Lessie Branch

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Stop and Frisk vs. Voting Rights Act: The Importance of Contextual Discourse

ArticleHeader-VotingRightsQuestion:  What do you get when you discuss a racial discrimination issue in a racial context?

Answer:  You get a policy that makes the racial discrimination illegal.

Question:  What do you get when you discuss a racial discrimination issue in a non-racial context?

Answer:  You get the invalidation of a policy that makes the racial discrimination illegal.

The above characterizes the difference between the outcomes of the NYPD’s Stop and Frisk and The Voting Rights Act.  Essentially, the difference between the two outcomes is what I call contextual discourse.  Contextual discourse is simply the way we talk about issues and the way they are framed.

The likes of Ben Jealous of the NAACP, Council Member Jumaame Williams and private citizens who were discriminatorily profiled based on race, called for an end to NYPD’s Stop and Frisk policy, highlighting its racial discriminatory and illegal nature.  In short, they addressed a racial discrimination issue in a race based context and there is a good chance that the repeal of Stop and Frisk will survive Mayor Bloomberg’s veto and blacks and Hispanics will not be subject to racial discrimination in this way.

The Voting Rights Act met with a different fate.  There is increased public sentiment that social and structural barriers are no longer impediments to opportunities and outcomes for blacks.  The norms of post-racialism lead society to believe that race no longer defines opportunities and outcomes.  Discussing the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on the Voting Rights Act as an issue for all Americans, and not one specifically linked to race, perpetuates the discourse that social and structural barriers are no longer obstacles and perpetuates the post racial norm.

In short, the right to vote for blacks, a racial discrimination issue, was addressed in a non racial context.  The U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a key section of the Act that protected against racial discrimination.  There is a good chance that in light of this ruling, blacks and other minorities will be subject to racial discrimination in their ability to exercise their right to vote.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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