Thursday, February 28, 2013

Invisible Privilege

Just in time to piss all over Black History Month, right-wing nutbag and unjust Justice Antonin Scalia has characterized the Voting Rights Act as a "perpetuation of racial entitlement". Of course, normal people know that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 sought protections from impediments to voting that resulted in the disenfranchisement of black voters througout much of the country. By characterizing the right to vote as a "racial entitlement", Scalia denigrates the legacy of martyrs to the cause of civil rights such as James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner. By characterizing the right to vote as an entitlement, Scalia denigrates the legacy of all of those who fought for the expansion of suffrage. Here is the text of Scalia's jaw-dropping statement:

Well, maybe it was making that judgment, Mr. Verrilli. But that’s — that’s a problem that I have. This Court doesn’t like to get involved in — in racial questions such as this one. It’s something that can be left — left to Congress.

The problem here, however, is suggested by the comment I made earlier, that the initial enactment of this legislation in a — in a time when the need for it was so much more abundantly clear was — in the Senate, there — it was double-digits against it. And that was only a 5-year term.

Then, it is reenacted 5 years later, again for a 5-year term. Double-digits against it in the Senate. Then it was reenacted for 7 years. Single digits against it. Then enacted for 25 years, 8 Senate votes against it. 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.

I don’t think there is anything to be gained by any Senator to vote against continuation of this act. And I am fairly confident it will be reenacted in perpetuity unless — unless a court can say it does not comport with the Constitution. You have to show, when you are treating different States differently, that there’s a good reason for it.

That’s the — that’s the concern that those of us who — who have some questions about this statute have. It’s — it’s a concern that this is not the kind of a question you can leave to Congress. There are certain districts in the House that are black districts by law just about now. And even the Virginia Senators, they have no interest in voting against this. The State government is not their government, and they are going to lose — they are going to lose votes if they do not reenact the Voting Rights Act.

Even the name of it is wonderful: The Voting Rights Act. Who is going to vote against that in the future?

The problem with straight white male male privilege is that it is invisible to its beneficiaries. Straight white males tend to think of themselves as the "default setting" for humanity. Because they are largely free from discrimination (it has to be noted that most attacks on white male privilege are conducted by white males from a higher socioeconomic stratum), straight white males often believe that members of minority groups are similarly unaffected by discrimination, which leads the straight white males to view any protections extended to minority groups as "perpetuation of racial entitlement".

Tragically, straight white males don't view minorities in a correct light- minorities serve as the "canaries in the coal mine"- attacks on minorities often presage attacks on other groups. For instance, the predatory lending practices which largely affected minority lenders soon spiraled out of control and affected white homeowners living in exurban areas. Similarly, poor treatment of minority employees in the workplace presaged wage stagnation and job insecurity for the majority of Americans. Sadly, Mr Whitefolks didn't look at what was going down in black households and see the threat: "Coming to a theater near you."

A white, male middle class individual may look at Scalia's characterization of the Voting Rights Act and think, "What's the big deal?" After all, nobody's thinking of disenfranchising white male voters. Women know better- more than one conservative has verbally attacked women's suffrage. While straight white guys don't see any threats to their franchise, such threats are not inconceivable- after all, the current political climate is one in which proposed legislation could give corporations the right to vote, and the average white male clockpuncher would not fare too well if his corporate paymasters really had their way.

Of course, the real solution to the issue of voting rights would be to make voting a constitutional right, and to explicitly extend the right to all citizens over the age of eighteen, to expand the scope of the Voting Rights Act rather than to drop it.

Scalia being a corporatist (and arguably a fascist, just like his old man), it is not inconceivable that, not being content with attacking the franchise of minorities, Scalia would attack the franchise of the average white working class schmo. White guys, open your eyes and see that you enjoy a privilege that other groups do not. Failure to recognize this, and failure to defend the minorities you believe are getting "racial entitlements" could lead to you losing your current privileges. Those black people in Alabama aren't leeches sucking to lifeblood out of the Republic, they're canaries keeling over- ignore them at your peril!

Cross-posted at Rumproast.


zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Some legislator out west has already proposed restricting voting to property owners.

And in another place, one has proposed giving property-owning corporations voting rights in local elections.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Here's a good diary about white privilege from Great Orange Satan.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Checked all the links just do I don't seem silly...but I'd like to recommend Jane Mayer.

The man who has stoked fear about impostors at the polls

There used to be more people like Jane Mayer working in our news media.

Smut Clyde said...

I am intrigued by the idea that the VRA remains constitutional only as long as it is sufficiently unpopular. Apparently the concept of 'constitutionality' operates much like hipster tastes in music.

His arguments do not seem to address actual constitutionality. He is saying that Congress simply didn't know what they were doing, so it's his job to step into their branch of government and relegislate for them.

Rev. paleotectonics said...

Any reasoning in a storm. If 10 people had voted against it, Tony "the Squid" would have said "IT MUST BE UNANIMOUS!"

Principles? Consistency? Go straight to hell, Scalia, do not pass go, do not collect $200.

Laura said...

I said HEY! What's goin on?

Sorry.. I'm still singing. :)


mikey said...

All of which is correct, but overlooks the 8000 lb gorilla in the room. There used to be far and away enough white people to elect conservative white supremacists to government office. Now that that condition is poised to shift, and the white people lack the overwhelming numbers to comfortably control state and federal legislation, it has become necessary to alter the balance of electoral power. Simple and obvious - when you institutionalize and legalize corruption within a democratic government, you no longer have a democratic government. Welcome to our brave new world...

Dr.KennethNoisewater said...

Really well said, B^4. Here's another great entry about white male privilege:

Substance McGravitas said...

There are certain districts in the House that are black districts by law

They must be cleansed!