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U.S. Supreme Court decision guts the Voting Rights Act

Remember the 1964 Mississippi Summer Project!
Editorial by Fight Back! Editors |
June 26, 2013
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We strongly condemn the June 25 decision by the Supreme Court of the U.S. to gut the heart of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. On a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court struck down the requirement that seven southern and southwestern states have to get federal government approval for changes in their election practices. Such approval was to make sure that the changes do not prevent African American and Chicano voters from full participation in elections.

The Voting Rights Act was first passed in August of 1965, after a long struggle in the South led by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to allow African Americans to vote. SNCC was born out of the Feb. 1, 1960 sit-in by four Black college students at the Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina. As waves of sit-ins at diners, buses and bus stations, and other segregated facilities exploded across the South, SNCC began to do voter registration among African Americans.

This effort peaked with the 1964 Mississippi Summer Project, which brought thousands of college students from across the country to Mississippi to register voters and open freedom schools deep in the heart of the Black Belt South. On June 21, 1964, three young organizers, James Chaney, aged 18, Michael Schwerner, aged 25, and Andrew Goodman, 20, were arrested by the local police in Neshoba County, Mississippi, brutally beaten and then murdered. But this violence did not stop the Mississippi Summer Project or the mass civil rights movement of African Americans.

50 years later, there has been progress for African Americans in electoral politics. There are now thousands of Black elected officials, including the President of the U.S. But at the same time the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “Of the good things in life, the Negro has approximately one half those of whites. Of the bad things of life, he has twice those of whites,” continue to ring true: The unemployment rate for African Americans is twice that of whites, while African Americans are more than four times as likely to end up in jail. African Americans are half as likely to be college graduates as whites and African American wealth is just 1/20th that of whites.

What progress that has been made by African Americans in elections is under renewed attack by the Republican right. Many Republicans have adopted a strategy of ‘voter suppression’ against African Americans and other oppressed nationalities by making it more difficult to register and to vote. Many local elections have ‘at-large’ elections that can lead to all-white government bodies even where the population is a minority white. The U.S. Supreme Court decision opens the door to even more of these attacks on the political rights of African Americans and other oppressed nationalities. These attacks by the right must be met with even more struggle by the masses.