He and his minions—Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr—can be enshrined in wing-nut Hades forever, but I'm here to say, it ain't gonna stop us.
We already know that justice is not always served by those who don black robes. They may be the highest court in the land but some of those seated have pursued a right-wing racist agenda bearing no relationship to their title of "Justice."
To paraphrase an often-misquoted remark attributed to Mark Twain, "the reports of our demise have been greatly exaggerated." I'll add obfuscated to that too, because the way "civil rights movement" often gets framed by the media, and in classrooms, it's as if it was entombed with Martin Luther King Jr, and only dusted off and acknowledged on his birthday.
When my students ask me to talk about my history as a civil rights activist (in the past tense) I answer simply, "I am a civil rights activist, and will be till I die," adding "and you are too."
I was moved when I read this story at ThinkProgress: 92-Year-Old Rosanell Eaton And Others Explain Why They’ll Go To Jail Protesting Conservative Policies In North Carolina.
The photo of Mrs. Eaton had this blurb beneath it:
ROSANELL EATON: (Relayed by her daughter Armenta while Rosanell rested her voice) “What brought her out was the possibility of requiring voter ID. She was required when she was 21 years old to repeat the preamble to the Constitution in order to register. She did it! She didn’t even know she had to do it, she was just smart. They would yank you around back in those days. She was valedictorian of her class, she knew all that stuff. It’s what she had to go through. She thought things were smooth sailing. She’s seen the good, bad, and the ugly. Now she’s seeing the ugly again. She fought for civil rights, she was a civil rights worker, and now she sees that it’s going backward.”Yes, we are seeing the ugly and hearing the pundit class smugly pontificate about the "new era we have entered" that no longer needs judicial protection and interventions for voters.
I have a one word response to their nattering.
The fight for civil rights has not ended, and people across the United States—black, white, brown, red, and yellow, male and female, straight and LBGT, young and old are proving it.
Follow me below the fold for more.
I spent the afternoon of the decision thinking about another Chief Justice, Roger B. Taney, who was this nation's fifth chief justice.
His words from the decision:
"It is difficult at this day to realize the state of public opinion in regard to that unfortunate race which prevailed in the civilized and enlightened portions of the world at the time of the Declaration of Independence, and when the Constitution of the United States was framed and adopted; but the public history of every European nation displays it in a manner too plain to be mistaken. They had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far unfit that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect"We know that ruling decided that "African Americans were not citizens, and therefore had no standing to sue in federal court." We've fought, and continued to fight for our full personhood and citizenship rights.
I'm here to say to the Gang of Five, that you may have thrown yet another roadblock in our path, but we're here, we're not going away, and some day soon you won't be on that panel. The course of history may be slow, but it's running into our future, not yours.
As has often been pointed out, you may not think we are people, with rights, though you've given personhood to corporations.
Lest you smugly snuggle in your chambers, figuring that you've nixed the "black thing," I've got news for you—civil rights and voting rights are not just about us black folks. Before the decision was handed down, Media Matters posted this reminder:
The media should be aware of the Voting Rights Act's historic importance for all communities of color, particularly the "awakened" Latino vote, and not simply report that it is a black and white issue of importance only to African-Americans. While a significant number of amicus (friend of the court) briefs filed in Shelby County v. Holder - the Voting Rights Act challenge that the Supreme Court will hear February 27 - focus on the struggle for African-Americans' right to vote, a diverse range of civil rights advocates have joined the effort to uphold the law.Native Americans, Asian Americans and Latinos filed amici curiae briefs. As soon as the decision was announced, Meteor Blades wrote this about the impact on Native Americans: The gutted portion of the Voting Rights Act affected the American Indian vote.
Discussion so far of the Supreme Court's heinous ruling on Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, with its sneaky means of yanking the teeth out of Section 5, understandably has focused mostly on the impact on African Americans. It should not be forgotten, however, that other people of color are covered, too, including American Indians.Asian American, Alaskan Natives and Asian Pacific Islanders are not taking this lightly.
