In his June 30 column “Civil-rights generation prisoner to its fears” (Op-ed), Jeff Jacoby made some broad generalizations about those of us who are worried about the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder.
As Jacoby noted, “For too many blacks . . . the chains of remembrance make it impossible to believe that the old racist impulses aren’t still smoldering, every ready to ignite.” The civil rights generation and those of us who are descendants of that generation are well aware of the racial progress in this country; all we have to do is look to the election of President Barack Obama, something that seemed virtually impossible not long ago.
But many of us are also keenly aware of the stark realities of history. As a teacher of US history, these lessons come up often in my class. One of these realities is that there have been just three African-American senators elected since Reconstruction. This is a sobering reminder about the limits of the political progress of African-Americans.
Both history and reality make us duty bound to be cautious about limits to the Voting Rights Act, an act meant to guarantee equal protection under the law. This is a guarantee African-Americans may always be seeking to fully achieve. We are not prisoners to fears, but are liberated by the truth which sets us all free.