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In fact, only four other blacks had ever served as members of the Carolinian delegation: John Hyman (1875-77); James O'Hara (a carpetbagger who served from 1883 to 1887); Henry Cheatam (1889-1893); and George White (1897-1901). Never quite at the forefront of civil rights struggles, the election of Clayton and Watt was rightly interpreted as a watershed in the history of the state's minorities.
Reapportionment had made the event possible. That -- and of course 1982's amendment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. A landmark piece of civil rights legislation, the Act granted the Federal Government the authority to supervise and enforce voting rights among the states under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment (1868), and that clause's specific extension to minority voters under the 15th (1870). With this amendment, Congress finally took to heart the real-world setbacks that some 30 years of Equal Protection rulings had suffered, dating as far back as 1954's Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, another landmark of the civil rights era. Most important, Congress replaced the 1965 Act's weak notion of discriminatory intent with the strong notion of equality of results, thereby enhancing the enforceability of the Act. A voting-rights violation would now be understood to occur whenever it could be shown that the "totality of circumstances" in a state's "political processes" worked against "members of a protected class" in such a manner that it "results in a denial or abridgment of the right.to vote on account of race or color.." Very few Federal interventions into this troubled area of
This shift in the Act's focus from intent to results was decisive. It gave voting-rights enforcement a giant boost, well beyond its original focus on removing the impediments to minority voting. Such as the so-called literacy tests of the old South,
Throughout the 1980s, the Supreme Court continued to interpret this results-oriented shift in the Voting Rights Act as both a call for states to heighten their level of minority representation, and a prohibition against circumstances that might conspire to dilute the voting strength of the same.
In 1991, the
Unhappy with the results of reapportionment, five Carolinians, all of them white, sued the Justice Department and their state. They claimed, correctly, that the peculiar shape of the 12th District had been determined by the state's desire to create a black majority district. This, they also held, violated their own voting rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment -- a curious leap of reasoning, given that North Carolina still retained 10 predominantly white voting districts (83 percent of its total), while within the contested 12th District, blacks had gained but a slim 53 percent majority.
The challenge was denied by a special three-judge panel of a U.S. District Court for North Carolina, but later appealed to the Supreme Court. That's where the fireworks began.
In 1993's Shaw v. Reno, as the case came to be know, the Supreme Court ruled by a narrowly split 5-4 margin that due to its overtly "bizarre" shape, Carolina's 12th District "rationally cannot be understood as anything other than an effort to separate voters into different districts on the basis of race, and that the separation lacks sufficient justification," Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote, expressing the Opinion of the Court.
Once again, a very curious leap of reasoning had taken place. Either "sufficient justification" for reapportionment can be discovered in the history of a state's treatment of its minority citizens, or it can't be. If it can't be, reapportionment is uncalled for; if it can, then reapportionment is demanded by law. Whichever conclusion one draws from the evidence (and throughout the South, the evidence is overwhelming), any district that is created in accordance with the Voting Rights Act (etc.) will necessarily be a district in possession of a shape determined by the goal of enhancing minority representation. Whatever the ultimate shape of a district is, that district's justification will follow from how well it meets that goal, and only from how well it meets that goal -- but never from some intuitive reaction either on the part of voters or the courts to the shape of the district, however sensible or irrational it may appear. Shaw v. Reno confuses these issues. Bush's Justice Department had originally to show a Federal District Court that North Carolina's impressive track record of discrimination against blacks on the basis of their race served to deny them a fair and equal opportunity to gain representation in Congress. But in Shaw v. Reno, all that the five plaintiffs who brought suit against the Justice Department and the Carolinian legislature needed to show a majority of the Rehnquist Court was that the 12th District's shape is so "bizarre," it "resembles the most egregious racial gerrymandering of the past." Go figure.
