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.


happyjulie said...

Jeffrey, your restraint here lends power to your comments. My chest tightened reading your phrasing about it taking two amendments to fasten in voting rights, juxtaposed with the fact that bloodshed has occurred so recently. What that immediately does is beg the question of how strict constructionists, normally so slow to overturn precedent in light of cultural changes, could possibly see this as the time to overturn this law!

Your perspective is so valuable - I hope your hiatus was helpful, but please say it's over now!!

Anonymous said...

The opposite side of the discrimination coin is "implied racial supremacy". The Dred Scott decision articulated this unspoken "truth".

Those enjoying the benefits of rights at the expense of others will defend the status quo using every fiction because the dirty work was done for them by previous fellow travelers, while the benefits (which are ALWAYS financial: owning property, not being property, being able to vote, getting an education or a superior education, limiting choices to keep the poor and uneducated poor and uneducated, job advancement, contriving movements to thwart the end of corporate welfare, while destroying worker's and consumer's rights) remain funneled to they and theirs.

Look at who has been overly represented on the Supreme Court for centuries, and still manages to hold five of the nine seats: wealthy, Christian, heterosexual Caucasian males. This is the same group which could ALWAYS own land, vote, not be considered "property", and has had access to better schooling. As brilliant as they are, not one of them has been able to give "blanket equality" to everyone, because each long drawn out fight gives the exploiters another generation or two of gain off the backs of whomever is confronting the discrimination these exploiters defend, but claim not to see as anything worth addressing ("A slave isn't a person.", "What do women need to vote for?", "It's always been separate and equal.", "Those people are perverts in the eyes of God and the law.", "If she has a good time, she should have to pay for it.", and now, "Corporations are people.").

Even with equality laws in place (being careful to note the frequent challenges and efforts to limit these laws and decisions at local, state, and federal levels), the fundamental rigging of the system has never wavered. There's a "Dred Scott belief" for every form of discrimination.

Follow the money and see that the real "perpetuation of racial entitlement" is for wealthy, Christian, heterosexual Caucasian males (look at politicians, business leaders, boards of directors, senior management, Wall Street, lobbyists, major contributors to PACS - which group is grossly over-represented in every case? Which group consolidates the big pay checks, the pensions, the power???).

As for a perpetrator blaming the oppressed, it just goes to show that even the child/grandchild of immigrants can sing the party line.

I'm just sayin'...

Anonymous said...

And here's a recent article which articulates all the machinations of the radical Right.

I'm just sayin'...