The Voting Rights Act and the Art of Phony Outrage



I thought the best thing to do about this issue was give it a week or so, come back and see how I feel about it.  Anyone who knows me well – particularly any of my students – know that I am not particularly fond of the U.S. voting machine in the first place.  In the Black community, the significance of U.S. elections is even more of an illusion.  So last week when the Supreme Court eliminated a key part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, I was neither surprised nor outraged.


On June 25th the Supreme Court struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 — the map that determines which states must get federal permission before they change their voting laws.  The Voting Rights Act required nine states with a history of discrimination at the polls, mostly in the South, to get approval from the Justice Department or a special panel of judges before they change their voting laws. The rule also applies to 12 cities and 57 counties elsewhere.  In their decision, Justice Roberts cited census data showing that Black voter turnout now exceeds white turnout in five of the six states originally covered by the law.


My attention was immediately grabbed by the ridiculous amount of “phony outrage” by political pundits and analysts from America’s leading news networks.  What perplexes me the most is the ignorance of those claiming to be “outraged” by the decision.  Are you really shocked?  Where have you been the last 10 years? Said Justice Roberts, “our country has changed,” and no doubt all the clownish pundits of progressive political talk (particularly MSNBC) will validate this opinion.  The country would not have elected a Black president in 1965, 75, 85 and probably 95! So clearly the nation has changed. Progressives, Blacks included, are quick to emphasize that our new and enlightened America is moving past race. Black academics and politicians don’t want to be bound by race.  Musicians, athletes, and actors despise being confined to the issues and roles particular to the Black community.  Race is no longer an issue to them.


You wanted a more “diverse” America were race was no longer the issue, well you just got it. Like it or not, the Supreme Court, finally, agreed with you.  Oh you don’t like that? All of a sudden you have a problem with a race-less society? You’ve worked so hard to beat the drum of inclusion and moving past race so you can make money, go to predominately white schools even if you have to take 2 busses and a train to get there.  And now you want to beat the drum of Black discrimination? Excuse me if I’m not buying it.  Apparently, the Supreme Court isn’t either.


Most importantly the Supreme Court decision shows how little Black people (especially elites, politicians, and academics) care: we are officially behind Mexicans and the LGBT community in priorities for the Democratic Party and political decision makers. Those are now the votes democrats want to maintain, and republicans feel they need.  Obama never even addresses or mentioned Black causes during his last inauguration speech; we aren’t on his radar; and the Supreme Court had a front row seat.  “Black leaders” convened at Howard University after the election in 2012 to address a Black agenda aimed at President Obama after they noticed the Black community’s lack of interest from the President as other members of the democratic base, primarily Hispanics and gays.   If the President, who is Black doesn’t care, why should the Supreme Court?  The voting laws in southern and western states today aren’t meant to deny Blacks, they are meant to curb the Mexican and Latino vote, which is why most of them focus on id’s and documentation that most illegal immigrants don’t, or shouldn’t have. Hence, the uproar when states were issuing illegal immigrants id’s and drivers licenses; the problem was that when it came to voting, these could be used as identification at the booths.


The fact of the matter is, not much has really changed.  America and its institutions are still racially charged and discriminatory towards Blacks.  Read the comment section of any article or blog as it relates to Blacks in this country and all of them are racially charged.  What has changed is the coup on Black elites and professionals who have sold their souls for the power of the dollar and convinced them all to abandon Black identity for a more “diverse” America.  Until we revert back to a time when being Black was just not something a person happened to be, but was rather a focal point of that person’s identity; not an American who happens to be Black, but a Black person in America, with a unique history and experience that shapes how they perceive American politics and institutions, we will continue to see less attention paid to the issues and conditions facing Blacks in America.  The reality is, not everyone’s issue and cause is a Black cause.  But every Black issue and cause is an American one.