During oral arguments on a provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia likened congressional support for the Act to a “perpetuation of racial entitlement.” Just what was Scalia saying? Was he saying black people do not have a right to have their vote protected?
When I hear “racial entitlement” I think of the first 350 years in this land and the fact white people were entitled to everything — jobs, education, social mobility, protection, pride, land and status — and black people were entitled to nothing. Zero, zilch, nada, zip. And, in most cases, the life of a black person was considered to be worth not much of anything during that same period of time.
Scalia, like so many neocons, believes the overt institutional racism and discrimination of the past has been rectified in 48 years since the Voting Rights Act was enacted. This statement came on the heels of unprecedented attempts by Republican State legislatures to inhibit the rights of voters under the guise of protecting the vote.
When I think of “racial entitlement” black people do not come to mind; I think only of white men. Of course a man like Scalia does not believe white men have received any type of entitlements; men like Scalia do not see the “good old boy” network, alumni associations or any other typical white social ladder experiences as “racial entitlement.” They see it as using “the system” and nothing more.
Unlike other immigrants who have come to these shores freely, many African-Americans can trace their heritage to shackles, derogation and inhuman treatment, bought and traded like cattle for decades upon decades by the white men who, like Justus Scalia, used racial entitlement to the utmost degree and their own advantage.
Time after time throughout American history, white men have used who they are, who their fathers were and where they went to school to advance themselves and their families. Scalia and his neocon cohorts who view voting as a racial entitlement for black Americans but view their own climb to power as a matter of hard work, have thin memories of their own rise to power, and their short-sightedness is clouded by the same thinking of the slave traders of the past who viewed their race and ilk to be superior.
In 1965 the Voting Rights Act was enacted to rectify years of racial entitlement – the entitlement perceived by some white people that gave them carte blanche to do or say anything to people of color. Prior to the Voting Rights Act many black people had freedom in name only.
Jim Crow laws, fear and intimidation kept southern blacks and blacks in some northern territories from exercising their constitutionally protected right to vote. Overt racism was used to control a whole race of people in every aspect of society. From education, advancement in industry and politics, African-Americans were treated like second-class citizens unable to make choices on their own, and many were prohibited from experiencing the same dreams enjoyed by white American society.
Scalia, like many Republican State Legislators, knows the complexion of America has changed and continues to do so. Some experts believe that white people will become just another minority before the midpoint of the century with people of color as a majority in the country. An intractable feeling of the loss of power has fueled many conservatives’ latest attempts at subverting the Constitution and the will of the people.
The American people will not stand for a return of the old archaic ways of racial discrimination and exclusion. Justice Scalia and the other neocons know their proverbial days are numbered and their power is waning just as it did for other decadent rulers of the past.
“Peoples do not judge in the same way as courts of law; they do not hand down sentences, they throw thunderbolts; they do not condemn kings, they drop them back into the void; and this justice is worth just as much as that of the courts.”
Image source and credit to: SecularHumanist2