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Civil Rights Laws Must Be Updated, or two whites don’t make a wrong
Civil Rights, as most should know, is still an issue in the this nation. With so many groups desperately trying to restrict the rights of others over the last couple of years (see the gay marriage issue, the Boy Scouts of America, the abortion battle, etc.) it seems to me that America is not prepared to give up on civil rights laws. But one such law is being brought before the Supreme Court this week: the Civil Rights Act of 1965, specifically Section 5, which requires certain states and counties within those states to get permission from the federal government before making any changes to voting laws. These states have a historical record of violating the rights of their citizens, primarily African Americans in the ’60s, and thus this law was put into place to protect those rights. But now, in 2013, its constitutionality is being questioned. Affected states are claiming they no longer pose the kinds of threats restricted by the laws, and they may be right.
The question now is whether or not the Civil Rights Act of 1965 is still necessary. Does the history, albeit it was fifty years ago, match the present, and does this law still apply? Another question is whether or not black citizens in these states and counties will be disenfranchised if this law is repealed or found unconstitutional? I’m not a prognosticator, so I can’t predict what will happen, but based on what I’ve read, I think the law doesn’t seem to be necessary anymore. What does seem to be necessary is for Congress to enact a new law, perhaps a Civil Rights Act of 2013, that considers some of the tricks that we saw Conservatives try in dozens of new states to try and restrict minority voting and disenfranchise voters altogether.
Now I admit that I say this as a white male, the one group in America that struggles to find a closed door or a discriminatory practice aimed at it. So, I’m cautious because I don’t want anyone to be left out in the cold, and I have argued and bitched endlessly over the last year about some of the things, which I thought were despicable, that Conservatives in various states were pulling in order to manipulate voting and win the Presidential Election of 2012.
What I saw during that time, and it’s well documented in the press, was the manipulation of voting hours/sites/dates in districts and counties heavily populated by minorities, especially in Florida. What I saw was a supposed attack on the faux threat of “voter fraud” in downtown Philadelphia and all across Pennsylvania and new last-minute, restrictive rules and regulations regarding Voter ID that ultimately failed to slow minority voting, specifically African American voting. What I saw was many states creating new rules for last-minute registration, which would disproportionately affect college students, many of whom would normally vote in the state in which they attend college and who predominantly vote Democrat. In fact, in 2011, one lawmaker (GOP Speaker in the New Hampshire House), was even caught on film stating that the overall goal of these efforts was to restrict minorities, the poor and students from registering at the last minute and voting because they usually “voted with their hearts” and voted Democrat.
So, that brings us back to the question of the Civil Rights Act of 1965. I suppose, and I’m trying to be fair here, if the defense (the Democrats) can show that discriminatory acts that fall within the prevue of the law still take place against African Americans in those originally offending areas, then it goes without saying that the law should be upheld and continued, but I don’t think that will be the case. The law, it seems, is likely too narrow in scope and outdated. What is needed is for Congress (and good luck with this) to enact a new law that encompasses a broader definition of discriminatory practices, especially the ones we have seen recently, and covers all fifty states. Now, that said, good luck getting that past the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Considering it was their teammates across the nation that perpetuated these attempts at disenfranchisement, I don’t think we will see a lot of progress here, but that doesn’t change the fact that the law in question is most likely out of date, and I expect it – based on a lot of the comments from the Supreme Court justices themselves – will be overturned.