www.mozilla.com Weather Central
Voices
Headlines

Dress for safety -4/16/2014, 10:09 AM

Does losing due process create inadequacies? -4/16/2014, 10:09 AM

Hate crimes -4/16/2014, 10:09 AM

On with the prom -4/15/2014, 8:57 AM

Newman proud to be in western Kansas -4/14/2014, 8:57 AM

Waiting on revenue estimates -4/13/2014, 8:57 AM

Wake up, people, and see the danger we’re in -4/13/2014, 12:03 PM

Patronizing paychecks -4/13/2014, 12:03 PM

Stripping of teachers’ due process worrisome -4/13/2014, 6:11 AM

The Kansas Ministry of Truth -4/13/2014, 6:14 AM

Letterman, Hillary and Jeb: 21st Century symbols -4/13/2014, 6:10 AM

Expensive school bill -4/13/2014, 6:12 AM

How to assist evil -4/11/2014, 9:15 AM

Taxing life away -4/11/2014, 9:12 AM

Lying about Obamacare -4/11/2014, 9:17 AM

The talk radio party? -4/10/2014, 11:04 AM

Term limits -4/10/2014, 11:06 AM

Let's do what we do best -4/10/2014, 11:05 AM

Satisfying the court -4/9/2014, 10:45 AM

Late-night funding fight -4/9/2014, 10:44 AM

‘Farmland’ — art is life on screen -4/9/2014, 10:45 AM

Tradition not changing -4/8/2014, 12:02 PM

Flat as a pancake -4/8/2014, 11:22 AM

Willing to take a bet -4/8/2014, 11:24 AM

Exposure to violence threatens children’s future -4/8/2014, 11:23 AM

Battling MS -4/7/2014, 8:58 AM

Why Renewable Fuel Standard matters -4/7/2014, 9:23 AM

Rites and wrongs of spring -4/7/2014, 9:23 AM

Coming to terms with Brownback -4/6/2014, 2:11 PM

Are 'religious viewpoint' laws needed in schools? -4/6/2014, 2:11 PM

School non-funding -4/6/2014, 2:11 PM

Sex and race equality -4/4/2014, 8:08 AM

Rest of the story -4/4/2014, 8:08 AM

Bank on USPS to save 'bank deserts' -4/4/2014, 8:08 AM

Gambling and government -4/3/2014, 9:51 AM

Not merely water under the bridge -4/3/2014, 9:51 AM

Federal fine -4/3/2014, 9:51 AM

Twister time is here again -4/2/2014, 9:59 AM

School funding battle continues -4/2/2014, 9:59 AM

Watching for the flip-floppers -4/1/2014, 10:09 AM

Will Hays enter the 21st century? -4/1/2014, 10:09 AM

Tax breaks -4/1/2014, 10:09 AM

Hobby Lobby case a slippery slope -3/31/2014, 9:16 AM

Happy birthday, Gloria -3/31/2014, 9:16 AM

Unequal voting -3/30/2014, 11:37 AM

Protecting the pollinators -3/30/2014, 11:37 AM

Parties, politicians and seeking an advantage -3/30/2014, 11:37 AM

Healthy aging -3/30/2014, 11:37 AM

Threatened chicken -3/30/2014, 11:37 AM

As temperatures rise, pay attention to stored grain -3/30/2014, 3:49 PM

Bizarre arguments and behavior -3/28/2014, 10:06 AM

In your dreams -3/28/2014, 10:06 AM

Against the wind -3/28/2014, 10:05 AM

Discovering the salt of the earth -3/28/2014, 10:05 AM

Entrepreneurship key to economic growth -3/27/2014, 8:36 AM

Kansas goes Kremlin with arrests, secrecy -3/27/2014, 8:36 AM

Get ready for Arbor Day -3/26/2014, 2:03 PM

Reading between the lines -3/26/2014, 2:02 PM

Switching parties -3/26/2014, 1:53 PM

Putting a price tag on damages -3/25/2014, 10:13 AM

Privately piercing, serious sacrifice -3/25/2014, 10:13 AM

Autism bill passes House -3/25/2014, 10:13 AM

United stance -3/25/2014, 10:13 AM

Legislative session getting down to the end -3/25/2014, 10:12 AM

Taxation bill involving livestock successful -3/25/2014, 10:12 AM

STARBASE Day hits Topeka -3/24/2014, 10:13 AM

Judging based on accomplishments -3/24/2014, 10:14 AM

Who speaks for the voiceless? -3/24/2014, 10:14 AM

Fly Hays -3/23/2014, 1:12 PM

Learning from the candidates -3/23/2014, 1:12 PM

hedy -3/21/2014, 1:12 PM

-3/20/2014, 9:59 AM

Fred Phelps -3/20/2014, 9:59 AM

Is There Wage Stagnation? -3/20/2014, 9:58 AM

Cost of living, wages don't add up -3/20/2014, 4:01 PM

Legislative proposal raises questions -3/20/2014, 4:01 PM

No vote on war -3/19/2014, 3:32 PM

Wonder of St. Fidelis -3/19/2014, 4:01 PM

Protein for breakfast -3/19/2014, 2:58 PM

A pointed comment on guns -3/19/2014, 8:57 AM

Campaign madness -3/19/2014, 2:58 PM

Counting the cost of Kansas' Medicaid expansion -3/18/2014, 9:26 AM

Tax-relief spells a sure vote -3/18/2014, 9:26 AM

Tourney madness -3/18/2014, 9:25 AM

St. Patrick's Day -- The value of Irish humor -3/16/2014, 5:44 PM

Not all things are bad -3/16/2014, 5:44 PM

Supreme Court takes Legislature to school -3/16/2014, 5:43 PM

Parochial education -3/16/2014, 5:43 PM

Governed by rules, not men -3/14/2014, 10:00 AM

More guns: Merrier or scarier? -3/14/2014, 10:00 AM

The war on women -3/13/2014, 9:51 AM

Labeling the education can -3/13/2014, 9:51 AM

Taking exception -3/12/2014, 2:03 PM

