Over Obama’s objections, Supreme Court pushes view of ‘post-racial’ America
Being black did not prevent Barack Obama’s rise to the White House, and some heralded his victory as a sign the country is moving toward a post-racial future. But not the president himself. Instead, he has emphasized the importance of naming women and minorities to key posts, even if some critics rightly argue his inner circle is full of men. His administration has strongly defended affirmative action and fought against “voter ID” laws, arguing they could limit the franchise for voters of color. The president has made intentional, pointed appeals that invoke race, mostly memorably when he suggested Trayvon Martin could have been his son.
But the five conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court seem determined to use their power to eliminate consideration of race as a factor in American life wherever they can, no matter the president’s disagreement. In oral arguments on the constitutionality of affirmative action in October and the Voting Rights Act this week, they have blunted suggested race matters less than ever before in America, most memorably when Chief Justice John Roberts said on Wednesday, “is it the government’s submission that the citizens in the South are more racist than citizens in the North?”
That question, part of Roberts’ suggestion the Voting Rights Act is unfair because its Section 5 requires some states in the South to clear their voting laws with the federal government, would have been laughable a few decades ago, when the South was known for a history of racial discriminatory voting laws. Now, with that kind of explicit racism no longer part of America, the Court’s conservatives, who in 2007 ruled school integration plans should not consider color, could move even further in their post-racial vision, as they are expected to issue rulings this summer that eliminate the consideration of race in college admissions and hiring and suggest the South no longer needs to undergo special scrutiny because of its racial discrimination in the past.
And Obama, more influential than ever in dealing with congressional Republicans, has veto power with the conservatives on the Court.
The Court is taking this post-racial approach despite strong opposition many Americans, particularly minorities themselves, who don’t see the country this way. During the 2012 campaign, liberals of all races, but particularly blacks, suggested that a bloc of states, many of which are in the South, had written laws specifically designed to make it harder for people of color to vote and therefore prevent President Obama from winning reelection. The Justice Department Act invoked Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, the part Roberts criticized in the hearing, to block “voter ID” laws in Texas and South Carolina from going into effect before Election Day.
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