The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) in a 5-4 vote ruled that parts of the Voting Rights Act are no longer valid. Chief Justice Roberts, writing for the majority, stated the rationale for the repeal is that the country has changed for the better. The conditions over the past 50 years that required certain states, mainly in South, to “pre-clear” no longer portray voting challenges in those regions. Moreover, Chief Justice Roberts stated the formula for pre-clearing these states and districts is not logical in relation to the much improved changes in voting rights for the minorities in these regions. The Court’s ruling is linked to the norms of post-racialism. There is increased public sentiment that race is no longer a defining feature in opportunities and outcomes for minorities generally and blacks specifically. Section 4, the formula utilized by the federal government to decide which states and counties are required to submit to oversight, was struck down as unconstitutional. In essence, because there is no formula in place in Section 4, Section 5 of the Act which deals with pre-clearance cannot be enforced.
Whether we are racial minorities or not the SCOTUS’ ruling should not come as a surprise in light of increased public opinion that things have gotten better, as indicated in the Court’s ruling. If we are racial minorities, however, we should be concerned. What interests me is President Obama’s discourse on the ruling. By not talking about the SCOTUS’ ruling in terms of race, but as an issue for all Americans, President Obama also is perpetuating the post-racial norm that led Chief Justice Roberts to get to the point that we are post-racial to begin with. In sentiment, the President’s response to the Court’s ruling is still advancing a post racial narrative.
When President Obama lays out the issue for Congress to create a new formula, he needs to couch the issue of voting rights discrimination in language and a sentiment that reflects the problem. Every American is not having a challenge with equal access to the right to vote it is mainly racial minorities.
President Obama’s proactivity on race based policies in the face of evident racial disparities tends to be timid. He advocates instead for policies that benefit every American. The opportunity for President Obama to take a stand on racial discrimination is presenting itself. This could be a defining moment in his legacy as the nation’s first black president to shape sweeping policy reform for racial justice. Hopefully, he will not shy away from the opportunity.