In striking down a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act yesterday, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote:
Our country has changed, and while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.
He made that statement without any apparent touch of irony.
While it is true that we no longer have police turning away marchers for voting rights with fire hoses and snarling dogs, racial discrimination in voting is still rampant; it’s just taken on a more insidious approach. It is in things such as voter ID laws that require people who have never owned a car to produce a driver’s license, people who have never traveled outside their home county to produce a passport, or people whose parents were denied admission to a whites-only hospital to give birth show a birth certificate from a state that barely issued them at all.
In the fifty years since the marches in Selma and the assassination of Medgar Evers we have gone from the Klan shooting from the bushes to Republican state chairpersons e-mailing pictures of the First Lady as a gorilla; from George Wallace’s claim of segregation forever to a celebrity chef thinking it’s amusing to have the wait staff at a wedding dress up like plantation servants. Instead of poll taxes and questions on Latin verb conjugation as barriers to minority voting, we now have restrictions on polling places and ballots so long that Stephen King has stopped reading them.
So we are supposed to take Justice Roberts’ word that we are now in post-racial America. Well, certainly for him — a white man of privilege — we are. And it’s not like the states where voter suppression and racial discrimination took place would suddenly take their cue from the Court and pass laws making it harder for minorities to vote, right?