You knew this was coming. I mean, you knew, right?
From today’s Los Angeles Times comes this article discussing the ways Conservatives are continuing to attack the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 in the courts.
Conservative legal foundations and the Republican governor of Georgia, challenging key parts of the Voting Rights Act, filed briefs in the Supreme Court this month pointing to racial progress and a high black turnout in the fall election. They said Obama’s victory heralded the emergence of a colorblind society in which special legal safeguards for minorities are no longer required.
This is the latest phase of a continuing war Conservatives have been waging since, let me see…yes, since 1965! Sadly, it has been achieving success in small ways in recent years. (As I have warned before, these small ways are exactly how these groups plan legal strategies, so, yes, you should be worried.)
The new and tragic element in today’s story is that they are now using the election of Barack Obama as proof that we have reached a colorblind society which no longer needs things like the Voting Rights Act. Ward Connerly–everybody’s favorite opportunist who uses his black face to give “moral authenticity” to organized attempts to undo the gains of the Civil Rights Era–said “If we can’t get rid of these laws now with Obama, I don’t know what yardstick we’re going to use.”
Hmmmm. How about we use the yard stick that says race is no longer a factor in creating social, political, and economic inequality? Yeah, that sounds good!
Mr. Connerly doesn’t read a lot, so maybe he doesn’t know, but the casual and everyday violence of racial segregation and discrimination remain very much alive. Most Americans continue to live in racially-homogenous communities.1 Most of this nation’s children sit in classes almost entirely made up of children of their own race, learning in spaces even more segregated than they were a generation ago.2
Studies show a continuing gap in household income for Black and Latino families—with Blacks earning only 62% and Latinos only 72% of the average white family. Household net worth is a better measure of the wealth disparity in our society, but that data is no better. The median white household is more than 8 times as wealthy as the average Latino household and more than 17 times as wealthy as the average African American one.3 Black and brown poverty continue to outpace white poverty, in both cases by a factor of more than two to one.4
Of the more than 2 million people incarcerated in the United States, about 40% are Black and 20% are Latino, though both groups only represent about 15% of the general population.5 When contrasted with their rates of college enrollment, an African American or Latino young person is 3 times as likely to end up in prison as they are in college.
But these kinds of harsh realities really don’t matter to Conservatives. For some, they are indicators of laziness and criminality within communities of color, not of the persistence of white supremacy. For others, they just ignore this reality altogether.
Shannon Goessling, the director of the Southeastern Legal Foundation, one of the well-funded armies in this war, made the conservative case succinctly when she said: “The question now is, at what point do we as a society wipe the slate clean and accept that we are equals with equal rights, equal treatment and equal expectations, and special treatment shouldn’t be provided to anyone?” Interesting how they label laws designed to assure the condition of equal rights as “special treatment.”
Here’s a joke for you: What do these folks call it when “special treatment” is no longer law and the discriminatory practices which seem to have all the inertia in this political system find solace without opposition or recognition? Answer? They call that “success!”
1 John Iceland and Daniel H. Weinberg, with Erika Steinmetz, “Racial and Ethnic Residential Segregation in the United States: 1980-2000,” Census 2000 Special Reports, U.S. Census Bureau (Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2002).
2 Gary Orfield, Reviving the Goal of an Integrated Society: A 21st Century Challenge (Los Angeles, CA: The Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at UCLA, 2009).
3 Alfred O. Gottschalck, “Net Worth and the Assets of Households: 2002,” Current Population Reports, U.S. Census Bureau (Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2008), 13. These figures exclude wealth derived from home equity.
4 Carmen DeNavas-Walt, Bernadette D. Proctor, and Jessica C. Smith, “Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2007,” Current Population Reports, U.S. Census Bureau (Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 2008), 6 and 13.
5 U.S. Census Bureau, “Census Bureau Releases New Data on Residents of Adult Correctional Facilities, Nursing Homes and Other Group Quarters,” press release, September 27, 1007. Available from . Accessed on October 12, 2007.