The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in June that a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act designed to prevent racial discrimination in certain voting laws was no longer necessary. The majority opinion, authored by Chief Justice John Roberts and joined by Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, stated that “things have changed dramatically” in the South and that the “country has changed” since the Voting Rights Act was passed. The court argued the law had successfully defended against discrimination, but was no longer needed. Racism, the court majority appeared to suggest, was over, and laws created during a time when such hatred was in its heyday served now to place unjust “burdens” on certain states and jurisdictions that wished to pass new voting laws — laws, of course, that had nothing to do with trying to suppress minority votes.
Last week, the Supreme Court sided with Michigan’s ban on affirmative action, passed by voters in 2006, saying it was the state’s prerogative to decide how it wanted to handle race-conscious admissions policies. Justice Sonia Sotomayordisagreed with her colleagues’ view that “examining the racial impact of legislation only perpetuates racial discrimination,” and criticized what she characterized as their decision to “sit back and wish away, rather than confront, the racial inequality that exists in our society.”
Referring to a 2007 opinion authored by Roberts, in which he declared that the “way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race,” Sotomayor wrote that the “way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to speak openly and candidly on the subject of race, and to apply the Constitution with eyes open to the unfortunate effects of centuries of racial discrimination.”
For some Supreme Court justices, the history of racism that guided this discrimination is a thing of the past. But for anyone who’s been paying attention in the past year alone, you know that’s just plain wrong. Here are some people who prove that not only has racism not been eradicated in the South, it still exists in the upper echelons of power — even in the judiciary.