Indeed, before Tuesday, Alaska and Arizona plus two counties of South Dakota had to obtain VRA pre-clearance from the Justice Department for any changes made to election law affecting their indigenous populations. Two other counties in South Dakota, one in Nebraska and the entire state of New Mexico were "bailed in" for pre-clearance under a different statute with the same effect in the 1970s.
The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) and Asian Americans Advancing Justice-AAJC (Advancing Justice-AAJC) (formerly known as Asian American Justice Center) criticize the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down Section 4, the coverage mechanism of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA), in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder. Earlier this year, AALDEF and Advancing Justice-AAJC filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of 28 Asian American groups to uphold Section 5, which was reauthorized by Congress in 2006 and is intended to stop voter discrimination before it occurs.
"We are deeply disappointed that the Supreme Court has struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act that has protected Asian Americans from discriminatory voting changes for decades," said Margaret Fung, executive director of AALDEF. "Today's decision eviscerates civil rights. The VRA was enacted to ensure the full and equal participation of all voters of color in the electoral process, and the Supreme Court's rejection of long-standing precedent has taken this nation a step back. The Court completely ignores the discrimination and disenfranchisement that Asian Americans have encountered in voting over the years."
None of us are stupid. We've seen where this is heading.
It is only a matter of time before other states with voter ID laws and other election law changes blocked by the DOJ last year follow Texas’ example. Besides Texas, the attorney generals of Alabama, Arizona, South Dakota, and South Carolina argued that the Voting Rights Act was getting in the way of their ability to enact discriminatory laws.So when we examine the civil rights movement of today, think not of Bull Connor, dogs and firehoses. Think of defacto segregation in education and housing. Think of the criminal injustice system, which has been part and parcel of a means to an end—to restrict voting by locking up a huge segment of our minority population and disenfranchising them, often permanently .
Whether we speak of 1968 or 2013, the fundamental resolution to all that we face rests on the fulcrum of the ballot.
To recharge my own emotional batteries, after hearing the news, I re-visited the speech given by Rev. Dr. William Barber, to the NAACP Convention before the 2012 election.
For those of you who may have missed it the first time around, his repeated refrain needs to become the mantra for the movement:"If we ever needed to vote, we sure do need to vote now".
(full version here)
Thanks to TrueBlueMajority we have a transcript.
I keep hearing this part of his sermon/speech:
...and across this nation there are tough timesAmen, Rev. Barber. The vote is critical.
we've seen an implosion of our economy
despite the evidence there are those who want to give pity to billionaires
and inflict more pain on the poor
we see politicians that pander to bigots and race baiting
those who have been forced to get on welfare
never in history has so much money been spent to resist equality
the gross sums of money being spent to take us backwards
is lewd, is pornographic is blatant and is arrogant
these are troubling times
corporation are treated like people
people are treated like things
banks get bailouts from loans with our money with no interest
and the banks turn around
and lend us our money back to us with interest
these are critical times
and if we ever needed to vote
we sure do need to vote now
I don't know if Republicans are going to show up
I don't know if Democrats are going to show up
but the sons and daughters of slaves we better the hell show up!
As a great-granddaughter of enslaved persons, who were only counted as three-fifths of a real human, I hear you. You have taken that call beyond just us descendants, and embraced a broad coalition across your state.
And it is with that coalition, as in days of old that we will win. We will demand to be registered and to vote without photo IDs or other obstacles. We will lobby, we will protest and many of us will be arrested. But we will not be stopped.
For those of you who may have had a hard dose of SCOTUS blues this last week, only brightened a bit by the news on DOMA, I'm fond of stating unequivocally, in the words of the gospel tune we marched to many a time, "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round".
So, let's just add another stanza to the tune.
"Ain't gonna let John Roberts turn us round...we're gonna keep on walking, keep on talking...marching up with ballots in hand."
Stand up and say it, loud and proud.
I am a civil rights activist, and we will not be stopped.
We will vote. We will be heard.
No matter what.