A testament to the efficacy of political correctness (to the PC ideology, I mean), buzzwords were plentiful in the Court's opinion. "A reapportionment plan that includes in one district individuals who belong to the same race, but who are otherwise widely separated by geographical and political boundaries, and who may have little in common with one another but the color of their skin, bears an uncomfortable resemblance to political apartheid," Justice O'Connor wrote. "Racial classifications of any sort pose the risk of lasting harm to our society. They reinforce the belief, held by too many for too much of our history, that individuals should be judged by the color of their skin. Racial classifications with respect to voting carry particular dangers. Racial gerrymandering, even for remedial purposes, may balkanize us into competing racial factions.." Incredulous, Justice Harry Blackmun observed in a terse dissent what he characterized as the irony of the fact that the "case in which today's majority chooses to abandon settled law.is a challenge by white voters to the plan under which North Carolina has sent black representatives to Congress for the first time since Reconstruction." But after very little reflection, our sense of irony ought to lift like an early morning fog before the rising sun. To put the matter as judiciously as possible, we are left with the sneaking suspicion that under actually existing American Apartheid, a majority of the Rehnquist Court regards the practice of race-conscious reapportionment for the benefit of minority voters to be unconstitutional per se.
After Shaw v. Reno the floodgates opened. The Court remanded Carolina's 12th District back to the lower court from which it came. Last summer, yet another three-judge panel ruled 2-1 that the state's serpentine district was a "justifiable invocation of a concededly drastic, historically conditioned remedy in order to continue the laborious struggle to break free of a legacy of racial bloc voting that has played a significant part in the inability of any African-American citizen of North Carolina, despite repeated responsible efforts, to be elected to Congress in a century." Both Rep. Clayton and Rep. Watt were elected to second terms in November. Opponents of the Voting Rights Act and minority political representation turned their sights elsewhere.
Other southern states fared less well. Reapportionment in Louisiana, Georgia, Texas, and Florida had led to the election of several black representatives in 1992, all of whose districts subsequently came under challenge. In Louisiana, it brought the 4th District's Cleo Fields to Congress; and in Georgia, the 11th District's Cynthia McKinney. Though both of them won re-election in 1994 after the Supreme Court issued a temporary stay of the challenges to the reapportionment that had made their victories possible, the Court also agreed to hear their challengers' arguments some time this year. Just this past April 19, Louisiana v. Hays and Miller v. Johnson, the challenges to Louisiana's 4th District and Georgia's 12th, were argued before the Court; it is expected to rule on them before the end of the present term. With Shaw v. Reno's solid block of Chief Justice William Rehnquist, and Justices Sandra Day O'Connor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, and Clarence Thomas still intact (Byron White having been replaced by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Harry Blackmun by Stephen Breyer), optimism for a ringing endorsement of minority and civil rights is getting harder and harder to find.
That the "right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of." an illegitimate reason, such as race, gender, class or age, is the central principle among the 26 amendments to the Constitution.
The phrase makes its first appearance in Amendment XV of 1870, where it affirms the right of blacks to vote. It then recurs in almost the exact same form three other times, where it affirms the right of women to vote (XIX); the right of the poor (XXIV's banishment of the hated poll tax); and the right of young people who have reached the age of military service (XXVI).
But as the first Justice John Marshall Harlan noted in his dissenting opinion to Plessy v. Ferguson (the Court's 1896 ruling that the maintenance of "separate but equal" accommodations for whites and blacks did not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment):"State enactments, regulating the enjoyment of civil rights, upon the basis of race, and cunningly devised to defeat legitimate results of the [Civil War], under the pretense of recognizing equality of rights, can have no other result than to render permanent peace impossible and to keep alive a conflict of races, the continuance of which must do harm to all concerned."
Fifty-eight years would pass before Brown v. Board of Education overturned Plessy. But today it's the Dred Scott Case that once more stalks the American landscape, under the pretense of the color-blind society, and a Supreme Court horrified at the thought of dividing the nation further along racial lines.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; email@example.com; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.