The big hullabaloo yesterday was over Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s suggestion that racism is over.
As you can imagine, a lot of folks weren’t too happy to hear that claim, not the least of which was Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
A lot of other sites get into the details – Adam Serwer over at Mother Jones has a particularly good story that a lot of folks are linking to – so I’d rather focus on something that particularly caught my eye in Adam’s story.
First, some quick background, as Adam explains: “Under Section 5 [of the Voting Rights Act], parts of the country with histories of discriminatory election practices have to ask for permission—or ‘preclearance,’ in legal terms—from the Justice Department before making any changes to their voting rules.”
As you can imagine, most of those “parts” are in the South.
Some places like Shelby County, Alabama claim that the South has changed, racism is pretty much gone, or at least is no worse than that which is found in the North. So they say Section 5 is now unfair and unconstitutional.
Is the South more racist than the North?
Justice John Roberts, another conservative justice, then then chimed in:
Chief Justice John Roberts, arguing that voter registration and participation of black voters is higher in Mississippi than Massachusetts, asked Solicitor General Donald B Verrilli Jr., who was defending the law, “Is it the government’s submission that the citizens of the South are more racist than the citizens of the North?”
Verrilli reportedly cleared his throat awkwardly and said “no.”
What else could he say? He represents the President, a Democrat, and an African-American, and regardless of how deep in Republican pockets the South is, it still doesn’t help Democrats to have a scandal over the fact that a black president just accused southerns of being racists.
Roberts knew there was no other answer Verrilli could give politically, so it was intellectually dishonest of him to ask the question in the first place.
But Roberts’ question seemed remarkable in another way as well. Are we to believe that the South is no longer more bigoted than the north? Really?
And Mississippi just “happened” to forget to abolish slavery until two weeks ago. Riiiiiiiight.
Mississippi also just happened to forget to vote for women’s suffrage – dead last among the states – until 1984, 64 years after the 19th Amendment became law of the land. Take a look at the last five states to ratify the 19th amendment:
- Florida (May 13, 1969)
- South Carolina (July 1, 1969, after being rejected on January 28, 1920; not certified until August 22, 1973)
- Georgia (February 20, 1970, after being rejected on July 24, 1919)
- Louisiana (June 11, 1970, after being rejected on July 1, 1920)
- North Carolina (May 6, 1971)
- Mississippi (March 22, 1984, after being rejected on March 29, 1920)
All from the South.
And in what state did a middle school in 2010 not understand why it was a problem that only white students were permitted to run for class president?
Where is the headquarters of the lead religious right group that claimed Latinos are all socialists?
Where did racist students riot over Obama’s 2012 election victory?
Where did voters in 2004 decide to keep segregationist language in their state constitution?
Where did a state senator call African-Americans “aborigines” in 2011?
Where did a Republican suggest we “empty the clip” on undocumented immigrants?
Which state passed a law repealing all municipal civil rights laws, and taking away the right of cities in the state to pass any civil rights laws in the future?
Which state wants to ban the word “gay” in schools?’
In which state does that gun CEO live who threatened to “start shooting people” if President Obama signs any executive orders on gun control following Sandy Hook?
Or the mayor who posted a racist anti-Obama rant on Facebook?
In which state’s GOP convention did we find a pin that read “If Obama is president…. will we still call it the White House?”
And who can forget Macaca?
The state that took a lesbian’s child away from her simply because the mother was gay?
Who celebrates Confederate History Month?
Who won’t confirm judges who are gay?
Who defend a law, all the way to the Supreme Court, making it a crime for a black man to marry a white woman?
Two words: Senator Macaca.
Where did a high school teacher just have her kids write an essay on how President Obama is turning America into a socialist state just like Lenin and Stalin did?
Whose state Senate threatened to secede in 2009?
Where did the KKK rally in 2010?
Whose white Republican US Senator said that the black president should show a bit more “humility“?
Caught using pro-Klan books in public schools?
Justice of the Peace refused to marry an inter-racial couple in 2009?
I know there are good southern Democrats, and probably some decent southern Republicans too, though few of them seem to ever get elected to public office. But as a gay man, and someone who follows all civil rights issues pretty closely, most of our civil rights problems don’t happen in Vermont, Illinois, and New York. They happen in Virginia, Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee. They happen in the South. (And in the “new South,” the southwest – Arizona comes to mind.)
If the South isn’t more racist, more intolerant, than the North, then why do these things keep happening… where?