorities to exercise the power of the vote.

Plessy v. Ferguson: Justice Harlan – Dissents

harlanhThe white race deems itself to be the dominant race in this country. And so it is in prestige, in achievements, in education, in wealth and in power. So, I doubt not, it will continue to be for all time if it remains true to its great heritage and holds fast to the principles of constitutional liberty. But in view of the Constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens. There is no caste here. Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens.

The Court has seen fit to tell ‘the Negro’ that the colored race was “not lawfully entitled to the reputation of being a white man.” This opinion is correct in so far as it was not people of color who traversed an ocean to indenture the labor power of their own kind. It was not people of color who accumulated vast amounts of land by moving and murdering the inhabitants. It was not people of color who took to the seas and oceans to meet their demand for free labor power with a supply of Africans. It was not people of color who silenced and stifled a sex until the circumstance of war around the world made it more and more difficult to ignore that women were not only in the world but a part of it. From whose ranks did the military fill its own when the sons of privilege, prestige and power deferred service to their country until the day they decided to run for the office of President of the United States of America. It is with all of this in mind and much more that we ponder the Court’s query into “a phenomenon that is called perpetuation of racial entitlement” considered so pernicious in the neutering of Congress, the Court must take a stand so that the House of Representative does not have to try in order to kill the Voting Rights Act.

Shelby County v. Holder: Justice Ginsburg Dissents

rbghThe number of discriminatory changes blocked or deterred by the preclearance requirements suggests that the state of the voting rights in the covered jurisdictions would have been significantly different absent this remedy. Surveying the type of changes stopped by the preclearance procedure conveys a sense of the extent to which §5 continues to protect minority voting rights. Set out below are characteristic examples of changes blocked in the years leading up to the 2006 reauthorization:

Voting Rights, by the Numbers – NYT: EDITORIAL BOARD

…Chief Justice Roberts, writing for a 5-4 majority, invalidated the formula because “today’s statistics tell an entirely different story.” A comprehensive new study by a historian of the Voting Rights Act provides a fresh trove of empirical evidence to refute that assertion.

The Department of Transportation Is Now Investigating Alabama’s DMV Closings

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley discusses the STAR I.D. pilot project at the Alabama Department of Public Safety in Montgomery, Ala., Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011. The project, a state response to the Congressional REAL-ID Act of 2005, will allow citizens to have an identification card approved for federal purposes including accessing federal buildings and domestic air travel. (AP Photo/David Bundy)

The federal agency (DOT) is looking into the closing of more than 30 DMV offices to determine whether there’s a discriminatory effect on African Americans seeking licenses.

Inside Ohio’s fight over voting rules

voting-rights-top

A Dream Undone
Inside the 50-year campaign to roll back the Voting Rights Act.
By Jim Ruthenberg  July 29, 2015

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Curriculum Vitae

Tom L. States PhD Candidate

Fields of Interest: Political Theory, International Relations, Marxist Political Economy

Research Topic: eRacism - Conflicts of Difference

Education History: Williams College, BA Political Science; New York University, MA Politics; York University PhD Candidate

Languages: English, German

Hometown: Greenwood, Mississippi

Words of Wisdom: “IT” is what you are when you are young. Your youth mistakes certainty of the few things that you think you know for knowledge of things that it takes a life time to understand. With time and a few life experiences “IT” becomes the thing you pursue to give your life meaning. Somewhere along the way of having or getting “IT” you ask yourself, ‘Is this “IT”? Panic sets in when you realize that “IT” is your life. Fear and insecurity is that feeling you get when “IT” has not been worth a life time.

Bookshelf

Harvey, David. Justice, Nature, and the Geography of Difference. New York: Longman, 1996.

Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin White Masks. Trans. Charles Lam Markmann. New York: Grove Press. 1967.

Cancian, Francesca M. Gender Politics: Love and Power in the Private and Public Spheres. Gender and the Life Course. Ed. Alice S. Rossi. New York: Aldine, 1985.

Sand, Shlomo. The Invention of the Jewish People. New York: Verso, 2009.

Lay, Shawn. The Invisible Empire In The West: Toward a New Historical Appraisal of the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920's. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2004.

Journal

Carothers, Thomas. Think Again: Civil Society. Foreign Policy Date, (Winter: 1999-2000).

Ober, Josiah. The original meaning of "democracy": Capacity to do things, not majority rule. Princeton/Stanford Working Papers in Classics. American Political Science Association meetings, Philadelphia, (2006).