Thursday, February 28, 2013

Justice Scalia Says Voting Rights Act a Product of "Racial Entitlement"


JUSTICE SCALIA: Well, maybe it was making that judgment, Mr. Verrilli. But that’s — that’s a problem that I have. This Court doesn’t like to get involved in — in racial questions such as this one. It’s something that can be left — left to Congress.

The problem here, however, is suggested by the comment I made earlier, that the initial enactment of this legislation in a — in a time when the need for it was so much more abundantly clear was — in the Senate, there — it was double-digits against it. And that was only a 5-year term.

Then, it is reenacted 5 years later, again for a 5-year term. Double-digits against it in the Senate. Then it was reenacted for 7 years. Single digits against it. Then enacted for 25 years, 8 Senate votes against it. And this last enactment, not a single vote in the Senate against it. And the House is pretty much the same. Now, I don’t think that’s attributable to the fact that it is so much clearer now that we need this.  
I think it is attributable, very likely attributable, to a phenomenon that is called perpetuation of racial entitlement. It’s been written about. Whenever a society adopts racial entitlements, it is very difficult to get out of them through the normal political processes.

I don’t think there is anything to be gained by any Senator to vote against continuation of this act. And I am fairly confident it will be reenacted in perpetuity unless — unless a court can say it does not comport with the Constitution. You have to show, when you are treating different States differently, that there’s a good reason for it.

That’s the — that’s the concern that those of us who — who have some questions about this statute have. It’s — it’s a concern that this is not the kind of a question you can leave to Congress. There are certain districts in the House that are black districts by law just about now. And even the Virginia Senators, they have no interest in voting against this. The State government is not their government, and they are going to lose — they are going to lose votes if they do not reenact the Voting Rights Act.

Even the name of it is wonderful: The Voting Rights Act. Who is going to vote against that in the future?


It was unreal, unbelievable, almost shocking, for a member of the court to use certain language/
. . . It is an affront to all of what the civil rights movement stood for, what people died for, what people bled for, and those of us who marched across that bridge 48 years ago, we didn’t march for some racial entitlement. We wanted to open up the political process, and let all of the people come in, and it didn’t matter whether they were black or white, Latino, Asian-American or Native American.
. . . (the right to vote is) precious, almost sacred. It is the most powerful nonviolent instrument that we have in a democratic society. And if the courts come to that point where they declare this section, section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, unconstitutional, it would be a dagger in the heart of the democratic process.
~ Congressman and Civil Rights Freedom Fighter, John Lewis

There were audible gasps in the Supreme Court’s lawyers’ lounge, where audio of the oral argument is pumped in for members of the Supreme Court bar, when Justice Antonin Scalia offered his assessment of a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. He called it a “perpetuation of racial entitlement.”
~ ThinkProgress

The arguments that we heard this morning gives us cause to pause and hope that we will not have to return to the streets to secure voting rights.
~ Reverend Al Sharpton at the Rosa Parks Statue Dedication today in Washington DC, via Addicting Info

The friggin' right to vote now is an "entitlement" like Medicare or Food Stamps.
Well no, it's not actually. Under the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, the right of citizens of the United States to Vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or pre-existing condition of servitude. Well, that amendment was ratified back in 1870 under the Administration of President Grant, one of my heroes, actually.
But we all know it was put into effect after a century of poll taxes, literacy tests, and other gimmicks to keep blacks from voting only because of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Yes, Justice Scalia, it has a wonderful name, as you put it.
And the reason is not the words or the spelling or the English language in which this Act is written or spoken about.
No sir, it's about its meaning.
That the United States Congress will ensure that people get to vote in places where they weren't before.
And that, sadly, does not refer only to the segregation of the past. It refers to people out there in state capitals today, sitting in bars and over poker tables, shouting out their latest gimmick to smother the electoral impact of blacks living in large cities from Harrisburg to Tallahassee.
They outbid each other with reptilic glee over their latest legislative squirm to convert electoral majorities into electoral minorities by denying blacks the right to vote.
~ Chris Matthews on Hardball

Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act doesn't represent the 'perpetuation of racial entitlement,' as Justice Scalia states. Rather, it is one of the most important tools we have for confronting the entitlement of those who believe some people's votes and voices should matter more than others ... I hope that Scalia's fellow justices will approach this issue more thoughtfully, and with a greater awareness of the reality in their country.
~ Minister Leslie Watson Malachi, director of People for the American Way Foundation's African American Ministers Leadership Council

We disagree with Justice Antonin Scalia, who today referred to the renewal of the Voting Rights Act as the 'perpetuation of a racial entitlement,' as if racial discrimination has ended. In the past two years alone, six of the nine states fully covered by Section 5 passed restrictions that would have made it harder for people of color to vote, and many of these were blocked thanks to Section 5. The Voting Rights Act is not an 'entitlement.' It is a critically needed protection for our most fundamental right.
~ Judith Browne-Dianis of The Advancement Project


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