How Clarence Thomas Gave Blacks the Finger - Again
Date: Wednesday, June 24, 2009
By: Tonyaa Weathersbee, BlackAmericaWeb.com
This week, Clarence Thomas delivered a shocker in the high court’s decision against draining the lifeblood pumping through the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
He actually outdid his arch-conservative overseer, Antonin Scalia, in giving black folks the middle finger.
By an 8 to 1 vote, the high court decided that the time wasn’t quite right to discard a provision of the act that requires most Deep South states and more than 12,000 municipalities to seek permission from the Justice Department before changing polling places or times or reshaping electoral districts or any number of other things that could make it tough for blacks or other minorities to cast votes.
Of course, the court narrowed the act a bit by lifting the pre-clearance provision for the Texas water district that brought the lawsuit and by allowing municipalities that have a clean record to ask for a bailout.
Still, the court’s eight white justices – even Scalia – decided not to gut the act that made it possible for blacks across the South to vote without having to recite the Constitution or to guess how many bubbles were in a bar of soap.
The only black one, Thomas, didn’t.
In a dissent, Thomas wrote that the South had changed enough so that the act was no longer needed. Said that “the violence, intimidation and subterfuge that led Congress to pass Section 5 and this court to uphold it no longer remains.”
C’mon, Clarence. Things haven’t changed that damn much. At least not in the direction that the Old South holdouts who run the show would prefer.
Sure, black voters won’t encounter epithet-spewing Ku Klux Klansmen or racists armed with ridiculous requests as they did during the Jim Crow days. They’ll run up against more subtle stuff.
Stuff like finding that their usual polling place has been moved to a neighborhood that is five miles away – and impossible for them to get to before the polls close. Stuff like cumbersome voter identification laws and other obstacles that can hinder them from exercising their right to vote.
A look at the electoral map shows that the above scenarios aren’t born of paranoia, but of reality.
Right now the Republican party – a party that built its ranks by playing to the fears of Southern whites – has largely been isolated to that region of the country. John McCain, the vanquished GOP presidential contender, carried pre-clearance states such as Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Texas.
Those states have every reason to fear huge turnouts of black and minority voters – something that could possibly upset the outcome in certain contests and further loosen their grip on power.
And here’s another bit of news bound to strike fear in the hearts of worried Southerners: In Texas, the number-one name for male newborns is Jose - meaning that one day, Latinos will overwhelm whites at the polls. Meaning that one day, black and Latino voters could possibly swing Southern states in directions that many whites don’t want to go.
I doubt that many whites in the South – people who already feel besieged and isolated by President Barack Obama’s victory – will take those changes lightly.
In fact, they’ve already come out swinging.
I mean, there’s the governor of Texas, Rick Perry, reviving talk of secession rather than follow the policies of the nation’s first black president. Then there’s South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, who preferred to see his impoverished state suffer even more than accept money from Obama.
There’s Rusty DePass, South Carolina’s former state election director, who made a Facebook comment likening Michelle Obama’s ancestors to an escaped gorilla, and Mike Green, another South Carolina GOP operative, who made on online joke saying Obama planned to tax aspirin because “it’s white, and it works.”
And this is a state that Thomas believes would behave itself if it didn’t have to clear its voting changes with the Justice Department?
Thomas is right when he says that the South has changed. But what he forgets is that it took laws like the Voting Rights Act to force those changes. Gutting the act would give those pre-clearance states, which are GOP-controlled and fighting ideological extinction, a license to steal.
It’s too bad that Thomas didn’t see all that; that he cares more about the burden placed on states that have a history of discriminating than on the blacks and minorities who will invariably be their victims.
But at least this time, he didn’t vote with Scalia. And in his dissent, Thomas showed that he possesses some empathy.
Just none for his own people.