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Justice Antonin Scalia’s “Perpetuation of Racial Entitlement”

President Barack Obama sits on the famed Rosa Parks bus at the Henry Ford Museum following an event in Dearborn, Mich., April 18, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Under Section 5 of the law, nine states, mostly in the South, but also including Alaska and Arizona, as well as dozens of counties, townships, cities, and elected boards in other states, must get permission, or “preclearance,” from the Justice Department or a federal court in Washington for any change in voting procedures, no matter how small, that they seek to make. [NBC News]

THERE WERE reportedly “gasps” during the oral arguments, when Justice Scalia said the indefensible. The oral arguments today in the Supreme Court means that Section 5 under the Voting Rights Act is in real jeopardy, as are others.

…And this last enactment, not a single vote in the Senate against it. And the House is pretty much the same. Now, I don’t think that’s attributable to the fact that it is so much clearer now that we need this. I think it is attributable, very likely attributable, to a phenomenon that is called perpetuation of racial entitlement. It’s been written about. Whenever a society adopts racial entitlements, it is very difficult to get out of them through the normal political processes.Justice Antonin Scalia

This leaves me rather… well, speechless.

How Justice Scalia can deduce that a landmark law preventing discrimination is suspicious, Think Progress’s Nicole Flatow’s assessment, with which I agree, because people are afraid of being labeled racist, given the history of the 1960s, not to mention two centuries of American prejudice, is altogether stunning.

That conservative justices may win over the minority four was evident today, which would mean that key provisions in the Voting Rights Act would be struck, leaving vulnerable citizens across this country at the whims of election officials.

That sound you hear is conservatives chomping at the bit.

Sometimes, in a Supreme Court argument, a single phrase can speak volumes. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the one member of the Court who bore the most watching because the other eight seemed clearly to divide evenly, used the phrase “trusteeship of the United States government” as a shorthand way to describe how he views the regime set up by the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Of course, he meant it as a denunciation.

If Kennedy believes that there is no way to justify any longer that kind of oversight of nine states that have to do the most to obey the 1965 law, that law may well be doomed. But it also was Kennedy who left the impression that he might be willing to go along with a potential way to short-circuit the case of Shelby County v. Holder, and allow the law to survive for some time more.

- Lyle Denniston

Now we wait and once again watch to see what Justice Kennedy does. Because it couldn’t be clearer that Justice Scalia believes key provisions of the Voting Rights Act, once required, are now no longer necessary.

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7 Responses to Justice Antonin Scalia’s “Perpetuation of Racial Entitlement”

  1. Joyce Arnold February 27, 2013 at 6:50 pm #

    I don’t think Scalia can surprise me any more, but he can continue making arguments that make me wonder if he’s yet to hit bottom.

  2. Uh-oh February 27, 2013 at 7:15 pm #

    Scalia is and always has been a complete jackass and he should be an embarrassment to Italians everywhere. Why the people in DC think that this guy is smart totally mystifies me.

  3. jinbaltimore February 27, 2013 at 7:44 pm #

    Scalia = personification of a nightmare.

    How about the fricking “racial entitlements” of the last five hundred years!

    Horrifying action from a horrible man.

  4. Cujo359 February 27, 2013 at 8:27 pm #

    This is astonishingly wrongheaded, even for Scalia. The civil rights legislation of the 1960s was in place for only about a decade before the deregulation craze kicked in, and economic inequality rose in America. Blacks were way behind economically, thanks to all the old racist policies and tendencies the civil rights legislation was supposed to end. What this means is that blacks had little chance to catch up economically, and economic power equates to political power.

    Latinos have a somewhat different history, but lots of them arrived during or after the time the government turned away from liberalism.

    So there’s plenty of reason to think that voting rights could still be in danger for at least those minorities, even if one pays no attention to what the GOP have been doing on that front in the last decade or so.

  5. DaGoat February 27, 2013 at 8:29 pm #

    I think Scalia hits on part of the problem, which is that the weakness in racially based programs is that the endpoints are poorly defined, and the people making decisions on when the program should end often have a vested interest in keeping them going, or no interest in ending them. The term “racial entitlement” obviously is a charged one, and Scalia should have chosen a different one.

  6. ladywalker68 February 28, 2013 at 1:14 am #

    “Racial entitlement”….”Legitimate rape”…I can hardly wait for the next Republitude…what will they think of next?

  7. secularhumanizinevoluter February 28, 2013 at 5:33 am #

    “I think Scalia hits on part of the problem, which is that the weakness in racially based programs is that the endpoints are poorly defined, and the people making decisions on when the program should end often have a vested interest in keeping them going, or no interest in ending them. ”

    Because as the repugnantKLAN’s efforts to disenfranchise mostly Black voter populations prove there is no need what so ever for laws protecting minority’s voting rights right?

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