Do voting rights ‘perpetuate racial entitlement’; Justice said yes

Open Letter from the NAACP

I’m trying to keep my cool here.

It no longer surprises me when extremist state legislators try to restrict our voting rights. I don’t like it and we fight against it, but I’m no longer surprised by it.

What surprises and outrages me is that yesterday a Supreme Court Justice said that the protection of the right to vote is a “perpetuation of racial entitlement.”

Let’s think about those words and what they mean: “racial entitlement.”

Those words suggest undeserved privilege. They suggest that our right to vote doesn’t need protection.

We know it does. In Kilmichael, Mississippi, the all-white city council canceled an election when it became clear that black candidates might win. In Shelby County, Alabama, after a black man won elected office local legislators gerrymandered him out of office. Both of these injustices took place in the past ten years and both were remedied quickly because of Section 5 of the VRA.

Moreover, in just the past two years, six of the nine states covered by the Voting Rights Act passed laws making it harder for people of color to vote. Most of those laws were blocked thanks to Section 5, as well.

Get angry and speak up now:

Congressman John Lewis was sitting in front of me in the Supreme Court as Justice Scalia spoke those words.

I was so appalled for him at that moment. This hero of the civil rights movement who had fought and won so many battles to protect our community’s right to vote had to listen as Justice Scalia reduced it all — without any sense of irony — to “racial entitlement.”

For Congressman Lewis, for Rosa Parks, and all the other heroes of the civil rights movement, stand with the NAACP to say that voting is a right, not an entitlement:

Benjamin Jealous
NAACP President

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