Wednesday, February 27, 2013

On a Justice's Entitlement and Respect (or the Lack Thereof)

I've had a long, long hiatus from this blog.  In some ways, I missed it, and in other ways, I felt alright not keeping it up.  Yet, I could not let Justice Scalia's comment regarding the Voting Rights Act pass without writing about it.  I truly could not believe that Scalia actually said that the law represented a "perpetuation of a racial entitlement."  I had to re-read the comment to make sure that I was reading it correctly, and I could feel my blood pressure rising as I read each word.

I know that when it comes to African American history, Americans are very, very good at maintaining short memories.  If anyone cites an historical reality related to Black folks, then there is an entire segment of the American populace who gives the collective eye roll, and immediately begins to hum tunes to drown out whatever point is about to be raised ("Can't those people get over it?  I mean that was years ago.  Why wallow in the past?).  Folks who are quick to cite hurt feelings tied to the Civil War are particularly good for that reaction, but that is another discussion for a different day.

The history of the franchise for African Americans is one that is blood drenched, with some of that blood having been shed within the last 50 years, and it took two constitutional amendments to make the franchise a legal reality. If you don't know them, I suggest doing a Google search.  Clearly, Justice Scalia has decided that that not so distant history bears no bearing on his desired political outcome.  I am glad to know that he thinks of the Voting Rights Act as a racial entitlement, I would imagine that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 falls into the same category in his mind.

Scalia's words reminded me immediately of the words of the late Chief Justice Roger B. Taney in his opinion in the Dred Scott decision of 1857.  Taney declared that African Americans had no right "which the white man was bound to respect."  Scalia's statement that a law that has guaranteed the rights of African Americans to vote since 1965 (and it hasn't been smooth sailing between 1965 and today; the run up to the 2012 election was a great example of how far we still have to go) is nothing more than the "continuation of a racial entitlement" is quite disrespectful.