W.E.B. DuBois said, “The power of the ballot we need in sheer defense, else what shall save us from a second slavery?” When it comes to fair voting, we came up short again. Most of our coalition had to struggle to gain the right to vote. The decision of the Court in Shelby County v. Holder threatens to reverse the rights earned through decades of struggle and sacrifice. Nonetheless, we are grateful for the four Justices who still believe in the concept of protection for our voting rights – the most basic of all the rights of our citizenship.
It’s obvious that five Justices wore blinders or blatantly ignored the actions of the many states which directly or indirectly attempted to erect obstacles to the free exercise of our right to vote in the 2012 elections. Pre-clearance prevented a lot of major problems.
The significance of voting in 2012 inspired an historical outpouring of eager voters in greater numbers than ever before. Apparently, the five justices who struck down the provisions of Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act are philosophically and politically aligned with those who have dedicated themselves to making the vote more difficult for many of us. Joe Scarborough is having a difficult time understanding that our complaint is not just about an ID card. It’s about the obvious effort to decrease our vote because most of us do not vote the way that benefits his political “right”.
Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, do those five Justices deciding to limit our vote believe the hearts and minds of those who think they are inherently superior and covet power have changed to the extent that we no longer need pre-clearance or Justice Department intervention? We actually need to expand it!
We already knew, by his own declaration, Justice Scalia thinks African Americans have been awarded the right to vote as a “racial entitlement.” We harbored no illusion that he would live up to his obligation to provide equal protection under the law for us. Justice Thomas always distorts the meaning of the word “Justice” when it relates to African Americans—so we had no expectation he’d stand on the side of defending us against patterns of injustice born from historical elements of racism. We always pray that a spark will ignite a flame of fairness in the hearts of a majority of the Justices, but it didn’t happen.
The Court has referred us to Congress – the body that cares so little about us that it has spent 37 tries this session to repeal health care that our citizens so badly need. They refer us to the Congress that’s openly declared war on women! Does the Court really believe throwing the ball back to Congress for the purpose of insuring equal voting rights for us will fare any better than women have already fared with this Congress?
Maybe we should’ve kept it a secret that in 2012 our glorious coalition succeeded in electing many officials, including President Barack Obama, who best represent our interests. The Court’s example of justice clearly teaches us that eternal vigilance is the price we pay for our achievements—lest they become temporary.
Our greatest challenge is to re-emerge with all the resolve we demonstrated to achieve our initial civil and voting rights successes. The 50th Anniversary of Dr. King’s “March on Washington” comes none too soon. Our antagonists have set the level of our response for us. We must work for a constitutional amendment that will unconditionally guarantee the right and freedom for all of us to vote. It is through our struggles that we gain our victories. The worst thing we can do is throw up our hands and do nothing.