I have been thinking about Supreme Court Judge Antonin Scalia recent commentary regarding the Voting Rights Act. A reminder:
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. 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?
Racial entitlement. See, really, what he is arguing here is that we should not make sure to make the right to vote equal access. It is, his mind, to have laws and regulations that take racial inequality are wrong…because really, the law should be colorblind. Conservatives can often get hung up on the notion of the law being colorblind. But the truth is, the law is only successfully colorblind in a culture that is truly colorblind. Of course, conservatives like to claim the culture is colorblind as well. This is not just conservatives though…liberals try and claim to not see color as well.
In an episode of Girls this season, Lena Dunham breaks up with her black conservative boyfriend (played by Donald Glover)…and in the midst of their argument, she tries to argue that he is the racist, because she totally doesn’t see color and his being black was something she had never ever noticed or given thought to. Right. It was a rather perfect little moment of deserved liberal skewering. Dunham’s character is declaring her inability to see color. But here is the fundamental problem. We may think we do not see race…but we often make assumptions about race in our daily lives.
A rather distasteful example was an infamous tweet after the Hunger Games hit theaters. There were several folks that complained that Rue was played by a young black girl named Amandla Stenberg. Barely 13, she was greeted with commentary like:
Awkward moment when Rue is some black girl and not the little blonde innocent girl you pictured.
She was not alone. People piled on to complain about the force PC mentality that would alter the original story and change characters so they would not all be white. Except, Rue was described as being dark skinned in the book. They are certainly not white. Yet, these folks all perceived Rue to be white. In Hollywood, colorblind casting calls often end up going with white actors. These are not necessarily conscious actions. But white has been the default of America…most movies and televisions shows were about us. And when given fiction, we often-if given no instruction otherwise- default to white.
Think honestly…if you were reading a book about a hero cop named Ray Johnson and were given no instruction as to his race by the story…what would you picture? An asian guy? A black guy? I think it is pretty safe to assume that in casting the movie of the book, Ray would be played by Tom Cruise.
Getting back to Scalia’s comments. The law will never be colorblind as long as our culture is not. The law will bend to the culture, and if the law refuses to side with equality so it can remain colorblind, the society that sees color will use the law to smash equality, even unintentionally.