Choose wisely in today's society -3/12/2014, 2:02 PM

Budget concerns -3/12/2014, 2:01 PM

Courting judicial changes -3/11/2014, 10:33 AM

House now on home stretch -3/11/2014, 10:33 AM

Value of bitcoins -3/11/2014, 10:33 AM

Medicare trouble brewing -3/11/2014, 10:33 AM

Kansas must change direction to lead -3/11/2014, 10:33 AM

myTown Calendar

SPOTLIGHT
[var top_story_head]

Civil rights assaulted by Supreme Court

Published on -7/8/2013, 9:34 AM

Printer-friendly version
E-Mail This Story

It recently was bittersweet for the cause of human dignity.

On one hand, the Supreme Court gave us reason for applause, striking down barriers against the full citizenship of gay men and lesbians. On the other, it gave us reason for dread, gutting the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The 5-4 decision was stunning and despicable, but not unexpected. The country has been moving in this direction for years.

The act is sometimes called the crown jewel of the Civil Rights Movement, but it was even more than that, the most important piece of legislation in the cause of African-American freedom since Reconstruction. And in shredding it, the court commits its gravest crime against that freedom since Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896.

That decision ratified segregation, capping a 30-year campaign by conservative Southern Democrats to overturn the results of the Civil War. Given the Voting Rights Act now lies in tatters even as Republicans embrace voter ID schemes to suppress the black vote, given GOP star Rand Paul has questioned the constitutionality of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, one has to wonder if the results of the Civil Rights Movement do not face a similar fate.

Or, as Georgia Rep. John Lewis put it when I spoke with him Monday, "Can history repeat itself?"

Lewis was the great hero of the battle for voting rights, a then-25-year-old activist who had his skull broken by Alabama state troopers on Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., while leading a march against the use of poll taxes, literacy tests, morals tests, economic intimidation, clubs, guns and bombs to deny black people the ballot

The law he helped enact required states and counties with histories of voting discrimination to seek federal approval before changing their voting procedures. (Those that behaved themselves for a decade could be released from that requirement.)

The court struck down the formula the law uses to determine where discrimination lives (and therefore, which jurisdictions should be covered), saying the dates are too old to be reliable.

As Chief Justice John Roberts noted in writing for the majority, the country has changed dramatically since that era. African-American electoral participation is at levels undreamt of in 1965.

And so it is. Because. The Act. Worked.

Using that success as an excuse to cripple it, noted Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her dissent, is like "throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet." Indeed, had the nation not changed dramatically since 1965, would that not have been cited as evidence of the act's failure? Damned if you do, damned if you don't, then: the Voting Rights Act never had a chance.

This court, said Lewis, "plunged a dagger in the heart" of the freedom movement. Nor is it lost on him that the majority which struck down this bedrock of black freedom included a black jurist: Clarence Thomas. "The brother on the court," said Lewis, "I think he's lost his way."

So what now? Lewis said we must push Congress for legislation to "put teeth back in the Voting Rights Act." Given this Congress is notorious for its adamantine uselessness, that seems farfetched, but Lewis insists bipartisan discussion already is underway.

Fine. Let us demand that bickering, dysfunctional body do what is needed. But let us -- African-Americans and all believers in freedom -- also serve notice that, whatever lawmakers do, we will not stand placidly by as history repeats and citizenship is repealed, but that we energetically will resist by every moral means.

Saying that, I hear the ghostly echo of those who, once upon a generation, marched into southern jails, singing "Ain't gonna let nobody turn me around." It is an ancient song of defiance that feels freshly -- sadly -- relevant to our times.

Leonard Pitts is a columnist

for the Miami Herald.

lpitts@miamiherald.com

digg delicious facebook stumbleupon google Newsvine
More News and Photos

Associated Press Videos