“Come, listen, all you girls and boys, I’m just from Tuckahoe; I’m going to sing a little song, My name’s Jim Crow.”
These are the two opening lines to a song entitled “Jump Jim Crow” made famous by a prominent minstrel actor named Thomas Dartmouth “Daddy” Rice in 1828. When Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia made his derogatory, insensitive comments last Wednesday about Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act from his bench, this was the first thing that popped up in my mind.
What Justice Scalia and his fellow justices may need is a history lesson on why Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act was put there in the first place and why it must remain there. Scalia is known for hurling verbal bombs from his seat in the chamber, but last Wednesday he crossed the line.
Under Section 5, parts of the country with histories of discriminatory election practices have to ask for preclearance from the Justice Department before making any changes to their voting rules.
Scalia declared, “I think it is attributable, very likely attributable, to a phenomenon that is called perpetuation of racial entitlement. It’s been written about. Whenever a society adopts racial entitlements, it is very difficult to get out of them through the normal political processes.”
After he uttered those words, it was reported that collective gasps were heard around the room. It seems he shares a similar sentiment of his conservative Republican brethren. Mitt Romney after being trounced by President Obama during the 2012 election said Obama gave “gifts” to minority voters. Paul Ryan blamed the Republicans defeat on “the urban vote.” FOX commentator Bill O’Reilly said the people who voted for Obama “want stuff.” Other Republican talking heads have made comparable claims.
From this day forward, the word conservative means segregationist. The modern day Republican Party resembles the former Dixiecrat political party from the 1940s. The so-called conservative Supreme Court justices subscribe to the same radical, extreme beliefs of the Tea Party and right wing elements within the GOP. There isn’t another plausible conclusion to draw other than these folks have an enormous problem with minorities, but particularly, Blacks.
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito stood alongside their colleague when they asked, “Is it the government’s submission that the citizens in the South are more racist than the citizens in the North?” “Why shouldn’t it apply everywhere in the country?” I felt like I was back in the 19th century when I heard these views being espoused from people who supposedly represent the highest court in our country. These folks already voted in favor of Citizens United, which led to the most spending during a presidential campaign cycle ever. Now they’re dangerously close to removing the heartbeat from the Voting Rights Act.
For some reason this mantra of Blacks taking over reigns supreme in most Republicans minds. Here is the statistical truth: Blacks constitute 13.6% of the population, but yet there are 2 Black Senators (both promoted not elected), 41 Congressmen and congresswomen, Black unemployment is double the national average at 14%, there are more Black men in prison today than there were enslaved in 1850, the dropout rates for Black students in inner city schools hovers around 50%, and somehow Blacks are taking over. Republicans please. While there is a Black man in the oval office, Black folks aren’t receiving racial entitlements. Blacks are still struggling for a piece of the American dream that our forefathers and foremothers helped to create through their blood, sweat, tears, and free labor.
Apparently, Bert Rein, the attorney from Shelby County, Alabama leading the legal challenge to the Voting Rights Act and Justices Scalia, Alito, Roberts, Kennedy, and Thomas believe that racism is dead. Rein implied as much, “There is an old disease, and that disease is cured.” I’m guessing these men didn’t notice the act received reauthorization in 2006 for another 25 years by an overwhelming margin in Congress. They didn’t notice the prevalence of voter suppression tactics being used by the Republican Party during the 2012 election cycle. They didn’t notice how 37 states began that process before the 2012 presidential campaign or how most Republican-led state legislatures across the country have gerrymandered districts in their political party’s favor on purpose including their own county in 2008.
Without Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, Mitt Romney would’ve been elected President of the United States instead of President Obama. Chief Justice Roberts has been an advocate for eliminating the Voting Rights Act for 30 years. The Republican Party is determined to erase the federal government out of their state affairs and go back to operating under states rights. With Section 5, many citizens in highly populated minority areas had access to the ballot box and still waited for five and six hours to cast their ballots. Without Section 5, I shudder to think if they can even cast their votes without some recycled 19th and 20th Century apparatus to hinder them.
All these facts indicate that Section 5 is not only necessary, but it is a just practice under the law. And if America is to live up to everything it stands for, then the notion of Jim Crow has to go once and for all.