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J. KARL MILLER: Racism will linger as long as it serves a political agenda or profit motive

Monday, July 1, 2013 | 5:25 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — The U.S. Supreme Court completed its annual session and, as is the norm, handed down a number of decisions that are controversial.

The ruling that Section 4(b) of the 1965 Voting Rights Act requiring nine states and parts of seven others to petition the Department of Justice for permission to change voting laws is no longer constitutionally sanctioned is one of them.

The uproarious cacophony from the political left — Democratic Party members of Congress, editorialists, syndicated columnists and those who can be counted on to protest at the drop of a radical hat — along with the reaction of that self-proclaimed "corps d'elite" over a 20-year-old admitted racial slur, proved one point exceeding well:  So long as it is economically, socially and politically profitable, racism will remain with us.

The Voting Rights Act was signed into law as a necessity in 1965 as several of the states of the Confederacy employed poll taxes, literacy tests and other blatantly discriminatory measures to suppress minority voting.

Nevertheless the notion that time has stood still and those conditions still exist by civil rights activists and those who stand to gain by racial polarization is somewhat absurd.

The hysterical rants from the left include those by the New York Times: "The conservative majority on the Roberts Court issued another damaging and dishonest ruling"; the Kansas City Star: "The court's outrageous decision will give aid and comfort to conservative state lawmakers who want to make voting more difficult for blacks, Hispanics, the elderly and the poor"; and various other demagogic publications and individuals who see voter photo ID laws as the antithesis of "one person, one vote."

The idea that this decision opened the gate for "red" states to pass legislation requiring a photo ID to vote is patently false. The U. S. Supreme Court already decided in favor of Georgia (2005) and Indiana (2008) that requiring photo identification to cast a ballot does not violate the Constitutional rights of the voter.

So far, state courts and the Justice Department have been the only judicial roadblocks, judging from Supreme Court rulings, it is but a matter of time before the ID objection dies a well-earned death.

An example of just how silly the claim that requiring photo identification for voters is a tool for disenfranchisement of minorities, the elderly, et al., was my experience in acquiring a replacement library card last month.

Inasmuch as I was required to produce a photo ID to complete the transaction, does that not prove that our libraries are practicing Jim Crow tactics by suppressing the opportunity for the "disenfranchised" to read?

Now, let us take a look at the what, when, how and why the Supreme Court overturned Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act and returned it to Congress to reconsider it on the basis of 2013 instead of 1965.

There are no poll taxes or literacy tests in those Southern states today. In fact, five of those nine states now show a higher turnout of black voters than whites.

Conversely, the state with the largest disparity in white-versus-black voting participation is Massachusetts, hardly a bastion of the old South and Confederate battle flags flying from pickup trucks.

For too many years, Congress and the president had rotely perpetuated this outdated act. If not for Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, it might have gone on ad infinitum.

As for the 20-year-old racial slur, uttered and admitted to by one Paula Deen, a 66- year-old celebrity chef, the circumstances are of little import. Nevertheless, the admission in a taped deposition that she had used the "N" word caused her to be fired by the Food Network and cut loose by many of her sponsors.

I am not in the business of condoning discrimination or racial epithets; however, in retrospect, if everyone who has ever used a racial slur were to be fired, how many of us would be eligible for employment? I believe the Biblical passage, "He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone," is appropriate here.

Although celebrity chef Deen has not done herself any favors by repetitive tearful apologies — they tend to become old and self-serving very quickly — she scarcely deserves the scorn of hypocrites. Even the Rev. Al Sharpton, hardly a poster guy for racial objectivity, has come forward in support of Deen, saying that it is unfair to hold something voiced 20 years ago against her today.

Finally, there will always be racists and racism to deal with.

They will exist at both ends of the spectrum — ignorance and intolerance are permanent and know no difference in race, color nor creed.

However, the fact that we have a black president, a black attorney general, that we have had black secretaries of State, a black chairman joint chiefs of staff and black Supreme Court justices is concrete evidence that the past is breathing its last.

But, those who use racism to promote a political agenda, gouge out economic benefits or inflame social conscience will, sadly, keep it on life support.

J. Karl Miller is a retired colonel in the U.S. Marines Corps.


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Comments

Tony Black July 2, 2013 | 7:26 a.m.

Racism will stay alive as long as there are people who hate others simply because of the color of their skin. It may only exist in your little white world to serve a political agenda, but in the real world, I see it daily. And I am a middle aged white man. I can't imagine what people of other races see daily. Again, Karl, you can't go back to the 50's where everyone knew their place. You gotta come out of that shell and see that race means nothing and character means all.

(Report Comment)
Tony Black July 2, 2013 | 7:28 a.m.

And you feel like the Voting Rights Act needs to be updated to fit the modern world, yet the 200 year old constituion is fine the way it is? One or the other, man.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith July 2, 2013 | 9:52 a.m.

An end to segregation (all forms) on a daily, practical basis should and indeed must continue to be the goal, but Goldwater was correct when he observed that you can legislate civil rights but you cannot legislate racial tolerance. (The fact that his view wasn't popular doesn't mean it wasn't valid.)

Ever heard of the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution? Wow! We really "legislated" alcohol consumption out of Americans' daily lives, didn't we? Yes sir! We did such a wonderful job that we had to turn around and pass another amendment to get rid of the Eighteenth Amendment. :)

A huge problem today is that people think some end, while it may be well and good, justifies the means being proposed to achieve it. Don't like some Supreme Court decision? Well, let's either abolish or neuter* the Supreme Court. Don't like the Constitution? Let's ignore the fact that it has provisions for amendment and just dump the entire Constitution. Simple solutions always appeal to simple folks.

*- All the justices should think the same way WE do (however it is that we think). Under those conditions I agree there's no point in having a Supreme Court.

(Report Comment)
J Karl Miller July 3, 2013 | 7:32 p.m.

Mr Black,

Psst, it was the United States Supreme Court that decided this issue---I had nothing to do with it. I just thought perhaps you might like to know.

(Report Comment)
Skip Yates July 5, 2013 | 10:37 a.m.

@Tony Black: You seem to have missed the point of the entire piece. Are you just caged to disagree with anything Col Miller writes regardless of the subject? Seems that way.

(Report Comment)

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