When the Robert’s Supreme Court ruled that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional – Section 5 required that certain States and localities must get Federal permission for all voting law changes – it seemed to me that this was profiling and the Supreme Court was right in eliminating it. It seemed to me that the act said, in effect, Alabama is more likely to abuse people’s rights – especially people of color – than, say, Pennsylvania.
I have argued with several people about this since the Supreme Court decision, including Richard Taylor on the 4th, but now I realize that I was wrong. Yes, Section 5 is profiling, but it is like profiling Mohamed Atta, if he had been released from probation 50 years after driving one of the airplanes into the World Trade Center.
My change of mind is driven by two things, first a copy of the so-called literacy test Louisiana required black voters to pass in the 1960’s. It is a nasty test composed of mostly trick questions. A sample question is 21. Print the word vote upside down, but in the correct order. or 24. Print a word that looks the same whether it is printed forwards or backwards. Click through; see if you pass the test, I didn’t.
The second mind changer was an article, entitled The Color of Law, Voting Rights and the Southern Way of Life in the combined July 8 & 15 issue of The New Yorker. The article, which is really a review of several books and movies, goes into some detail on the struggle black people went through to get the right to vote in the first place. It reminded me that people died trying to get the vote.
Think about that. There were people willing to die to get the vote. They didn’t want to die, but they were willing to take the chance. This is not like soldiers sent to war, these are people willing to march for their vote even if it means they may get killed. I didn’t vote in 1968 because I was pissed at Lyndon Johnson over Vietnam, reading this article made me ashamed.
I think that it is important to remember that this law suit, Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, was brought by Shelby County (duh! it is in the title, Steve). This is the same Shelby County that fought for a hundred years to keep black people from voting, hell! they fought for a hundred years to keep black people from using a white water fountain. To believe that everything is fine now, is to live in a world of fantasy.
(Oh, those KKK idiots above, that’s last week in a different Shelby County, Shelby County Tennessee.)