Editorial Thoughts from Greenwood:
Section 5 has served its purpose
The U.S. Supreme Court¹s decision to effectively nullify a controversial
portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act has brought on the expected
Critics of the decision have acted as if the Supreme Court on Tuesday threw
out the entire premise of the landmark civil rights legislation namely,
that every adult American has a right to vote and to not have that vote
either blocked or watered down by discriminatory schemes.
The justices, by a 5-4 vote, did no such thing.
What they did was take 40-year-old blinders off the country¹s eyes that
continued to treat Mississippi and most of the South as racist backwaters,
ignoring the progress they have made in diversifying their elected
governmental bodies and in race relations in general.
Section 5 the provision that was being challenged was discriminatory
itself. It said that nine complete states and parts of seven others, because
of their past efforts to keep blacks and other minorities from voting and
holding elective office, deserved to be presumed ³guilty until proven
innocent.² Unlike the other 75 percent of the nation, these targeted areas
had to get approval in advance from the U.S. Justice Department a
time-consuming and expensive process for any election change they might
make, no matter how minor.
There was a time when such disparate treatment was justified. Section 5 did
dissuade discrimination and helped open the doors to election gains by
minorities, including in Mississippi where blacks now hold more elective
offices than anyplace in the nation.
But Section 5 was not intended to last forever. Once it effected the proper
corrective to a historically identifiable pattern of discrimination, it was
supposed to be phased out or at least updated. Congress, however, hasn¹t
done so in 40 years, judging states not by their present condition but by
how they looked and behaved in the 1970s. The Supreme Court, with its
decision this week, left open the door for Congress to update its data to
see what parts of the country, if any, cannot be trusted to do right without
the veto power of the U.S. Justice Department hanging over their heads.
If Congress fails to do so, as many predict, all that means is that
Mississippi will now be treated like Minnesota or Maine. If Mississippi or
any of its subdivisions makes an election change that some consider to be
discriminatory, opponents can sue to get the change overturned. There are
plenty of civil rights organizations with the ability to file such
litigation, not to mention the vast resources of the Justice Department
Instead of the heavy hand of preclearance, the previously ³covered
jurisdictions² will have the threat of litigation to keep them honest and
fair-minded. That threat seems to work adequately in most of the nation, or
so we¹re told by those states that have never had to jump through the hoops
of Section 5.
Mississippi and other like Southern states have earned the right to fall
under the same rules.
MSU got outpitched
It¹s a well-established adage in baseball: Good pitching will always trump
good hitting. So it was with Mississippi State, which could only score one
run in 18 innings while being swept by UCLA in the championship of the
College World Series.
Although Bulldog fans are disappointed with how the season ended, it was a
good run while it lasted. MSU went further than it has ever gone before.
That¹s worth remembering.
Editor and Publisher