Recently, Alabama’s Shelby County challenged the Voting Rights Act before the Supreme Court, asserting that the law is out dated because, in the words of Shelby County lawyer Bert Rain, “the problem which the Voting Rights Act addressed is solved.” Shelby County also claimed that the law is unfair because it singles out states with histories of racial discrimination.
On the Colbert Report this Wednesday, Stephen Colbert addressed the case, declaring that he was unaware of when racism became obsolete but that he was happy “We overcame it!” In response to Rain’s comment he said, “Racism is solved!,” upon which black and white balloons rained from the set’s celling in celebration.
This Supreme Court case is a perfect example of the master narrative claim that we are living in a post racial society. It not only belittles the importance of the Voting Rights Act, but it denies the voting obstacles that blacks, particularly in “states with histories of racial discrimination,” still face today.
Colbert cleverly articulates the absurdity of Shelby County’s claims, comparing the Voting Rights Act to a restraining order:
“These states are saying, ‘Yes I used to beat my girlfriend, but I haven’t since the restraining order so we don’t need it anymore.”
The fact that Shelby County even brought the case to the Supreme Court points to the existence of racism and racist institutions today. Why contest the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act unless you plan on violating it? This is a literal attack on the rights of African Americans in Alabama, throughout the South, and throughout the entirety of America. This case is also a symbolic attack on African Americans. It says to them:
“Your struggle in this country is no longer relevant. Your rights are not important to us, and we have no intention of protecting them.”
This message is echoed in the attempts of states, all over the country, to dismantle the laws that protect African Americans and other minorities. From the fight against affirmative action in schools and businesses to the inequality of the Justice system, states are giving blacks the middle finger. Though it is indisputable that some racial progress has been made, our society is far from post racial. It is exactly theses efforts to claim that racism is obsolete, such as the Shelby County case, that prove its prevalence in today’s society.